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Casting For Candidates: The Untapped Value Of Universal Skills

Traditionally, filling open roles within an organization begins by looking for candidates who have held similar roles in other companies. This can be an easy way to gauge experience and qualifications in order to plug a candidate into a new position with a higher confidence level for success.

What happens when you aren’t finding talent with that past experience that fits your needs?

How do you handle it if you have a niche need that may not have a large pool of candidates with traditional experience?

There may be plenty of strong candidates out there. You may just have to think a bit differently about how to find them.

Think Macro, Not Micro

It can be easy to review a resume, or guide an interview, and look for a candidate that has 1:1 experience with the role you’re looking to fill. If you take a step back to assess what makes an employee succeed at your company in these roles, it’s likely that you’ll see some universal skills at the core.

What if instead of having experience on an exact computer program, you found someone that was adept at learning new systems in general? This is a valuable skill in getting someone up and running quickly, but can also prove doubly beneficial when your organization has to evolve down the line.

Interview prompt: Ask a candidate how they approach learning new-to-them software

Think you need someone that can sell a specific product?  Consider stepping back to look for  someone who is skilled with communication and a strong relationship driver, so they can clearly articulate product benefits and forge connections with customers.

Interview prompt: Ask a candidate for a situation when they felt they gained a relationship win under challenging circumstances.

Take a step back and reflect on those foundational qualities that are at the heart of the role; detail-oriented, independent worker, strong multi-tasker, proven customer service skills. You’ll find it helps you focus in on evaluating candidates.

Considering New Talent Pools

Your traditional recruiting pipelines may not always produce an ample candidate pool. Shake things up and think of other places candidates with the foundational skills mentioned above might be searching.  The current job market may have created a large talent pool that possesses the universal skills you can parlay into roles at your organization.  

One recent example: The hospitality industry became a valuable talent pool during the pandemic. When many in the hospitality industry found themselves out of work during the pandemic, their customer service skills were repurposed into other roles created by the pandemic, such as contact tracers and temperature checkers. By being open to this broader skill set, these crucial roles were filled more quickly.

Source Talent In New Ways

Catalyst Career Group can identify the best customer service and sales talent for your fast-hire positions. Qualified candidates can be screened and presented for you to interview based on your unique hiring needs.

The Powerful Solution for Today’s Hiring Needs: Gig Work

Is your organization feeling pressed for right-sized staffing, but given the volatile past year, feeling hesitant to fully staff up with permanent employees? We can tell you one thing, you are not alone. There is one specific solution to this predicament that can work well for both your company and job seekers; gig work.

If the term gig worker is new to you, you may be more familiar with other terms used to describe this approach to employment; Independent contractors, freelancers, temporary workers and on-call workers can all be considered forms of a gig worker. Essentially, this is an employee that enters into a formal agreement with a company to provide necessary services, but often with a customized contract that differs from your standard employee. Factors like hours worked, benefits offered, and duration of contract are just a few of the potential variables when pairing up staffing needs with a potential gig worker.

A recent study showed that 92% of job seekers feel that now is a good time to look into this evolving gig economy. That’s great news for your organization, as it means there is an appetite for crafting new, temporary positions and candidates hungry for non-traditional employment structures.

The benefits to a company when considering this type of job seeker are many:

New opportunity to find a highly qualified candidate

A job seeker open to gig work may feel a part-time or short-term contract has an innate benefit to their life. As a result, they may be more flexible in compensation packages or contract duration in order to secure that flexibility. 

Affords your organization increased flexibility

In volatile times, you want the chance for appropriate staffing to deliver on your business goals, but also the freedom to easily pivot in order to save hours and costs should company needs shift. Considering month-to-month employment contracts is a great way to know you won’t be locked into covering employees should business needs shift.

Unofficial trial period

Both candidate and company get the opportunity to know each others before moving to a permanent position. After a short-term employment agreement, you may find this individual is an ideal fit for a longer-term position. When your company is in a position to offer up something more permanent, both parties discuss new working terms with confidence and full knowledge on both sides.

If you’re ready to get creative on how you’re filling workforce needs, Catalyst Career Group is ready to help you identify potential candidates. With turnkey, customizable recruiting opportunities like Virtual Career Fairs and private recruiting events, we put you in touch with sourced, pre-screened job seekers so you can identify the right talent quickly.

Attract The Best Candidates With Safer Workplaces

There is positive momentum afoot as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, but its impact will undoubtedly be felt for many months to come. When it comes to hiring practices, candidates will continue to seek information about how employers address pandemic-related workplace safety to ensure it aligns with their needs and expectations.

During this unprecedented time, transparency and clarity are two keywords that should influence actions and conversations on workplace safety with candidates and employees.

Candidate Interviews: Lead with Information

Communicating company protocols in a direct manner allows companies and candidates to move into the interview process and beyond with confidence. Don’t leave it to the candidate to guess what measures are taken and what is required of them in the interview process. Share key safety-related info prior to the first interview, such as:

–    The setting: Where applicable, offer a virtual interview option. Re-clarify if that option is available at each round. Use upfront calls or emails to lay out what COVID-19 related safety measures candidates can expect at any in-person interview. Wear masks, have hand sanitizer available, abide by current social distancing guidelines, and consider providing a health screener option.

–    The greeting: Let candidates know before the interview that you’ll be passing on the typical handshake introduction for everyone’s safety. This helps avoid an awkward initial greeting. Don’t worry – you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to gauge confidence and professionalism from other cues.

–    The workplace: Be upfront in addressing what the company does to increase safety for employees. Include this information in interview collateral or on a website you can easily direct candidates to.

Taking these steps ensure interview discussion stays focused on the role, candidate and company. Remember, actions you take now set the tone for how your company demonstrates care for employees.

Employers: Establish & Communicate the New Workplace Safety

Have you clearly communicated to employees what measures the company is taking to deliver a safe working environment during the pandemic? Consider formalizing details around the following:

–    Workplace cleaning protocols

–    Steps taken when an employee reports a positive COVID test

–    Workplace alignment with social distancing recommendations

–    Health checks, such as daily self-certification or temperature checks

–    A key internal contact that can act as a resource for any COVID-19 related questions

–    Vaccination requirements or incentives

–    Policy on sick/leave time related to quarantine

Having this information established means you can share practices already actively put into place with candidates, painting a realistic picture of your company environment.

Employees: Safety is a Two-Way Street

Just as you are informing employees on company efforts, it’s also fair to ask them to be a part of keeping the workplace safe during a pandemic. Remind them of the steps they can take:

–    Adherence to company protocols (mask wearing, social distancing, etc.)

–    Thorough hand washing

–    Self-monitor for any COVID symptoms

–    Report any positive COVID test they have received or exposure they have had

As it relates to candidates, this also provides complete clarity on expectations before they accept a new position with your company.

As CDC and OSHA guidelines continue to shift, regularly revisit your communications and update as needed. Leverage easily editable and distributable tools such as landing pages or email blasts so you can quickly and easily keep employees connected to the evolving workplace environment.Catalyst Career Group is well-positioned to help you identify top candidates in this current environment with our Virtual Career Fairs. Have an urgent hiring need? Our private recruiting option was specifically created to find and hire quality candidates more quickly.

A 2021 Spotlight On How Restaurants & Hospitality Are Performing

Some of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic-induced recession rely on travel and tourism for the vast majority of their business. According to the AHLA State of the Hotel Industry 2021, the hospitality industry workforce is down nearly 4 million jobs compared to this time in 2019. 53.4 percent of job losses in this industry were experienced by women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and people of color and older workers  This sector added 355,000 new jobs in February, making up most of the nonfarm payroll gains in the market, and another 200,000 jobs are expected to be filled this year, though half of U.S. hotel rooms are projected to remain empty in 2021. Airlines have resumed hiring and training new workers as well.

As the weather warms up and vaccines are distributed, much of the American population is feeling a pent-up demand for travel. Improvement in other areas of the economy and financial relief from the government also bode well for destination-focused businesses. Recruiters are looking to hospitality, airlines and restaurants to see what hiring trends will emerge. 


Though leisure travel is expected to pick up first, business travel has historically been the largest source of hotel and airline revenue. Experts don’t expect to see much recovery until conferences and business trips are back in full swing, and business travel is not expected to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023 or 2024. 

But like so many other lifestyle changes to take shape in the last year, changes in the way we travel will make an impact on recovering businesses. The buzzword “bleisure” was coined before the coronavirus was ever a concern to describe the trend of mixing business travel with pleasure. Digital nomads take extended trips to live and work with a change of scenery, and corporate employees will often extend their stays for some extra time to relax. Some are hoping that this trend will boost bookings for a faster-than-expected recovery. 


U.S. airlines lost more than $35 billion last year, but the recently passed coronavirus relief bill saved them from losing tens of thousands of jobs. 27,000 American Airlines and United Airlines were literally told to rip up furlough notices they had received in recent weeks. However, airlines are still collectively losing $150 million a day on average according to Airlines for America. Pilots and staff will grow in demand as travel picks up, and many will receive training from their new employers.

Discount carriers like Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Travel Co. are the most optimistic, and 2 new low-fare carriers Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways are launching this year. Fortunately, airlines and related businesses won’t have to change much about their operations; airports were already using contactless self-service. Rigorous cleaning standards have become a top priority, and vaccine passports and bacteria-resistant fabrics/materials are being explored as possible solutions. 


Traditional hotels have been virtually shut down for the last year, but extended-stay hotels and home-sharing services have been more resilient. Those who have traveled at all have been more likely to travel with family, and the extra space and ability to cook meals within their accommodations have proven essential. Amenities like these are also ideal for the “bleisure” crowd. More hotels are turning public areas into office spaces and updating guest rooms with desks and high-speed internet.

Hotel workers who were paid little before the pandemic have expressed concerns about job security; some companies have begun to operate with fewer employees working overtime. Unemployed workers who have held the same job for years are worried that they may lose priority to others who will accept lower pay. Biden’s relief plan could solve some of these issues: tax credits have been extended for certain employers who voluntarily offer paid leave to workers, and child care providers will receive $39 billion. 

Overall, experts predict that domestic travel will bring back some of these jobs since life in quarantine has so many Americans itching for a change of scenery. Local business will bolster restaurants and some related tourism as families take “staycations” and explore their own backyards. 

Are you looking to start recruiting as hospitality and tourism pick up in your area this summer and fall? Check out our upcoming Diversity Virtual Job Fairs and see if there is one coming up near you!

Retail Hiring Is Gaining Noticeable Momentum

The home improvement retail chain Lowe’s has announced a hiring spree of 50,000 front-line workers this spring in addition to $80 million in bonuses to their existing team of front-line workers in North American stores. Rival chain Home Depot has not made any such announcement in 2021, though last year they announced a more ambitious goal of hiring 80,000 employees around this time. 

2020 Results

While the timing may have sunk other retail chains, coming just before nationwide coronavirus lockdowns, home improvement stores actually saw higher sales in 2020 for the exact same reason: spending more time at home motivated customers to tackle more renovation projects. Specifically, consumers are seeking to repurpose existing spaces within their homes, reorganize home storage such as closets and garages and increase focus on improving outdoor living spaces.

Many other retail chains have had to explore alternatives to in-store shopping, such as various forms of e-commerce and delivery partnerships, but both Lowe’s and Home Depot already had BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store) systems in place. Home Depot’s digital sales rose 80% YoY in Q3 of 2020 while Lowe’s more than doubled at 106%. 

Predictions for 2021

With vaccines from a few different manufacturers rolling out, some are doubtful that this home improvement craze will continue. However, experts predict that the focus will remain on at-home categories through most of the year, with a shift to away-from-home goods and services towards the end of the year. Lowe’s conducted a study in December 2020, which indicated that 51% of respondents said they “have bigger plans” for their homes than a year ago and 56% are looking to learn how to take on a new home improvement project. 40% of consumers reported that they had started a new hobby involving tools or home improvement. 

The American South is already seeing a hike in foot traffic, which is fortunate for Home Depot because of their strong concentration there. Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas are currently the top 3 states for foot traffic, and at the bottom are California, Washington and Vermont, with New York just above them. Lowe’s is spread more evenly across the South, Midwest and Northeast regions. 

Another major difference between the two chains is Home Depot’s relationship with professional home contractors, which is responsible for 45% of their sales and explains their #1 rank in the category. Lowe’s has indicated that they are moving in this direction, in addition to growing their e-commerce segment. 

Recruiting Insights

If these retail giants are any indication, home improvement and home goods are a safe bet for the foreseeable future–especially products for the outdoors as spring comes around. Brick-and-mortars in these categories may enjoy continued success with digital sales and socially distanced pick-up options. Other categories may want to keep an eye on foot traffic trends to plan ahead.

It’s important that hiring processes align with safety concerns as well. Home Depot was fortunate to have introduced a smartphone app for job applications in 2018. It reduced application time to 15 minutes on average and the chain saw a 50% boost in people applying for positions. Providing digital options for applying, interviewing and onboarding are likely to increase your pool of applicants.

Take a look at our upcoming virtual job fairs or private recruiting and hiring options and get ready to meet your next round of new hires!