HR isn’t filling our open positions. Help!

HR isn’t filling our open positions. Help!

We are constantly short-staffed and HR tells me that there are no appropriate candidates. I find it hard to believe that there isn’t one person in our area that fits our needs. I work in a good company and our open positions are really good opportunities for the right people. When they do come through with someone for us to interview, inevitably the person isn’t qualified. I’m at wit’s end. Any advice? D.A., San Francisco, CA

I’m sure you’re very frustrated. While open positions are often a sign of growth, they also mean that you’ve got more work than people to do it. Rather than focus on what’s not happening (which can lead to erroneous conclusions), concentrate on what you can control.

Why are there few, if any, candidates? Maybe the clue is in the fact that the ones you’re seeing aren’t qualified. Sounds like there is a communication gap between what is needed and what HR is looking for. How can you help HR seek and screen more effectively? Remember they are just as swamped as you are so any solution needs to take their reality into account.

I’m sure you’ve filled out the typical paperwork, e.g., hiring request, job description, etc. What would help paint the picture of the right candidate? Create a composite based on shared experiences. If the issue is finding the right fit, perhaps it would sound something like, “We’re looking for someone personable like Joe who can also hold people accountable. Someone you wouldn’t mind being stuck in an airport with.” If the issue is more about qualifications, maybe you should prioritize skills based on what this specific position needs and create a down and dirty matrix that HR can use as a reminder of what really matters in this particular instance.

Probe to see if there are any company mandates you are unaware of (e.g., “People over X salary must be approved by 3 levels of management”, etc.) and address them proactively if they apply to your situation. For instance, make the case for an exception based on specific business need so that HR doesn’t have any artificial limitations.

If they’re finding candidates but aren’t able to convince them to interview, maybe it’s as simple as creating a bulleted “cheat sheet” that has your key messages about the position. Imagine you were the prospect. What would you need to hear to pique your interest? This could help HR sell a qualified prospect on coming in to interview.

Ruminating on what isn’t happening is a lose-lose exercise. Do what you can to help others help you.

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