Can't Hire

Dear Management Doctor:

Do you have any suggestions on how to hire for those hard-to-fill positions? In my case, we have a plans examiner position that has been vacant for two budget cycles with very limited application submittals. What is the secret to this problem? We are a resort community of 50,000 and the salary is comparable for the state. What other options are out there in lieu of a permanent employee?

Larry Didion
Director of Development Services


Dear Can't Hire (aka Larry),

We have worked in 24 states and find the national market for both planners and building staff is increasingly tight. If you are looking for work, that is the good news. If you are trying to hire, that is the bad news. Each situation is different, but here are a few ideas that we have found successful:

  1. Make certain your salaries are comparable, not only with other governments, but also the private sector. You may even have to be on the high side.
  2. Sell the community and the job. What do you have to offer in the way of amenities, fringe benefits, vacations, etc?
  3. Advertising alone isn’t enough. Go out and find the candidates. Steal them from the private sector.
  4. Forget about filling the position. There are many consultants available to do plans check. You can even FedEx the plans to a firm of consultants who used to work for me in San Diego and they will check them on a timely basis and then FedEx them back to you.
  5. Get your community to throw out most of the traditional HR rules. Most applicants don’t want to spend the time filling out long supplemental applications and waiting 30 to 90 days for a response. We worked for a community that had 25 vacancies they said they couldn’t fill. We helped fill them all by “running a truck through the HR department.”
  6. Remember, why would anyone want to work for you or your community? People want to work for the best organizations with the best technology, the best managers, the overall best working conditions.
  7. Expand your outreach, the Internet can be very helpful. Go to the various meetings or conventions of building officials.


Good luck,

The Management Doctor 


Reader Responses

Maybe a more direct mailing/noticing will create an opportunity.

There are many 50-year old and older retirees that have experience that may be interested.

I think the regulatory/licensing agencies have lists of available certified professionals. Older people may feel your job is not for them and they need to be convinced otherwise.

Good Luck,

Bryce Kelley
Van Buren, MI


Great answers – thank you.

Teton County conducts a compensation analysis every two to three years to assure that our salaries and benefits are competitive with other resort/high-cost cities as well as within our own community where we would compete for planning, engineering, and other professional staff.

Jan Livingston
Teton County, WY


I would offer that there may be qualified displaced folks in Louisiana and Mississippi right now who may be in search of jobs. There are lots of professional affiliations who are posting information about job searches/employee searches right now. You might check building trade journals or building official organizations too.

Mary Beatie
TPG Consulting, Inc.
Visalia, CA