How To Set Priorities When Recruiting Employees

Four blue chairs with a yellow chair in the middle

Every recruiter must juggle multiple tasks, from posting open positions to sorting through resumes to interviewing candidates. But there’s another juggling act that goes on when it comes to the open positions themselves: deciding which roles to hire for first. 

In a perfect world, all positions would be filled on a predictable timeline in the order they became available. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality we live in. Some positions take longer to hire for, while others are more urgent to fill because of their impact on operations. Plus, you only have so many hours in the day. 

So how is a recruiter or HR professional to decide which positions to prioritize when hiring? Here are six things to take into consideration when setting priorities for recruiting employees and some tips to help you decide how best to distribute your efforts. 

6 Things to Consider When Prioritizing Hiring

Impact on Bottom Line

When it comes to the overall implications for the business, some roles are simply more important than others. The factors that define a position’s business impact might include contribution to productivity, seniority level, amount of interaction with clients or customers, and the typical workload of the position. 

Here’s another way to frame it: could the company operate without this role? For some positions, like a help desk agent, the answer may be yes, at least for a while. For other roles, like an accountant or key manager, the answer may be no, because things would quickly fall apart without someone in the role for more than a few days. This is a quick way to gut-check the priority level for any given position. 

Also, consider the impacts of the vacancy: how much money you’re losing for each additional day without someone in the role and the strain it places on other staffers who have to pick up the slack. While the organization might be able to bridge the gap and run without someone in the role for a while, it might come at too high of a cost. So, this is also an important consideration when deciding how quickly you need to hire. 

Uniqueness of Skill Set

The more difficult it is to find the right skills for a position, the longer it typically takes to hire and thus, the sooner you’ll want to start the process of recruiting employees. On the flip side, you may have some general roles that are typically very easy to fill and opt to hire for those first to get them done quickly.

Either way, you’ll want to be sure to balance your recruiter’s daily tasks when sourcing different skill sets. Avoid falling into the trap of spending a disproportionate amount of time hunting for candidates with niche expertise. This can mean you’re forced to make rush hires for other roles, which can be even more costly down the road if you choose the wrong person. 

Market Conditions 

Your hiring priorities will likely change from month to month and year to year based on what’s happening in the job market. How scare are candidates for any given role? Are there any skills shortages hitting the industry? What about conditions in your local area—are you in a major city with access to lots of diverse talent, or will you need to spend more time bringing in candidates from outside the area?

This is a great opportunity to rely on your historic recruiting metrics to gauge how long it usually takes to hire for different roles. It can be eye-opening to see the time-to-hire for different positions compared directly against one another, which can be very helpful in setting your hiring timelines. 

Hard Deadlines

Do you have any locked-in dates that will define your search? For example, it might be imperative to fill certain roles in time for your busy season, key budgetary deadlines or the start of a major project. Stay on top of these so you can factor them in when giving priority to recruiting employees for different roles.  

Alternative Options

Recruiters have a diverse set of channels for sourcing different types of talent, and each has its pros and cons. Typically, though, attracting new, full-time applicants from outside the organization takes the longest of any hiring method. 

When setting staffing priorities, consider the potential for alternate options. Is there an internal candidate that could quickly move into a more senior role that’s opening up? Could a temporary worker cover a low-impact vacancy while you focus on other high-priority positions? What about past candidates who made it to the final rounds of interviews and are already familiar with your organization? 

All of these options can shorten your hiring windows and help you fill high-priority roles faster.

Size Matters

The size of your organization will factor heavily into how you prioritize your recruiting efforts. Though larger organizations have more roles to hire for, this can actually make prioritizing easier because roles tend to be more defined. As a result, it’s easier to see which positions have a bigger impact and which can be put on the back burner a little longer. 

In smaller companies, setting hiring priorities is trickier because every person carries more weight and the lines between roles tend to be more blurred. So, if you’re a small- to medium-sized business, you’ll need to pay careful attention to the weight you give every position when hiring. 

Tips to Effectively Prioritize Staffing

1. Keep an Open Line of Communication

Recruiters don’t operate in a vacuum. You’ll notice that many of the factors we’ve discussed here require a close knowledge of the company’s various departments and positions. This isn’t something to leave to chance. 

Make priority-setting easier by communicating regularly with managers and department heads about their current and near-future staffing needs. How does each position contribute to the department? Which roles are likely to open soon? What does the typical advancement path look like when employees move up the ranks?

Building a strategic staffing plan will take care of a lot of this work proactively.  

2. Keep a Running Status List

If you’re hiring for more than a handful or roles or if you’re managing a team of multiple recruiters, you need a way to quickly visualize every open position at a glance and manage your recruiter’s daily tasks. This could be as advanced as an applicant tracking system or as simple as a whiteboard. 

Your status list should show every role that’s currently in play or soon to become vacant, plus the hiring funnel status and next steps. You might even choose to order your list in terms of priority, which is a great way to keep your most urgent positions at the top of your mind. 

3. Maintain a Strong Pipeline

A recruiting pipeline is a pool of candidates who are interested in learning about open positions with your company. This might include people who have applied in the past, people who are interested in a role that’s not currently open, or simply strong talent you’d like to maintain a relationship with. 

Recruiters can nurture their pipeline by staying in regular communication, like via an occasional email to check-in or let candidates know about the latest openings. A recruiting pipeline makes it easier to fill open roles at all times, not just when you have an urgent need, so building and maintaining one is a great strategy that will help you meet the hiring priorities you set. 

4. Stick to a Process

Whatever system you decide to use to prioritize hiring, follow a set process and stick with it. This will help prevent you from getting too bogged down with hiring for any one role or department and keep low-priority positions from slipping through the cracks. 

At the end of the day, even lower-level positions can cause major operational disruptions if they sit vacant too long, so it’s important to keep hiring moving for all roles regardless of their position in the hierarchy.

5. Enlist the Help of a Professional

If your open positions are quickly exceeding your ability to fill them, or if you’re having trouble sourcing a particular skill set, it might be time to enlist the help of a staffing professional. A dedicated recruiter can help you set hiring priorities based on your organizational goals and growth trends, identifying where to focus your efforts to make the greatest impact. 

Working with a headhunter like us can not only lower your hiring costs but help you hire faster and with greater accuracy than tackling it on your own. 

Prioritize Your Hiring Needs Today

We blend personalized service with impeccable performance, helping you find and hire the talent your company needs to thrive. We have more than 15 years’ experience sourcing and hiring the best and brightest candidates in customer service, technology, finance, healthcare, marketing and more. 

Our recruiters take a holistic approach to hiring, delivering candidates who will not only get the job done, but who will help your company achieve its long-term goals. Schedule your free consultation to begin building your staffing strategy today. 

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the president of 4 Corner Resources, the nationally acclaimed staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. His mission back then was the same as it is today: to do business in a personal way, while building an organization with boundless opportunities for ingenuity and advancement. When not managing 4 Corner’s growth or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his sales and business expertise though public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Hire Calling podcast.