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Don’t Blame Candidates: 3 Reasons You Can’t Hire

I hear it from lots of different industries right now. “We can’t hire anyone,” or “No one wants to work,” or my personal favorite, “People would rather sit at home and collect unemployment.” It seem as if everyone is struggling with hiring right now.

While that last excuse may contribute, that’s not the whole story. Here are three reasons you can’t hire right now. 

Not Paying Enough

I get it. This one isn’t universally applicable. Lots of outstanding companies are offering competitive wages and benefits. 

But there are many markets around the country where Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s are offering more per hour than the landscaping companies. And we’re wired to take the path of least resistance.

Given a choice between two jobs that pay the same amount, we’re naturally inclined to take the one we believe is more effortless. (Sidenote: these companies are usually much better at showing a new hire how they could be promoted, too. That’s a whole different blog post.)

A good analogy is to find other jobs in your market with a similar physical activity level and pay that rate. Find out what warehouse workers, moving companies, and entry-level construction workers in your market are getting paid, and offer that. 

Your Hiring Process Sucks

My wife and I had just had our first child. We were both in our late 30s. We had our reasons for living in South-Central Pennsylvania, but all of our family is out of state. It was tough to manage a new baby without help, so I started exploring the option of employment closer to family. 

I applied for a position near my parents that I was extremely qualified for. The company made the LM Top 150 list that year, so it was a larger organization. I had the initial phone interview, which went well. That’s all I could say for this company. 

Afterward, I was told they’d send a Zoom link for a follow-up interview. I got an email from their HR manager, but no date or time for the interview. I had to ask for that. Not a huge deal; everyone forgets stuff.

I logged into Zoom and waited 30 minutes on the date and time they gave me. Then, I started sending texts and emails to all the contacts I had at the company. After a further 10 minutes (making it 40 minutes total), I got a call. It was the guy who initially interviewed me. He said “We’ve got another interview in 20 minutes, but we can do yours now if you’re ready.” 

I asked (politely) for an explanation. I said “Before we do that, can you tell me what happened? I’ve been waiting for 40 minutes, and I’d just like to know ‘Why?’” I thought it was a fair question, one that many people would ask after waiting that long. 

This guy dodged the question a couple of times before saying to me “Well, it’s obvious this isn’t going to work out,” as if I was the problem. We hung up without an interview. 

Where This Hiring Process Fell Apart

The point of telling this story isn’t to bash a certain company. The point is that their internal communication and processes were so bad that it cost them a qualified candidate. They: 

  • Didn’t send the candidate a date and time for the interview.
  • Didn’t show up for the scheduled interview time.
  • Tried to shoehorn an hour interview into 20 minutes to make up for it.
  • Weren’t empowered by management/ownership to admit a mistake and apologize to the candidate.

Ten to 12 years ago, companies could behave like this. There was a recession we were just coming out of, and the power lay in the hands of companies and corporations that were actually hiring. Now, the tables have turned; there are more job openings than there are job seekers, especially in a niche market like the Green Industry. Also, many of your qualified candidates are coming from another job, not unemployment. They don’t need your job; they already have one. 

If you want to score the talented, younger workforce that will sustain your company’s growth for years to come, you might need to make a change. You, the business owner or hiring manager, need to realize this and make an adjustment to the way you’re treating candidates. 

Additionally, it just sends a bad signal to a younger workforce (there aren’t a lot of Baby Boomers lining up to plant trees and shrubs). The generation you’re trying to hire expects good ethics from the company for whom they work. If they think something isn’t right (like the way they feel they were treated in the hiring process), they’re unlikely to come and work for you. 

You Made Up Your Mind Before You Talked To Them

As my wife and I were considering relocation, I applied to several companies. There were a number in both Florida and Ohio where I sent applications. All of them were positions for which I was qualified.

I received just two callbacks (out of eight applications). One of those was from the company above where I had the awful experience. The other is a position at a company that has a 5-star Google review from a guy they didn’t hire. Their process is that good. 

Here’s my point – I believe, if they were being honest, many of the places I applied didn’t call me back because they made assumptions about me. Maybe they thought I’d ask for more salary than they could afford. Perhaps they thought I’d ask for money to relocate if they decided to hire me. Maybe they thought I didn’t pay attention to the city where the job was posted. 

Candidates who have applied to your company have their own reasons for doing so. It could be they’re considering a relocation. Maybe they’re making more money than you can pay right now, but they’re willing to take a pay cut to work for a company with a better culture (I have done this and know other people who have done this as well). Perhaps they’ve just always wanted to get a start in the Green Industry, and they’re finally taking a leap. 

Here’s the bottom line – if someone applies and they’re qualified for the position you have open, call them back. You might find a qualified candidate who has their own reasons for applying. In this labor market, you cannot afford to make assumptions about any candidate before you’ve spoken with them. If you’re going to hire good people and be fully staffed, call them back.


Don’t blame other things for your lack of ability to staff your openings. Take an honest look in the mirror, ask yourself if any of these areas need to be addressed, and get staffed so you can go back to making the world a more beautiful place!

You can read more about Recruiting and Employee Retention in our blog series about it! Start with the first post in that series, “Show Them The Way.”

You can also download our Guide to Employee Recruiting and Retention for the Green Industry. It’s 100% free!

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