Getting creative to recruit employees: ‘COVID has really traumatized people’

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – The job market went from layoffs and cutbacks to now hundreds of job openings across the metro, and it’s been tough for employers to fill them. That’s why recruiters are trying new things to get people back to work. Temp agency Remedy Intelligent Staffing hosted a drive-through job fair; something it’s never done before, but a way to bring the unemployed to them.

“It has been rough for me and my family members because it’s like, not everybody’s gonna hire you,” Marshay Collier, one attendee at the job fair, said. “You know they want you to have this, that, shots and all that so it’s been, it’s been rough.”

People who showed up were able to apply and interview for positions on the spot in manufacturing, packaging, and office/clerical work. Some even walked away with job offers. Still, it’s a challenge. Recruiters, such as Aaron Elliott with Remedy Intelligent Staffing, know job seekers are hesitant and scared.

“COVID has really traumatized people, and we don’t blame them for that,” Elliott said. “That’s why we’re doing these events, so people can feel comfortable and come down and see us. Let them know ‘hey, we’re here.’ You might go on Indeed and apply for a job and you might not hear from them for several weeks, but we’re right here and in West Des Moines and if we can attract people that are looking for work, yeah come on.”

The food industry is another one hit hard by the pandemic. Iowa Restaurant Association President and CEO Jessica Dunker says 57% of Iowa restaurants and bars are offering new incentives or benefits to attract employees including: free meals, flexible schedules, paid sick/vacation time, and bonuses.

Even with these incentives, recruiters say another challenge is applicants being choosier.

“People are starting to see the wages decrease, increase, the way that you know how much things cost out here,” Elliott said. “So I think, especially with the skill sets that people have, they just don’t want to jump in with two feet yet. They’re just a little nervous about a job and want to make sure that everything fits right.”

Iowa’s unemployment rate was 3.8% in April. Starting June 12, Iowa will end its participation in federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs.

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