For anyone thinking the race to hire skilled field service technicians will ease up anytime soon, think again.

You’ve likely heard that the unemployment rate recently dropped to a 50-year low. More than 96 out of every 100 people who want a job, have a job. The job market is hot. The labor market is stretched thin. And according to The Service Council, 50 percent of service organizations indicated they were currently facing a talent shortage creating an inability to meet service demand. 

Unfortunately, unemployment rates only tell part of the story. It’s JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) that reveal a much more troubling situation for any company in search of a worker. According to the survey, when a valued employee quits or a new hire doesn’t work out, a replacement is rarely standing in the wings. The next search is as difficult, if not more so, than the last. The margins of error inherent in a broken recruitment process are no longer tolerable. Efficiency and accuracy are essential — from targeting the right people to consummating the job offer quickly and accurately.

Here are five signs your recruitment process may be failing and is more to blame for a lack of qualified candidates, and some recommendations on how to fix the issues.

Too Few Applicants

One problem is simple math. The demand for skilled service reps exceeds supply. Nearly everyone who wants a job has a job. But that doesn’t mean workers picking up a paycheck each week aren’t on the prowl for new jobs. In fact, recent surveys indicate that between 50 percent and 70 percent are “actively looking” or “thinking about a new job often.” Top service talent has options. In response, employers need to be at the top of the recruitment game. Unfortunately, many service organizations are just floundering. 

See also: How I Hire: Jim Dellinger, VP of Field Service at Vivint

Solution: To entice top talent requires two fundamental mind shifts: (1) companies must focus time, energy and resources on targeted recruitment marketing and then (2) give these qualified candidates a reason to apply. Job listings need to sell the job, tell your company story and focus on what applicants want to know.

Answer this question: What is it your company offers that would motivate me to leave my current employer and work for you? A copy-and-paste job description on a job search engine just won’t cut it anymore. Next, reach out to non-traditional sources: women, veterans, disabled, parolees, seniors. Nearly seven out of 10 new hires over the past year are coming from this group. And, instead of a full-time hire, consider a gig employee — after all,  77 percent of field service organizations are starting to use freelancers and contractors to handle shortages.

High Application Abandonment Rate 

Applicants abandon long and poorly designed applications like victims fleeing a burning building. Abandonment rates above 50 percent are common. Some organizations approach a stunning 90 percent. That means up to nine out of 10 field service techs interested in working for your company quit while applying.

Solution: There’s no excuse for application abandonment. Fix it. If candidates don’t apply, it’s game over. Create a screening application to qualify applicants. Keep it short: five qualifying questions. Make sure your application is mobile-friendly, responsive (it adapts to all different mobile devices) and it loads fast.

If qualified, engage the candidate immediately and then you can request all the additional info you need to make a good hire.

High Volume of Low-Quality Candidates 

Recruitment is marketing. If you’re getting too many low-quality candidates, the problem is more than just a tight labor market. Stop selecting flavor-of-the-day job boards and marketing gimmicks that attract less-than-ideal applicants when a targeted recruitment strategy geared towards high-quality hires is needed.

Solution: Ask questions — a lot of them. What non-obvious factors might be deterring high quality candidates from applying? Could it be your employer brand or commuting distance? Identify what type of candidates might be the better fit.

For example, recent grads might be perfectly qualified for completing routine maintenance and simple repairs, while more experienced workers will be required for complex trouble-shooting, installation and interpreting schematics. 

Once you identify the kinds of employees you’ll need for different roles, create a personalized, compelling and engaging message to grab the attention of each group. One size probably won’t fit all. You might need several variations for different groups and demographics. For millennials focus on the career path and emphasize the advanced technology your service organization uses. For more experienced workers, highlight benefits and job stability.

Applicants Don’t Respond to Your Interview Request 

“Ghosting” employers by candidates is a growing but fixable problem. Causes range from companies posting generic job listings that attract anyone with a pulse to long delays in responding to applicants. No one likes to spend time filling out an application and falling into the silent HR black hole. 

Solution: Prompt, personal messaging resonates with candidates and engages them. When an application is received, respond immediately.

While human interaction is always best, chatbots have improved to the point where many “conversations” can be human-like. While not perfect, they certainly offer a significant improvement over the typical cold, corporate response of “Thank you for submitting your application,” followed by weeks or months of silence. Text messaging also offers a higher rate of acknowledgement since 90 percent of texts are read within three minutes, compared with only 20 percent of emails.

No Shows at the Interview

No-shows are another growing problem for field service organizations trying to recruit new hires. There are a few “good” reasons that can be excused such as an emergency popped up, traffic, or a misunderstanding on the time or day. For most others, you’ll catch a theme here — the problem might have started with the generic job listing posted on a generic job board that allowed “quick apply.”  

Solution: Without some type of emotional engagement using targeted marketing, you will likely continue to get applications from a lot of candidates just having a bad day at work or simply looking for a larger paycheck, but not necessarily committed to their job or career. By implementing fixes for too many low-quality applicants and candidate “ghosting,” you will likely reduce the number of no-shows.

But to encourage higher participation, schedule interviews quickly. Confirm with directions, traffic, bios on who the candidate will meet, info about what the candidate should expect. Send a confirmation by text the day before and an hour before with a traffic update.

Recognizing these five signs is just a start. Recruitment marketing is a journey, not a destination. Recruitment (and retention) of top talent will continue to be challenging, but if you fix any or all of these problems, it is very likely that more top service talent will come knocking on your door.

About Ira Wolfe

Ira WolfeIra S Wolfe is the “Millennial trapped in a Baby Boomer body” and the Chief Googlization Officer at Success Performance Solutions. Fueled by his fierce passion for technology its impact on people, Ira has emerged as one of HR’s most visionary thinkers and influencers on the future of work, jobs and talent acquisition. Ira is an accomplished speaker, author, writer and podcaster. His latest best-selling book is "Recruiting in the Age of Googlization." He also hosts the "Geeks, Geezers and Googlization" podcast.

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