Solving your people shortage

Jan 23, 2022

Here’s what you really need to do to get more job candidates for any opening you have, increase your job offer acceptance rate, and speed up the hiring process.

Pretty much every firm owner I talk to tells me the same thing. It’s the number one problem faced by AEC firms today – you can’t find enough people for all of the jobs you need filled.

So what are your really going to do about it? Sit around in meetings and complain to your managers? Go remind your HR people who are not trained to be recruiters how unhappy you are with a lack of job candidates? Increase your employee referral fees from $1,500 to $2,000? Increase the number of job postings your firm puts out on LinkedIn? If that’s been your approach, good luck! I don’t see you making much progress in solving this one.

Let’s all agree on this: It’s not an easy problem and you aren’t going to solve it overnight. By the same token, you won’t solve it in the long-term, either, if you keep doing the same things.

Here is what you REALLY need to do to get more job candidates for any opening you have, as well as increase your job offer acceptance rate AND speed up the hiring process:

  1. Hire someone who actually knows something about recruiting. This will NOT be an HR generalist. It may be someone who has worked (successfully) in a real recruiting firm, however. This person knows how to find people using sources other than LinkedIn. They won’t be afraid to contact anyone. And they won’t come cheap!
    I started working at Carter & Burgess in 1985, and my primary function was recruiting. I was 27 years old and pretty good at it. My first year there, I earned $72,300, including my bonus. That equates to $187,255 in today’s dollars. How many of you would pay that to a 27-year-old recruiter today? And back then, it was an employer-driven job market versus employee-driven. Good recruiters don’t come cheap, especially now. Stop cheaping out and comparing what you have to pay a recruiter compared to your architects and engineers, and hire someone who knows how to recruit people in this market!
  2. Get off LinkedIn (it is way over-relied on) and instead get really active in professional societies. Go to the meetings. Get involved. Meet the smart people working for your competitors. Ask them to lunch. Talk about what your firm is doing. Ask them if they would be willing to come over to the office sometime to see what you are doing. Have them meet some of your smart, nice people. Show them your projects. Show them your open-book management report. Ask them if they would consider making a job change. Seduce them! Reel them in a little bit at a time so when their company does anything at all that upsets or disturbs them you will be the first person they call.
  3. Teach at your local university. That is where you will find the best and brightest neophytes. You will see who is intelligent, who comes to class, who can communicate effectively, who works well in a group, who is diligent, and more. These are the people you will be able to hire in your business when they graduate. And guess what? They will probably do well. I have been doing this for years.
  4. Pick up the pace of your process! When you do find someone good, move fast. Stop taking weeks to make a job offer. Don’t give anyone more than 48 hours to make a decision. You have other candidates and they aren’t going to wait around for you. And when you do make a job offer, get it out in writing immediately! That means now, not three days from now, or next week some time. Being too slow kills the enthusiasm of a job candidate, just like pouring water on a campfire kills it.
  5. Immediately after you extend that job offer (with the implied expectation that the person will, of course, accept), the next question out of your mouth needs to be, “What will you do if you go to turn your notice in and your current employer tries to talk you into staying?” You want that job candidate to tell you they would not listen to that, that their employer could have done more for them before but now it’s too late. No matter what they say, remind them that they have forced their employer’s hand and, of course, they will try to talk them into staying. Make sure they know their employer will expect them to quit again soon, so they will immediately start thinking about their replacement!

I’m out of space here now, but don’t think I couldn’t go on. Stop your hand-wringing about the situation and take action – NOW

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.