Whenever we ask our clients about their most difficult challenge, they almost always say it is hiring qualified people. This is particularly true, they say, when it comes to hiring entry-level, unskilled hourly workers. Whether we’re talking about warehouse employees, factory workers or delivery drivers, finding and keeping this type of talent is very difficult.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate remains very low for unskilled workers. As a result, fewer of them are looking for work, and job vacancies are going unfilled for longer periods of time. What’s more, traditional forms of recruiting are no longer effective in attracting them. If you are experiencing this dearth of candidates for entry-level positions, here are some recruiting approaches that may help.

Target Your Job Posting

Typically, entry-level employees rely on their mobile phones, not personal computers, to access the internet. It’s essential, therefore, that your application process supports mobile interfaces and makes it easy to learn about and apply for positions via a smartphone. 

If your current website or recruiting application is not friendly for this type of device, then consider investing in an online applicant tracking system such as ApplicantStack, Zoho Recruit, or JazzHR, which can support mobile access 24/7. Many of these systems can be tied to your corporate website or social media platforms and can be purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis so you will only pay for it during active search periods.

You also want to make sure your position is easy to find online. Multiple key search terms for the same position can help. For example, if you are looking for janitorial staff, you may want to include janitor, cleaning, custodial, housekeeping, maids, and facility services in your key search terms. 

Use The Right Job Boards

Recognize that unskilled employees do not frequent LinkedIn, Monster.com or Indeed.com, so posting on those platforms is a waste of time and money when you are trying to reach this group. That said, Craigslist can be a powerful, cost-effective tool in some geographic areas. Local penny-saver circulars and classified ads (online and print versions) can also be effective. And when you advertise a position that you feel has attractive pay and benefits for an entry-level worker, don’t hold back—promote these and other attributes as strongly as you can.

Consider Deploying Social Media

Using your social media presence can be extraordinarily effective in finding talent. Some of our clients are using social media almost exclusively to find their hires. The best platforms for this are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter—or WhatsApp if you are looking for Spanish-speaking workers. Be sure to post your position on those platforms and include the link to your job application. On Facebook, you can even create a career tab for your company. The key to making these platforms effective is to have your employees comment, share and like the posting so that it appears at the top of their feeds. This will allow you to use their networks to promote your job to their peers and contacts.  

Pursue Employee Referrals

Word of mouth can be enormously effective in building a workforce, and your current employees can be your best ambassadors to the talent pool. But experience tells us that you need to sweeten the deal for them.

Successful programs we have seen look something like this: $50 if the referred candidate lasts one month without attendance or disciplinary problems, an additional $100 after three months and an additional $150 after six months, for a total of $300 per employee. Typically, if a new employee lasts six months without attendance or disciplinary issues, she’s likely to be an excellent employee going forward, making the $300 investment highly worthwhile.

Make Use Of  Local Job Fairs

If your positions have some technical components, attending a job fair at a local community college can be effective. Offering apprenticeships, sign-on bonuses and solid training programs can make your offer more attractive. Be sure to bring some printouts of the open position so attendees can share with their friends, and have a couple of tablets or laptops on hand so that anyone can apply on the spot.  

Don’t Forget Low-Tech Solutions

If you have a company with high turnover of hourly workers, recruiting is likely an ongoing concern. That means you should always be on the lookout for potential talent, whether that’s at the grocery store, the car wash or the local pizza joint. Consider making business cards for all of your employees that include a link on the card to the company’s job board. Encourage your employees to give the cards to friends, family and anyone they meet who would make a good addition to the team. 

If you are fortunate enough to have a visible factory or storefront location, prominent signage and promo displays are always effective. Who doesn’t love to watch that skinny balloon guy flop about in the breeze? Likewise, large hot-air balloons and flashy spinning sandwich boards can make promoting your position easier.

Behavioral Testing

I know, I know. If you are struggling to find entry-level employees, why would you put in place a test that could have the potential to further reduce the pool of qualified candidates? Because, while administering behavioral tests may reduce the potential talent pool a bit, the talent you do find is likely to be more motivated, productive and less likely to quit. That’s why as recruiters we insist on behavioral testing when filling positions.

There’s no magic bullet to hiring and keeping your hourly employees. But if you can identify where they are—online, or within the community—and you leverage the power of your existing workforce to promote your position, chances are your funnel of viable candidates will remain full.


Q&A With Claudia  St. John

With the data breach at Equifax, and the fact that as employers we maintain a lot of confidential employee information such as social security numbers, addresses, age, date of birth and dependent information, what is our obligation to keeping that information safe?

Whether your company owns, licenses or merely maintains personal information about your employees (such as name, address, date of birth, SSN, driver’s license number, bank account information, etc.), nearly every state has requirements on when and how affected individuals must be notified of a breach, and many states also require notification be made to state attorneys general, consumer protection agencies, national credit bureaus and perhaps even the media.

Employers who suspect personal information about employees may have been compromised should immediately contact legal counsel. It’s also important to note that if you outsource payroll and benefits to a third party such as a PEO or a company like Paychex, their obligation is to notify you, not necessarily your employees, in the event of a data breach. In such cases, you should also contact legal counsel to assess your obligations.


With New Year’s Day right around the corner, we have decided to keep the business open on the holiday. Do I have to pay a premium for employees who are scheduled to work?

There is no obligation under federal or state law to pay premium pay for holidays. Of course, you are obligated to pay overtime for any hours in excess of 40 hours in the work week, but premium pay is not statutorily required. Therefore, your decision should largely be guided by your existing holiday pay policy if one exists. If one doesn’t exist, realize that how you handle this situation may set precedence for future working holidays, so make your decision with that in mind.


Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group, Inc., PPAI’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as PPAI and their member companies. To learn more, visit www.affinityhrgroup.com.