How to win top talent in a tight market

Posted: Feb 26  |  By: Janet Berry-Johnson

Is your company struggling to attract and retain top talent? Welcome to the club. According to the January 2020 jobs report for the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate hovered at just 3.6 percent.

Simply put, if you’re trying to fill a vacant position, don’t expect a stack of resumes from qualified candidates willing to compromise on their compensation requirements. Job seekers are confident about their employment prospects, and many of the best candidates are already employed by companies who are working hard not to lose them. You’ll have to be extra persuasive to win them over, but it is possible. Here’s a look at how to win top talent in a tight market.

Remain flexible

Just a few years ago, employers were in the driver’s seat during the hiring process. They could hold out for candidates with experience in their industry, who were already located in the area or willing to relocate and who met every bullet point of a job description. In a tight labor market, you may need to get more flexible with your job requirements.

Instead of holding out for candidates who meet a laundry list of prerequisites, consider the skills and experience that are most crucial in the position. You may find excellent candidates with unusual career paths or experience in other business sectors. An ideal candidate may live in another city but be willing to work on site for a few days or weeks per month.

Also, look outside of the traditional employer/employee paradigm. Increasingly, experienced professionals are choosing project-based work that gives them more flexibility and autonomy than full-time employment. A flexible hiring mentality and filling gaps in your team with highly-skilled executive contractors can help you tap into great, if unconventional, pools of talent.

Up your offer

A 2018 survey from Accounting Principals and Ajilon found that while only about one-quarter of workers are actively seeking out new job opportunities, more than half of workers (55.5 percent) are passively open to new opportunities. In other words, while they’re not actively job hunting, they’re open to hearing from recruiters or potential employers.

Passive candidates are harder to win over, and there’s no sure-fire formula for enticing them to leave their current employer. A competitive salary is a given. You should also consider hiring bonuses, professional development opportunities, a clearly defined career path and customizable benefits packages.

Wondering what constitutes a competitive salary? Check out our 2019 Accounting and Finance Salary Guide to see what your competitors are paying their top talent. Then sweeten the pot with additional perks.

Work with a recruiter

Too often, organizations try to fill open positions by posting ads on job boards. They wait for resumes to come in and trust their instincts to make a decision based on a small number of candidates interviewed. In many cases, they don’t even check references. As a result, they end up with a dysfunctional team that undermines performance. It makes it even harder to attract great talent.

When you work with an experienced talent recruiter, you can establish a disciplined hiring process. This will provide a larger pool of qualified candidates for every position and sound criteria for making hiring decisions.

It’s a job-seekers market right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stand out from the crowd to attract the best employees. Follow the advice above, and you can beat the tight talent market to build a team of highly skilled professionals who will work together to achieve your organization’s goals.

To learn about the workforce hiding in plain sight, download our latest report.