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How To Get Ahead in Hiring When Qualified Candidates Are Hard To Find

The labor market is outright tough these days. Unemployment rates remain high amidst the ongoing pandemic, and workers are leaving their jobs in droves. Meanwhile, employers are struggling with attracting talent for their open roles. 

As iHire’s 2021 State of Online Recruiting Report revealed, employers are experiencing a candidate drought despite potentially deep talent pools. Of the employers surveyed for the annual report, 73.9% cited “too few qualified candidates” among their most significant online recruiting challenges. And, 77.0% anticipate a shortage of qualified applicants throughout the coming year. 

If you’re going through this struggle, you’re not alone. But at the same time, it’s frustrating to know that you’re competing with other employers hiring from the same talent pool. 

That begs the question, “How do you get ahead in hiring when qualified candidates are hard to find?” Although the answer to this question is different for every employer, you can recruit during a talent shortage in three steps. 


Job candidates holding question marks


Step 1: Figure Out What You Need 

One mistake employers make when determining how to get more qualified job applicants is not analyzing what type of employee they need. In today’s tight labor market, where you need to make a hiring choice fast if the right candidate falls into your lap, figuring out what type of candidate you’re looking for is crucial. Here are three ways you can best prepare to attract your ideal candidate when there’s a talent shortage: 

  • Build a candidate persona: A candidate persona is a detailed description of your ideal job seeker. Creating a candidate persona helps you identify who is best suited for the role, which can lead you to find the talent you’re seeking. Be mindful of the various personas currently seeking employment, including laid-off workers, those making a career change, remote-work seekers, and applicants looking for part-time or “gig” employment. Establishing these personas allows you best direct your recruitment efforts and tailor your job posting to appeal to the right audience. 

  • Define job requirements: Determining and documenting a job’s requirements will help you target the right talent and assist prospective employees in evaluating whether the role is the right fit for them. This can weed out unqualified or irrelevant applicants and set expectations once onboarding begins.  

  • Write a compelling job ad: When competing with other employers for the same talent, you need to sell yourself to candidates. You want to win their application, and eventually, their commitment as an employee. To attract top talent, adapt your job posting to include opportunities for remote work, flexible scheduling, competitive pay, and comprehensive benefits. Then, post your ads where your ideal candidate persona searches, such as industry-focused job boards and online associations. 


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Step 2: Attract Candidates with the Right Offerings 

After defining your ideal candidate and the type of role you’re filling, evaluate the labor market. Check whether your compensation is competitive, what benefits employees are looking to receive, or what job seekers want in a potential employer.  

According to iHire’s 2021 report, What Candidates Want, which surveyed 5,835 workers from 56 different industries across the U.S., appealing to the modern job seeker requires the following considerations:  

  • Offering a competitive salary and comprehensive benefits: Every aspect of society is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the labor market. Job seekers know that companies are hiring. And, as the laws of supply and demand dictate, as demand outpaces supply, costs will rise. This means top talent wants to be paid top dollar. Moreover, 14.1% of job seekers iHire surveyed would abandon an application if it did not specify the salary for a position. Beyond salary, ensure your benefits (e.g., health insurance, dental, vision, and other perks) are up to par, too. 

  • Providing remote work and flexible scheduling options: iHire’s report found that 47.8% of job seekers believe it’s “important” or “very important” to search for jobs that allow them to work from home. Cater to these applicants by accommodating a hybrid or fully remote scheduling option (if applicable to your industry). 

  • Streamlining your application process: Is your application process scaring good applicants away? Approximately 19.2% of job seekers cited a lengthy online application as the top reason for forgoing their pursuit of a role. Keep your application process short, succinct, and easy to follow to minimize application drop-off rates and hook potentially great hires.  

  • Communicating with applicants: Busy job seekers (especially those who are unemployed and applying for numerous jobs) want to know that you value their time and effort – that said, 91.0% of candidates surveyed expect employers to confirm when they’ve received their application. Don’t let resumes fall into the “black hole” – remain in touch with candidates so they don’t lose interest and fall out of your talent pool altogether.  


Remote interview


Step 3: Amend Your Hiring Process to Address the Talent Shortage 

Your typical go-to hiring practices might not work as effectively during a talent shortage. Consider these six practical tips on how to attract candidates when there's a limited pool: 

  1. Conduct virtual interviews: Even if you’re not hiring for a remote position, virtual interviewing can speed up recruitment, allowing you to snag your next hire before the competition. (Plus, many applicants will appreciate the convenience of interviewing from the comfort of their own homes – a “win” for the candidate experience.) 

  1. Tap into your talent pipeline: In addition to posting a job online and hoping the candidates come to you, go to the candidates. During a talent shortage, strategically leaning on your pipeline allows you to target job seekers who previously applied or interviewed for a job, but missed out to your eventual hire. They still may be a fit for your company (and could very well be on the hunt for a new job).  

  1. Leverage employee referrals: Using referrals is another proactive hiring practice to employ when your talent pool is low. Ask employees if they know anyone to fill your open positions. If you don’t have one already, start an employee referral program in which you reward staff employees for bringing in new hires. 

  1. Promote from within: If you’re filling more senior positions, you’ll probably feel the impact of the talent shortage more so than you would when hiring entry-level candidates. Instead of starting from scratch and putting out a job ad, promote current employees for those upper-level roles. 

  1. Upskill: Not finding the candidates with the exact skillsets you need? Invest in upskilling. For example, an underqualified, but promising and willing-to-learn candidate may be the perfect hire with some guidance and on-the-job training. Similarly, if you choose to promote from within or move employees from one department to another to fill a void, focus on upskilling to get that associate up to speed. 

  1. Move fast: Time is of the essence when you find the right candidate. The chances are that they’re interviewing for multiple companies and have other offers on the table. Don’t drag out the hiring process during a talent shortage. 


These are just a few suggestions to make your search for qualified candidates more efficient and effective. By putting these tips into practice, you’ll get ahead in hiring when top talent is hard to find. 

By iHire | September 30, 2021