Recruitment isn’t getting any easier

Reader survey on recruitment practices shows HR feels prepared, but hiring remains a challenge

It has been harder in the last couple of years to attract quality employees, and HR practitioners don’t see it getting easier any time soon, according to a survey of Canadian HR Reporter readers.

It has been harder to attract candidates in the last few years, 57 per cent of respondents said. Half (50 per cent) expect it to continue to be harder in the next year or two. Looking down the road, 52 per cent expect to have difficulty attracting candidates 10 years from now.

The survey was completed by 166 respondents online between April 20-22, 2005.

HR practitioners cite many reasons for the difficulty in finding talent. Some said the labour shortage is starting to be felt and they can’t hire fast enough to replace retirees. Others talked about stiff competition and rising compensation. Others said it seems harder to lure people away from a job than it has been in the past. A couple lamented the attitudes of young workers.

“New university graduates seem to have an attitude that jobs are owed them rather than starting at the bottom and waiting for advancement opportunities,” said one respondent.

“It would seem that the younger generation appears to have weak people skills and poor work etiquette, which I find disappointing and somewhat concerning,” said another.

What methods work?

When it comes to finding top talent, staff referrals got high marks as the best way to find good candidates, while job fairs received the lowest rating.

Newspapers seem to be falling out of favour as both online job boards and postings on a company’s website scored higher.

What jobs are easiest to fill?

Front-line positions don’t appear to be difficult to fill, with respondents rating clerical, labourers and customer service as the easiest. On the other end of the spectrum, executives, skilled trades and high-tech are the toughest.

Respondents also said it is difficult to find candidates who are bilingual, and a couple mentioned a problem finding qualified truck drivers.


The majority of respondents (73 per cent) said they had used a recruiter. A majority of that group (68 per cent) have used a recruiter to fill executive positions.

Other respondents said they used recruiters to help fill skilled trade positions, sales roles and high-tech workers.

Background checks

When it comes to checking out a candidate, the vast majority (90 per cent) said they conduct background checks.

Nearly all organizations (92 per cent) check out an employee’s previous employment history but only about one in 10 delve into a candidate’s credit history.

Some respondents also said they conduct a medical exam, check with a candidate’s pastor and look at driving records.

The majority of respondents (80.6 per cent) said they check every candidate, regardless of the position, while 16.7 per cent said they check only specialized positions.

Most firms say they do well in recruitment

HR practitioners gave their organizations pretty good marks when it came to attracting talent. On a scale of one to five, the average score was 3.48.

Less than one per cent of respondents said their organizations were doing terrible jobs, while 6.6 per cent gave themselves the highest mark.

“Our reputation brings top talent to the door quite frequently, which is beneficial in more ways than one,” said one respondent.

“We are very successful in attracting strong candidates through our employee referral program,” said another. “Our existing employees are good ambassadors for the company.”

On the flipside, organizations that do poorly in recruitment say they are bleeding staff to competitors that offer higher salaries and better working environments.

What could firms do better?

Many respondents offered a great deal of insight into what they thought they could do better on the recruitment front.

“In the past, this firm has not kept up-to-date job descriptions, which meant that hiring was problematic as we first had to define what were the responsibilities of each position,” said one. “We now have these in place, and it’s helped us to respond to recruiting needs very quickly.”

Another said the organization needs to dig deeper in interviews to ensure candidates have the proper skill sets.

“We should make the interview process more demanding, like have the sales staff do a mini-presentation during the final stages to see their presentation skills.”

One said the recruitment process takes far too long, and that candidates lose interest, or find other jobs, before the final offer is presented.

Another said the organization should be more proactive in forging relationships with educational facilities and top candidates whom it can’t hire at the moment.

“I believe that building a relationship with potential candidates will prove to be a huge strategic advantage.”

Recruitment technology

Very few organizations are using software to help with recruitment. The vast majority (84 per cent) said they do not use recruitment software.

Most said they have no need for software, either because the organization isn’t that large or because it isn’t something they feel is cost effective.

“I do not see the value,” said one respondent. “Our current manual system is successful and I see no need to change.”

Interviewing techniques

Almost all respondents (90 per cent) said they use behavioural interviewing to help assess candidates.

Many respondents also said behavioural interviewing is the most successful technique.

“Behavioural is a great way of giving specific examples and seeing how they would work out since it is the closest way of seeing if it would be a good personality and team work fit,” said one respondent.

But a few people said behavioural interviews are only effective when the right questions are asked and the interviewers are properly trained.

Group interviews also scored high, as one respondent said a panel of interviewers helps ensure that no questions are missed and allows for a discussion about the candidate after the interview.

“(It) provides a consensus view of the candidates and lessens individual preferences that might come through,” said another.

Another stressed the importance for the interviewer to prepare ahead of time for the interview.

“Good preparation is the key. Do you know what you want? How can you go shopping when you don’t know what to buy?”

What’s the funniest thing heard in an interview?

Canadian HR Reporter readers were asked about the funniest thing they’ve heard in an interview. Turns out there’s quite a bit to laugh at. Here’s a look at some of the responses.

•A candidate was asked how he would keep busy when things were slow. The answer: “I would dust each person’s workspace, as this firm could use a bit of cleaning up.”

•“I don’t speak German Shepherd.”

•One candidate tried to push her product line during an interview.

•In a redeployment interview a candidate was asked what he would be interested in working towards. His response: “Put a drink in my hand, and I’ll do whatever you want.”

•“If you don’t hire me, who can I talk to in order to complain?”

•A candidate was asked why she felt he was the most qualified person for this position. Her response: “I’m not.”

•One candidate asked the president of a company how old she was.

•“I just can’t work with any of these people.”

•At the end of an interview a woman said: “I hope you don’t smell anything funny.” She then went on to tell the interviewer how her pet had been sprayed by a skunk and thought the smell might have attached to her coat.

•An applicant applying for an accounting position: “I’m terrible in math.”

•A driver said he’s crashed company vehicles and then wondered why he wasn’t hired.

•“I’ve been terminated from the last five companies I’ve worked for because they don’t know what they are doing there.”

•One interviewer was asked out on a date.

•“I can’t work Saturdays because I like to watch cartoons.”

•“If you hire me, I’ll demonstrate my loyalty by having the company logo tattooed on my forearm.”

•A candidate was asked what her biggest weakness was. Her response: “I’m a bitch.” Another said “Addiction to chocolate.”

•“No, I didn’t come prepared to make a presentation. I thought you were joking!”

•“Can I bring my dog to work here? It’s just little.”

•“Oh my gosh. I’m late for work. You’ll have to call me later to finish up the interview.”

•One applicant brought a customer commendation fax to show her customer service recognition. Turns out the fax had been written by the interviewer years ago commending the service representative at the local cable company.

•“I just need some money.”

•When asked to describe the company’s main client group, the candidate said: “Well, they’re all idiots, aren’t they?”

•“I have eaten dogs.”

•“I can’t wear perfume. Hope you can stand me if I get hired.”

•A candidate was asked how she would stay interested in a tedious filing position: “I like to pretend I’m a spy. I creep around the room and jump out from behind shelves.”

•A candidate was asked how he prepared for the interview: “I washed my jean jacket.”

•A candidate was asked what quick decisions he’s had to make: “I asked my wife to leave and she did.”

•A candidate was asked what a good work environment was: “One with no holes in the wall.”

•A candidate interviewing for a receptionist/admin position was asked how she would respond to requests such as ordering five different types of pens because different executives had different preferences. She muttered, not quite under her breath, “spoiled lot, aren’t they?”

•One resumé said the candidate was looking for a “full-time or party-time job.”

Latest stories