Getting Hired in a Competitive Labor Market

Feb 06

By: Joe Clancy

Owner of Express Employment Professionals, Sanford, NC 


Despite falling unemployment rates, it’s still a difficult labor market. Due to an ever-widening skills gap, there are many jobs that can’t be filled by available jobseekers. In many cases, employers may need to compromise on their hard skill requirements to get the position filled because the “perfect” candidates are likely already employed.

However, if employers don’t rely on a skillset as a baseline for interviewing, how do they make their final decision?

Express Employment Professionals recruiters interview numerous jobseekers every day throughout the U.S. and Canada. So, they know a thing or two about what to look for. We asked our top recruiters to tell us what they see in interviews that ends up translating to real, hard-working employees on the job. We also asked them about any warning signs a job applicant might end up as a less than stellar employee.


A promising candidate is one who arrives to the interview (either by phone or at the worksite) fully prepared.


“They come with a resume, references and any supporting documents or credentials that could potentially give them a step up in the hiring process,” said Shannon Jacoby, recruiter at the Bellingham, WA, Express office. “They know what they are applying to, have done research on the company and know how they could fit into the organization. “


“If a job candidate has no idea what they want to do, or has done little or no research about a field or position, they are more difficult to place. A candidate should have an idea about their job duties, distance they are willing to travel, the minimum required wage, etc.” said Lee Cox from the Woodbury, MN, office.


A candidate should also be friendly and personable. Necessary skills for good teamwork.


“I like candidates with friendly, personable attitudes,” said Carlos Delafuente from the Portland, OR, Express office. “I should be able to tell that they are reliable, punctual and dependable. They can impress me by showing that they can hold a normal conversation, that they have a sense of humor and optimism.”


A good candidate does not have to be a perfect candidate. However, they should be honest and truthful about any questions interviewers have regarding their work history. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


“Ideally, a great job candidate should have a relatively stable work history,” said Desiree Stevens of the Littleton, CO, Express office. “However, we understand that there may be mitigating circumstances as to why a position ended. Be honest about those reasons.”


One of the major warning signs a candidate might not be ideal? Unprofessionalism. Dress is a major issue—even if the interview process isn’t formal, a great candidate should be willing to go above and beyond.


“Just the other day, I had an administrative candidate come to her interview in see-through leggings, a baggy sweatshirt and gym shoes,” Stevens said. “I expect, at the very least, dress in slacks, a blouse or blazer and dress shoes. A suit and tie aren’t necessary, but it is a good indicator that the candidate cares about first impressions.”


Complaining about a previous employer is often a bad sign, too.


“There’s a way to tactfully state why you left a positon,” Stevens said. “Instead of saying ‘My boss was a jerk,’ note that management didn’t see eye to eye with you on your vision for the position or the company.”


A great job applicant also understands how to summarize their accomplishments quickly and succinctly.  


“Don’t take 20 minutes to answer the first interview question,” Jacoby said. “Focus on how your experience applies to the job, not on covering everything you’ve ever done. Answer each question quickly and succinctly.”


Confidence is Key

Getting a job isn’t easy. Applicants know that. But the key to a successful interview is knowing as much as you can. A great applicant will have knowledge about the company’s history and culture. They know what they want, both in terms of their careers and their monetary requirements. They know themselves and their personality, and how that plays in an interview. A little well-founded confidence goes a long way.


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