Jamie Herzlich Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

Finding qualified job applicants is always a challenge for Jeff Tempone, CEO of East Coast Refrigeration in Deer Park.

An opening posted on Indeed, a popular search engine for jobs, might generate 200 responses — and fewer than 5 percent of them will meet the company’s criteria for the position, he estimates.

“It’s still hard finding qualified individuals for every part of the business,” says Tempone, whose company services commercial and industrial refrigeration systems.

Tempone is far from alone in his struggle. A recent survey from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) shows that 56 percent of respondents reported hiring or trying to hire, but 48 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.

“The applicant pool is not in particularly good shape,” says Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist for NFIB in Washington.

Business owners cited factors including bad work history, lack of social skills, poor appearance and poor attitude for finding jobseekers unqualified. About 25 percent of applicants didn’t have the specific job skills required, adds Dunkelberg.

“If you think about social skills, appearance and attitude, these are all things these applicants can fix without going back to school,” he says.

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Tempone, who has about five positions he’s presently trying to fill, including one in accounts receivable, says he has tried to counter the tight labor pool by focusing on employee retention.

“My philosophy is if we have a good environment people will want to come work for us,” Tempone says. This will also lead to employee referrals.

Employee referrals can be a great way to get new applicants, says John Coverdale, president of The Center for Workplace Solutions, a Blue Point human resources management firm, and faculty director of the human resource management program at Stony Brook University.

“It’s important that your current employees are ambassadors for your organization,” he notes.

Applicants can also look online to assess what current and former employees think about your organization, he says. So reputation is important as well.

In addition, look at your compensation and see how well it aligns with the market, Coverdale suggests.

If you can’t compete on salary alone, look at other incentives you may be able to offer, says Jennine Leale, chief executive officer of HRPRO Consulting Services LLC in Rockville Centre, an HR outsourcing firm.

“There are companies that offer more flexible scheduling, as well as the opportunity to work from home,” she notes.

Beyond compensation, also look at your job description through a “realistic lens,” Coverdale says. It might be so detailed and narrow that it’s too limiting.

“No candidate is perfectly ready to step into a position,” he says. “Everyone needs additional training and development.”

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To be sure, a lot of firms offer on-site training programs, Dunkelberg says. For example, East Coast Refrigeration has one it offers for its technicians.

Outside of training initiatives, be mindful of your marketing activities, Leale says. For example, sponsoring local events to build your company image not only attracts customers, but talent as well, she says.

“Millennials are really into image,” she says. “They like to have a company that is visible.”

Having a strong web presence, including a professional website, can also help lure candidates, Leale says.

Also consider tapping others in your industry. “Make opportunities to meet people in different businesses that could refer others they know,” she says.

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In addition, don’t ignore the resources available at local colleges and universities, Coverdale says. “The career development office at almost every college or university is ready to help.”