Recruiting for Hourly Low-Skilled Workers

Whenever we ask our clients about their most difficult challenge, they almost always say it is hiring qualified people. This is particularly true, they say, when it comes to hiring entry-level, unskilled hourly workers. Whether we’re talking about warehouse employees, janitors, car care technicians, or delivery workers, finding and keeping this type of talent is very difficult.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate remains very low for unskilled, hourly workers. As a result, fewer of them are looking for work and job vacancies go unfilled for longer periods of time.  What’s more, traditional forms of recruiting are no longer effective in attracting them. 

If you are experiencing this dearth of candidates for entry-level positions, here are some approaches to recruiting hourly workers that may help.

Target Your Job Posting – Typically, entry-level hourly employees rely on their mobile phones, and not personal computers, to access the internet. It’s essential, therefore, that your application process supports mobile interfaces and makes it easy to learn about and apply for positions via a smart phone. If your current website or recruiting application is not friendly for this type of device, then consider investing in an online applicant tracking system, such as ApplicantStack, Zoho Recruit, or JazzHR, that can support mobile access 24/7. Many of these systems can be tied into your corporate website or social media platform and can be purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis so you can pay for it just during your active search periods.

You also want to make sure your position is easy to find online. Various key search terms for the same position can help.  For example, if you are looking for janitorial staff, you may want to include janitor, cleaning, custodial, housekeeping, maids, and facility services in your key search terms.  

Use the Right Job Boards – Recognize that hourly, unskilled employees do not frequent LinkedIn, or, so posting on those platforms is a waste of time and money when you are trying to reach this group. That said, can be a powerful, cost-effective tool in some geographic areas. Local penny-saver circulars and the local classified ads (online and print versions) can also be effective. And when you advertise a position that you feel has attractive pay and benefits for an entry-level worker, don’t hold back – promote these and other attributes as strongly as you can.

Consider Deploying Social Media in Your Recruiting – Using your social media presence can be extraordinarily effective in finding talent. Some of our clients are using social media almost exclusively to find their hires.  The best platforms for this are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – or WhatsApp if you are looking for Spanish-speaking workers.  Be sure to post your position on those platforms and include the link to your job application. On Facebook, you can even create a career tab for your company. The key to making these platforms effective is to have your employees comment, share and like the posting so that it appears at the top of their feed, thereby using their network to promote your job to their peers and contacts. 

Employee Referrals – Word of mouth can be enormously effective in building a workforce and your current employees can be your best ambassadors to the talent pool. But experience tells us that you need to sweeten the deal for them.  Successful programs we have seen look something like this: $50 if the referred candidate lasts one month without attendance or disciplinary problems, an additional $100 after three months and an additional $150 after six months, for a total of $300 per employee. Typically, if a new employee lasts six months without attendance or disciplinary issues, she’s likely to be an excellent employee going forward, making the $300 investment highly worthwhile.

Make Use of Local Job Fairs – If your positions have some technical components, attending a job fair at a local community college can be effective. Offering apprenticeships, sign-on bonuses and solid training programs can make your offer more attractive.  And be sure to bring some printouts of the open position so attendees can share with their friends, and have a couple of tablets or laptops on hand so that anyone can apply on the spot. 

Don’t Forget Low-Tech Solutions – If you have a company with high turnover of hourly workers, recruiting is likely an ongoing concern. That means that you should always be on the lookout for potential talent, whether that’s at the grocery store, the car wash or the local pizza joint. Consider making business cards for all of your employees that have the employee’s contact information and a link on the card to the company’s job board. Encourage your employees to give the cards to friends, family and anyone they meet who would make a good addition to the team.

If you are fortunate enough to have a curbside presence such as a car wash or restaurant, prominent signage and promo displays are always effective. Who doesn’t love to watch that skinny balloon guy flop about in the breeze? Likewise, large hot-air balloons and flashy spinning sandwich boards can make promoting your position easier.

Behavioral Testing – I know, I know. If you are struggling to find entry-level employees, why would you put in place a test that could have the potential to further reduce the pool of qualified candidates? The answer is that while administering behavioral tests may reduce the potential talent pool a bit, the talent that you do find is likely to be more motivated, productive and less likely to quit. That’s why as recruiters we insist on behavioral testing when filling positions.

Clearly, there’s no magic bullet to hiring and keeping your hourly employees. But if you can identify where they are – online, or within the community – and you leverage the power of your existing workforce to promote your position, chances are your funnel of viable candidates will remain full. Happy hunting!


By Claudia St. John, President – Affinity HR Group Inc.

Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group, Inc., NAWLA’s affiliated human resources partner.  Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as NAWLA and their member companies.  To learn more, visit

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