The hiring game has changed
Sept. 7, 2018
by Ivan Raconteur

I was reminded of that classic line from “A Tale of Two Cities” recently as I contemplated my strategy for recruiting staff.

It might be argued that this is the best of times if one is a job seeker, and I’m happy for those who have found new jobs.

However, it might also be argued that this is the worst of times if one is trying to recruit staff.

Statewide, the unemployment rate in Minnesota is at about 2.7 percent – the lowest it’s been since 1998, and significantly lower than the 7.8 percent rate in 2009 when we were in the depths of the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate for local counties is consistent with, or slightly below the state average.

According to the Minnesota office of Employment and Economic Development, the unemployment rate in McLeod County is 2.7 percent. Wright County is at 2.5 percent, Carver County is at 2.3 percent, and Meeker County is at 2.8 percent.

I’m not an economist, so I can’t interpret all of the implications of those numbers, but anecdotally, I can say it seems that the people who want jobs seem to have them.

I have been engaged in recruiting and hiring staff for decades, through good times and bad.

There were times when the only recruiting I had to do for any position was to place an ad in the newspaper, and I would be flooded with applicants.

Those were also the days when people had to actually make an effort to apply.

Before the internet, that meant making copies of one’s resumé, typing a cover letter, and delivering or mailing it.

That process took a good deal more commitment than clicking a box on a job search website.

This tended to pre-screen applicants who were not serious.

I’m convinced that many of the “applications” I have received in recent years have been less than sincere.

They may be from people who are using automated systems to apply for any job posting that includes certain keywords, or they may be from people who are currently unemployed and need to apply for a certain number of jobs to qualify for benefits.

For example, I have received applications from as far away as Australia.

I’ve lived in Minnesota most of my life, and it’s a beautiful state, but I’m certain there are many jobs that would be closer to home than Minnesota if one lived in Australia.

I recently received an application from a woman from Taiwan who is currently working in Hong Kong.

She stated she would be willing to relocate to Dublin, London, or the USA.

The cities within the Herald Journal’s circulation area are fine places to live, but there’s no denying the culture and pace of life here are slightly different than one would find in London or Dublin.

I suspect people are not very familiar with geography.

I recently received an application from a recent college graduate in Hawaii. In her enthusiastic cover letter, she expressed an interest in relocating to this area for the job I had posted.

It’s possible she might have found living in Cokato a novel experience, but I can’t help thinking her first Minnesota blizzard would have sent her scurrying back to the comfort of her tropical paradise.

I wonder if she ever bothered to look at a map to see where Minnesota is located relative to Hawaii.

I have received applications from across the US, from New York to California. I’ve had applications from Florida, Texas, and even one from across the border in Canada.

What I really need, though, are good, local applicants, who are ready to go to work now, not people who claim to want to relocate across the country or from other continents.

The lifestyle of a journalist or editor, rewarding though it can be, is not for everyone. We work days, nights, weekends, and are constantly facing multiple deadlines.

However, I’ve had many conversations with people in other industries who are facing the same challenges trying to recruit and retain staff.

It seems to be increasingly common for people to hire new employees and think their search was over, only to have the person disappear soon after being hired, or not even show up for their first day.

I can’t imaging leaving a job and not even bothering to call my employer and tell them I was quitting. Standards sure have changed.

The pool of applicants for all jobs seems to be tiny.

Not only does this add time to the recruiting process, it puts stress on current staff. The longer it takes to fill a vacancy, the more of a burden it places on those who are left to pick up the slack until replacements are found and trained.

I don’t know what the answer is. Based on what I have heard from others who are trying to find employees, I’m not alone in this.

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