Modern Hiring Challenges

It can sound cliché to talk about the changing role of HR and the hiring manager in 21st century business processes, or about how Millennials are upsetting the traditional employee-manager status quo, or about how technology is revolutionizing how we recruit and retain employees. But in truth, these are facts that cannot be understated. It is true that business—both how companies are run internally and how they interact with external stakeholders—is constantly evolving. Any given generation would be hard-pressed to recognize their current roles if they looked at them 20 years ago (if those roles even existed 20 years ago!). However, managing these changes proactively is what sets companies apart, and anyone attempting to just roll with the changes might find themselves rolled over and left behind.

The basics of hiring have not changed: you have to find potential employees (recruit), you have to evaluate them (screen and interview), and you have to integrate the candidates you choose (hiring and onboarding). How we handle these basics, however, has changed immensely. Additionally, in previous generations, longevity within an organization was the norm; an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research study of 1,000 Americans age 50 and older showed that 41% of them were in jobs with companies they’d worked at for more than 20 years. Almost 20% of them had been with the same company for 30 years or more. This is not so with GenX and Millennials, so we have a modern focus on post-hire activities that did not necessarily exist in previous generations: talent retention, formal leadership development programs, and measuring employee engagement. From tried-and-true hiring manager responsibilities that have changed the way they’re executed to new responsibilities that must be mastered, today’s hiring manager is facing a unique set of challenges.


It should go without saying that most companies need an online presence if they want to reach the broadest range of potential candidates, especially those in younger generations. However, looking beyond online job boards is a good idea: developing an employee base that is reflective of the diversity of your customer and supplier base is easier if you reach out to local schools, universities, and minority-focused community groups. This will help increase the number of minorities and women in your applicant pool. Perhaps obviously, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that increasing the diversity of your applicant pool makes it more likely your employee base will be more diverse; however, the fewer minority or female applicants are in your initial candidate pool, the odds of one of them being hired drops disproportionately, because these candidates are seen as “token” and more easily overlooked. The more of them there are, the more likely they are to be seen as “just another candidate”, which is, of course, how they should be seen.

Screening / Interviewing

This is by far the most complex part of the hiring process, and the one that has the most variety of options: integrity testing, personality testing, skills testing, background checks, drug tests, in-person interviews, group interviews… the list goes on and on. Crafting a solid hiring process involves knowing your company’s needs, the requirements of the role, and the strengths each individual component of the process brings to the table. SHRM recommends reducing bias at every possible level, which consistent processes utilizing tools such as integrity testing, scientifically proven to have no adverse impact, can help achieve. This allows you to start the process with a candidate pool that is free from any individual hiring manager’s bias, however unintentional it might be. The challenge here is balancing the needs of your company with current employment law, with an eye on creating a diverse, innovative employee base.

Hiring / Onboarding

This should not be a quick process – onboarding and orientation should not be considered the same process. Onboarding can help an employee learn, accept, and adapt to your company culture; while this is time-consuming and challenging in the immediate, it can reap rewards later in terms of employee longevity. Larger companies might be able to utilize onboarding tools through their HR Management System, but smaller companies can navigate this time equally well through mentorships or “buddy system” approaches that pair new employees with an existing employee to help teach them the ropes. To be fair to hiring managers and HR staff, onboarding responsibilities also lie largely with the department managers; consistent feedback with 30-, 60-, and 90-day reviews to help guide new employees can be critical in making sure a new employee is receiving guidance as they adjust to their new role.

Post Hire

Now that you’ve hired this great employee, the challenge is keeping him or her. Identifying and targeting employees for growth opportunities, measuring overall employee engagement, and retaining a talent pool that no longer sees longevity with your company as a career goal is truly the 21st century challenge for hiring managers.

Leadership Development

Clearly define what your company’s leadership development needs are—if you have forecasted a level of growth that will leave you with a leadership gap in five years, make sure you are planning for that now. This kind of careful analysis of your needs will not only help to ensure that you’re developing enough leaders, but that you’re targeting the right areas as you do. Don’t assume that your top performers are the only leadership prospects—make sure all employees are aware of the opportunities open to them, and you might be surprised at who steps up to the plate. And as with any other program, you want to make sure you know how you define success; it might be tied to promotions, or these metrics could go hand-in-hand with employee engagement metrics.

Employee Engagement

The challenge with engagement is there are so many factors that influence it: from company leadership, to pay and benefits, to company culture. This is why these metrics can be tied so closely with leadership development. Company leaders themselves can inspire and engage employees, but so can feeling as if there is a growth path available to them.


Making sure your company is competitive in terms of pay and benefits can be out of the hands of many hiring managers and HR professionals, but it is obviously an important factor in retaining employees. However, other factors can be influenced: communication (both in establishing clear expectations and listening to employee ideas) and non-financial rewards (public recognition of individual and team accomplishments, for example) are two ways employees can feel recognized and appreciated, improving both morale and retention.

The fact is, HR professionals are being asked to do more than ever before. Luckily, there are more tools than ever before to help them with these tasks. The bottom line in addressing modern hiring challenges is a consistent, thorough, methodical approach and periodic evaluation of the results to ensure that your hiring team is always taking advantage of the best tools available in pursuit of hiring the best.

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