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Understanding Challenges Around Filling Entry Level Positions

Despite being one of the biggest drivers of job creation, entry-level and hourly positions are getting increasingly more difficult to fill. With all the talk about executive recruiting, let's not neglect the importance of having strong early-career talent as well. Entry-level employees are useful for reducing operating costs, developing more robust talent pipelines, increasing employee productivity and engagement, producing better customer service outcomes, and reinvigorating employment brands and organizational culture with a youthful perspective and innovative ideas.

RELATED: 3 Methods for Building an Entry-Level Talent Pipeline

However, many organizations struggle to recruit and retain entry-level employees because of some unique challenges they present. A recent study from the Rockefeller Institute indicates that while 97% of companies say that entry-level hires are essential for their business mission, 43% claim that sourcing this critical talent is a top problem of theirs.

This article will explore some of the challenges in hiring entry-level talent, provide best practices for hiring recent grads and help recruiters understand what steps they can take to build talent pipelines at all levels. We will also discuss how recruiters can help to remove barriers for talent from disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds to integrate and develop with a more inclusive workforce.

The Benefits of Hiring Entry-Level Talent

With many recent grads and Millennials struggling to find jobs in their field, companies who overlook this talent source could be shortchanging themselves. Millennials graduate full of energy and eagerness to use the skills they learned in school in their burgeoning careers. They bring with them fresh ideas, a surprising wealth of skills, and a readiness to make a positive impact with the right training and development. Here are just a few reasons why organizations should pivot at least some of their recruiting efforts to focus on entry-level roles:

1. A lack of full-time job experience doesn't mean a lack of skills: Volunteering, internships, leading on-campus organizations, and a history of holding down part-time jobs should all be considered in the recruiting process. Millennials are a generation of continuous learners, so hiring managers will find that many can adjust to new challenges quickly and will actively seek opportunities for development and coaching. One way that organizations can attract this vibrant talent pool is by making it well-known that they offer continuous learning opportunities as part and parcel of their talent brand.

2. Millennials are natural collaborators: It's important to hire talent that understands the significance of communication and how to effectively use tools to collaborate better. Millennials have been immersed in a collaborative culture that makes them great teammates. According to a PwC study, Millennials value teamwork and acting in the best interest of everyone more than previous generations and can bring a uniquely cohesive cultural value with them to the workplace.

3. Entry-level employees command lower salaries: If reducing your cost per hire is a priority, then hiring Millennials and recent grads is a great way to achieve that end. Are there any roles that require a particular skill set but don't necessarily require years of experience to learn? Consider hiring a less seasoned candidate who is willing to train into that role. On average, you can offer a substantially lower salary while providing other perks and benefits such as a positive and rewarding work culture that fosters learning.

Navigating Skills Shortages in the Entry-Level Workforce

A recent study by SHRM found that the most commonly missing skills in the entry-level workforce were writing in English, computer skills, spoken English, reading comprehension, and mathematics. However, non-competitive pay remains one of the biggest challenges in attracting talent with the requisite skills. It is recommended that employers who cannot offer higher salaries and other concrete benefits such as bonuses and total healthcare coverage, focus on training and development opportunities internally to develop their own talent and save on recruiting costs.

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A 2016 Pew Research study indicates that on-the-job training is considered by many young recruits to be essential to their career path, with several saying that they feel insecure about their current skill level. Offering unique training and development opportunities can be a differentiating factor in an employer's brand. These can include formal and informal training that allow entry-level talent to grow and will help you to attract top talent that is open to learning new skills. Remember, this is the type of talent that will not remain stagnant in their roles and will grow within the company.

Assessing Potential vs. Experience in Entry-Level Roles

Limited experience of candidates makes it difficult to assess a fit for an entry-level role. Someone who is just a few years out of college may still not have worked a full-time job, only have done vaguely correlated internships, or have only worked odd jobs, such as the service industry. However, many experts believe that recruiters and hiring managers should focus more on potential than experience -- allowing them to open their minds to excellent candidates who may not have the "traditional" background but may offer positive contributions in perspective and diversity.

More leading business experts are saying that middle-skill and entry-level jobs should not require college degrees. The majority of middle-skill job postings call for a four-year degree. However, unless there is true justification for a college degree requirement, a disconnect can occur that can hurt both candidates and employers -- resulting in many roles being unfilled and leaving qualified talent (especially those from lower income or disenfranchised backgrounds) jobless.

Attracting and Retaining Millennials and Recent Grads

Because younger employees are usually paid less than senior employees, recruiters and hiring managers have to get a little creative when it comes to attracting the most qualified candidates from this talent pool. Some of the best ways to lure in younger professionals include the following:

  1. Using digital hiring processes such as mobile apps.
  2. Create a fun work culture and make this an integral part of your employer brand.
  3. Focus on long-term retention by offering generous training and advancement opportunities.
  4. Offer flexible work schedules that fit their lifestyles such as remote work options.
  5. Give frequent feedback instead of just annual performance reviews.
  6. Set a cultural tone that puts purpose and ethos above the bottom line.
  7. Offer generous perks such as happy hours, nap rooms, offsite trips, and local discounts.

Employers can also use social to reach out to Millennials and help them learn more about the company and its values. Social media platforms can also be useful tools for connecting with colleges to recruit on campus -- guaranteeing candidates a job or contract upon graduation.

Entry-level talent has the potential to be an excellent resource for your company - it can save you hiring costs up-front and help you to develop a healthy talent pipeline. At the same time, this approach sets the ground for a stable succession plan for critical roles as the talent pool is trained and prepared for advancement. Even slight adaptations to some aspects of your recruiting process such as interview tactics and how you approach your pipeline can prove instrumental in attracting top new talent to your workforce.

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Julie Briggs

Julie Briggs is an independent business and HR blogger based in New York City. She is a 2011 magna cum laude graduate of Purchase College with a bachelor's in Sociology. Her career has spanned internationally and across a diverse array of industries. She specializes in human capital, recruiting, leadership, and employee engagement.

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