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Dilemma of the Month: How Can I Attract Entry-Level Candidates Without Raising Pay?

Back Article Mar 3, 2022 By Suzanne Lucas

I manage employees that earn $17 an hour to start. We used to be an employer of choice for entry-level candidates as we paid more than our competitors and our jobs require minimal training — a couple of hours, and you’re ready to go! California’s minimum wage is now $15 an hour, so our “great pay” is barely better than minimum wage, and we’re getting less applicants. How can I continue to attract entry-level candidates when I really cannot afford to raise their pay rates?

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Entry-level jobs that are genuinely entry level are a great thing to offer. You say anyone can learn to do the job in a couple of hours, which puts you at a great advantage among your competitors. Advertising higher pay is one of the easiest ways to attract more candidates, but the reality is that most businesses have been hit hard by inflation. Materials, rent and labor are all going up in price, and it can be difficult to raise pay when the cost of business is increasing so quickly. Here are some ideas to appeal to entry-level applicants at your current pay rate.

Make your job descriptions very clear that no experience is required.

Sometimes you see jobs labeled “entry level” that ask for five years of specific experience and a degree. If you require experience, the job is not entry level. If you require a college degree, state this clearly. Entry-level jobs for recent graduates are not the same as those for applicants without a degree, and recent grads may be seeking more than $17 an hour. 

State clearly that you’ll happily hire people who find it challenging to find work.

Did someone take off five years to get a child from birth to kindergarten? What about a candidate who lost a job in March 2020 and has struggled since then — would that person be welcome in your company? What about someone who retired but realized that there wasn’t quite enough money in the bank to swear off work? What about someone with a prison record?

It’s hard to get a job when you don’t have one. Your company is ideally situated to hire those who haven’t worked in a while, train them and pay them. Target these groups of people and see what happens.

Be flexible whenever possible.

I don’t know what your business does; maybe flexible schedules are feasible, and perhaps they are not. If they are, this can be a huge pull. A company that offers to work around college students’ class schedules can pay a bit less than a company that demands round-the-clock availability from its employees. You’ll be able to appeal to parents if you offer hours that coincide with their children’s school days, so they can earn money without incurring day care costs.

Offer career progression.

I’m going to guess that since you hire so many entry-level people, there aren’t a vast amount of opportunities to move up in your business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t offer career progression. You already know people won’t stay forever in those jobs, so make this expectation part of your program. Let your employees know from day one that you want the best for them, and you realize this is just one step on their career ladder.

If your jobs don’t require high school diplomas, partner with the local community college to provide on-site classes for the General Educational Development Test. You might also offer career coaching, resume writing classes and other continuing education courses. Let people know that they’ll be better off after two years with your company.

Support non-native English speakers.

Many jobs that people can do with minimal training don’t require fluency in English. This is another group you can reach out to. Along with GED classes, offer English as a second language classes geared toward real adults — teaching the vocabulary needed for parent-teacher conferences, car problems and doctor appointments. You may be able to partner with the local community college to offer these classes for free or at a reduced cost. 

Anything that brings actual value to your employees can help attract and retain them for a reasonable amount of time. Recognizing that your jobs are a short stop on the way to success can help you look at what entry-level candidates value.

Sure, everyone wants money! But a lot of people want a way toward success. Focusing on things that will help them succeed can go a long way toward attracting the best candidates without substantially increasing your costs.

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Visitor (not verified)March 4, 2022 - 1:47pm

Let them work from home. Let me say it again for the people in the back: LET THEM WORK FROM HOME.

calonkat (not verified)March 16, 2022 - 7:48am

I especially like the suggestion to be open to employing those with records. Too many jobs automatically eliminate those with a criminal history, which makes it very difficult for people with such a history to support themselves and their families.

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