How to Hire When Your Company Lacks the Cool Factor

Boring buildingsWhen you’ve got two days to file your taxes,  you’re probably not feeling all that warm and fuzzy about the IRS. I know I wouldn’t be.  And this is part of the problem. When you ask a teenager what they want to be when they grow up, they might say, “An accountant!” but the chances of their saying, “I want to work for the IRS!” are pretty slim.

This is becoming a real problem for the IRS, which wants to recruit Millennials and is finding out that Millennials don’t want to work for them. Why? Because the IRS not only does work that makes you extremely unpopular at dinner parties (“What do you do?” “I work for the IRS, seizing people’s homes for unpaid taxes”), their systems are outdated, according to a Bloomberg article.

So, basically, they aren’t on the top of most people’s lists of dream jobs. Your business shouldn’t have as bad of a reputation as the IRS, and (we hope) your new startup isn’t using 1980s technology, but what if you’re still not hip and happening? What if there are huge problems? What if your funding is shaky and you don’t know how to manage, and your co-founder is no better? Then, how do you hire? Here are some tips.

1. Stop chasing a specific demographic.

I found it interesting that the IRS, according to Bloomberg, is trying to appeal to the Millennials–that is, young people. I guess they forgot to read information published by their fellow government agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), that clearly states that discriminating against older workers is illegal. If you’re purposely chasing Millennials, you’re necessarily discriminating against the over-40 crowd.

Now, granted, if you’re looking to fill entry-level jobs, it makes sense to look at people who want entry-level jobs–which is going to be largely Millennials. But you know who else is looking for entry-level jobs? Stay at home moms (or dads) who want to return to the workforce after being out for long periods of time, people who have been laid off and have been looking for work for a long time, and people who are looking to change careers. Broaden your search if you’re having trouble filling a job.

2. Clean out the top.

If you are having trouble hiring because your management is poor, don’t keep looking for low-level people to replace the ones who keep leaving. Clean out your top teams. Here’s the thing: If your business is an unpleasant place to work, it’s going to remain an unpleasant place to work as long as you have the same management team.

This may mean firing yourself. I don’t necessarily mean you should stop working for the company you founded but that you should hire someone with a proven management track record to do the managing and you do whatever it is you’re good at. Just because you have great ideas doesn’t mean you’re a good manager.

3. Take your Glassdoor reviews seriously.

Generally, I hate anonymous reviews. That means if you see my commenting around the internet, it will be under my real name. Glassdoor company reviews are anonymous, but, honestly, the price of speaking up against a former manager is just too high to do so under your real name. You need that reference, even if your manager was a jerk.

So, while there are downfalls with anonymous reviews, if your Glassdoor reviews point out problems, you need to investigate and deal with them. When you bring candidates in for an interview, you should assume that they have seen the reviews, and if you don’t address the issues, you’ll find it difficult to hire people.

If you bring it up and share how you’re resolving the issues right at the beginning (assuming you are resolving the issues), you’ll have better luck hiring.

4. Be extremely honest.

Sure, part of hiring is marketing your company to candidates, but let’s face it: Do you really want to bring someone on board who is there on false premises? If your funding is shaky, let the candidates know and explain what you’re doing to fix the problem. If the hours are long and miserable, let them know that in advance. Don’t tout your “flexible schedules” if flexible means you can work either Saturday or Sunday but don’t have to work both.

5. Overpay.

Some people are willing to work in miserable conditions in exchange for a really good salary. If you’re not willing to fix the problems in your office, consider upping everyone’s salary. Golden handcuffs may not make everyone happy, but you’ll get lots of applicants and people who are willing to work for you.

If you can do these things, you’ll find that not only is hiring easier but that the people you do bring on board will be happier and stay longer. Otherwise, you can always line up at the IRS’s door–hire the people who can’t take it there any longer.


This piece by Suzanne Lucas () originally appeared on Inc.


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