Hiring Skilled Labor in an Uncertain Job Market

By Todd Nickerson, recruiting director, MBS Advisors

Plastics manufacturers reading this article, likely are involved in the hiring process but the question resides – is it enjoyable?

It stands to reason that most people aren’t going to give full attention to the less enjoyable aspects of their job. However, in today’s uncertain and skills-short market, the hiring process requires constant attention and should be handled with urgency.

Below are a few examples of what successful companies are doing to fill openings and what unsuccessful companies are doing that delay and undermine the process. Touching on a few topics, including hiring with urgency, holding candidate interest, drivers for job change, Employee Value Proposition and perhaps changing an old school mindset that hiring companies have all the control in the process, particularly once a candidate is engaged and interested.

Hiring with Urgency
In an employee-short market, motivated and talented candidates will engage with multiple career opportunities while considering other companies. A company’s engagement and feedback are critical to maintaining candidate interest. A long, drawn-out decision-making process with little feedback will result in a company losing credibility with the candidate, while more proficient competitors get an offer into their hands faster.

The suggestion is not to overlook due diligence, candidate vetting, reference and background checks. The suggestion is to make all of these steps a priority and keep forward momentum. Consider streamlining the process – the more people involved, the slower the process. Stalling or holding out for more candidates to review or endlessly waiting for that “purple squirrel” perfect candidate, shouldn’t stop the second or third steps in the process for a candidate that has potential.

For example, MBS Advisors recently was recruiting for a senior leadership position at a plastics processor. The ideal candidate’s background was established at the outset of the search and multiple qualified candidates were sourced, screened and submitted, but the hiring company only would focus on one candidate at a time. After multiple interviews, the first candidate was rejected and the hiring company had to start the process over, again and again – obviously, causing delays. Additionally, the hiring company changed its parameters several times throughout the search, seeking candidates with different skill sets and experience.

Source: MBS Advisors 2022 Plastics Salary Survey Summary Report

The main takeaway: That clear and attainable expectations should be established from the outset, know the steps in the hiring process, be efficient, consider multiple candidates simultaneously and don’t put all the eggs in one basket. From a recruitment perspective, it’s hard to hit a moving target and a hiring company should know what it wants and hire when it sees it.

Holding Candidate Interest
Let’s assume the hiring company has a strong candidate in the pipeline – how will it keep this candidate engaged throughout the hiring process?

It’s with regular honest feedback and a forward-moving hiring process. Providing frequent status updates, even sharing a message with candidates that they’re “still under consideration” is news to a candidate. Let them know the timeline of the decision-making process. If the candidate is reaching out looking for an update and not hearing back for weeks, the hiring company probably is too late, they won’t think twice about pursuing and accepting other opportunities.

With all the expenses of recruiting including, job ads, recruiter fees, internal staff and communication, don’t cost a lot, but are critical to success in hiring.

Drivers for Job Changes
MBS Advisors has published an Annual Salary Survey for plastics professionals over the last 10 years. MBS asks employees about job satisfaction and top motivations to make a job change. Year after year, salary and benefits top the list.

Other key drivers are company financial performance, flexible hours and work from home opportunities – the industry has been seeing a trend upward in the last three years on the importance of company social responsibilities and values. Since the onset of Covid-19, hybrid and work from home opportunities are the most appealing to skilled candidates. If hiring companies want to bring on top talent that currently are employed with competitors, hybrid and work from home opportunities almost always will catch their attention.

Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
Wikipedia defines EVP as, “The employee value proposition is a part of employer branding, in that it is one of the ways companies attract the skills and employees they desire and keep them engaged. It is how they market their company to prospective talent, and also how they retain them in a competitive job market.”

In summary, it’s what employers can offer current and prospective employees to attract and keep them there.

  • The EVP should answer a few questions for the candidate or employee:
  • Why do I want to work in the company?
  • What motivates me to work here and stay here?
  • Why would I recommend this company to family and friends?
  • Why should I come back to this company?

EVP may consist of functional benefits like job stability, career development and work-life balance. Emotional benefits like job satisfaction, pleasurable work environment and aligned values. Financial benefits like competitive wages, regular pay raises, bonuses and healthcare.

Filling positions has become more about the candidate choosing the employer, rather than the employer choosing the candidate. Employers need to be able to “sell” their company: Is it offering an attractive place to work? Are compensation and benefits comparable? What is the work culture?

MBS Advisors recently was recruiting a sales manager for a plastics component manufacturer, it submitted multiple screened and qualified candidates, and initial interviews were conducted with three select candidates. Following the first interviews, all three candidates pulled out of the opportunity. This is an example of a failure to “sell” the company and job opportunity.

To compete with competitors for skilled labor, know talent when it is seen, know the company’s EVP and how to sell the company, hire with urgency, consider multiple candidates simultaneously and keep talent engaged throughout the hiring process with honest feedback and timelines.

For 25 years, MBS Advisors has specialized in management-level recruiting, merger and acquisition advisory, and consulting in the plastics and packaging industry, with a focus on plastics processors, component manufacturers and related partners. Todd Nickerson is MBS’s recruiting director specializing in sourcing, screening and qualifying candidates for management to executive-level roles in engineering, operations, sales, financials, HR and C-level positions in the plastics industry. He joined MBS Advisors in 2017, bringing with him 20 years of project management, business development, risk evaluation and technical writing experience for public and private sector clients.

More information: todd@mbsadvisors.com or