How to Hire Wisely in a Tight Market
August 24, 2022
By Linda Longo
US Lighting Trends Editor, Linda Longo recently sat down with Paul Pompeo, President, and Joe Vigil, Senior Recruiter/Lighting & Electrical Distribution, at Pompeo Group to hear their perspectives on hiring in this unprecedented time of low unemployment.
LINDA LONGO: How do electrical distributors and lighting showrooms attract quality candidates in the current environment?
PAUL POMPEO: It’s been an extremely competitive landscape for hiring in the lighting and electrical industry, whether it’s for a distributor, showroom, agency, or manufacturer. The situation has grown even more challenging in the past 2 to 3 years with the advent of the pandemic and the “great resignation” phenomenon. Typically, companies come to us looking for someone who already has 3 to 5 years or often more in a given field or discipline.
JOE VIGIL: As the saying goes, “It’s hard to find good help these days.” Honestly, the best way to find great members for your team is to have us do it! [laughs] Please excuse my shameless plug. Seriously, though, what we do is a little different. We look to find the best candidates out there for our client companies. We spend hours on the phone and use technology, speak to as many potential candidates as possible – we’re talking 50 to100 people – and select the best candidates to present to our clients.
LL: Since you are specialists in recruiting nationwide, are there areas of the country where it is easier – or harder – to find good help?
JV: There is talent everywhere! No city or region has the market cornered on level of talent. Many factors go into a recruitment. Densely populated areas are somewhat easier to recruit in, but then there can be issues with logistics. Take for example NYC or LA. Huge populations make it easier to find qualified candidates, but those candidates are not always interested in commuting long distances or in heavy traffic. On the other side of the equation, if a position is based in a location that is not a “primary” or even “secondary” market, there is a much smaller pool from which to recruit. In the summer, it is a little more difficult to bring talent to places like Nevada or Texas, but much easier to bring talent to Albany or Chicago. In the winter, it’s the exact opposite. With more companies becoming receptive to the idea of remote work, the playing field is pretty even.
PP: Unless it’s a very remote or very sparsely populated area, I can’t think of any locations that are more or less difficult than others. As Joe said, with so many positions now being remote or hybrid in model, location often has less importance than it once did.
LL: If you were asked by someone interested in a job at an electrical distributor or lighting showroom if it was a good fit for them, what would you tell them?
JV: In recruiting, someone’s interest does not necessarily make them a candidate. What we look for in every candidate is:
1. A solid work history — at least 3 to 5 years at a given company is ideal. That gives them time to settle in and gives their resume stability.
2. Relevant experience — our clients provide us with a job description, which is often unfortunately more of a wish list. We lead the hiring manager through a list of questions, assisting them to arrive at a comprehensive list of skills and previous accomplishments necessary to ensure the candidates presented will match their expectations. When hiring managers are very specific in what they are looking for – for example, technical positions may require familiarity with a certain software program – the new hire will have a greater chance of success. Every search is different, but relevant experience is a constant.
3. Upward trajectory in their employment history — an ideal candidate for a more executive position will have advanced in their company over the years, for example, from inside sales to outside sales to regional manager.
PP: We conduct very few searches for showrooms, but the most helpful attributes for a candidate I think are the same whether the position is for a showroom, distributor, manufacturer or rep agency — a great work ethic, flexibility, sense of humor, willingness to go off script and stay on track, working well with others, ego checked at the door, a positive attitude, a passion for self-improvement, and a relatively good sense of self-awareness.
LL: As a recruiter, you hear from people who are not happy where they are. You also know their deal-breakers. What advice would you give employers to help them retain the good workers they have?
JV: Excellent question! The best advice I can give to employers is to be open to the changes that we’ve all seen over the last couple years, and value your talent. Valuing your employees can mean a lot of different things. Listen to them, treat them with respect and thank them. Little gestures go a long way. You don’t want to be in a position where you are saying and doing all the things you should have said before they give notice. It is very much a candidate’s market and people are willing to look around more than ever — especially if they feel unappreciated or underpaid.
Like it or not, remote work is here to stay for many companies. Remote-working sales teams have been around a bit longer and have proven to work. You don’t need to commute for two hours of your day to be successful. With all of us now being so well-versed in video meetings and with all these means of communication we didn’t have 15 to 20 years ago, remote work is doable for many positions. Over the last year, remote work has become the biggest deal breaker out there. It has become very difficult to find someone outside of engineering or operations to take an in-office position — and even some engineering positions are now remote.
PP: Keep your compensation competitive and make sure that you have clear paths for potential advancement based on performance. If you’re not sure, contact an executive search firm who specializes in our industry, and they can usually give you a going range of pay for most positions. Conducting salary surveys that are not in the electrical or lighting industry are not too relevant, in my opinion. Most studies still show that flexibility is big to employees — flexibility in schedule, where one’s work is performed. Some positions are difficult to be remote, but I’d underscore what Joe said: giving a candidate the ability to work in a hybrid or remote model is big. The pandemic affected how many people look at their lives and how work fits into their life.
JV: We had one distributor in the Southeast who came to us to replace a key person who had left. They mentioned that they went from a remote model during the pandemic to bringing everyone back into the office early last year. It was about two weeks later that their employee gave notice. We asked about the ex-employee’s new position and discovered they were now working for a company located in the Northeast. “So, your former employee moved to the Northeast?” I asked. “No, they’re working remotely,” he replied. Our new client didn’t connect the dots until we discreetly pointed it out to him.
LL: Thank you for sharing your perspective. Clearly flexibility and an open mind when it comes to new ways of working – whether your company is a manufacturer or distributor – are key when attracting talent in today’s work environment.