7 Strategies for Recruiting and Hiring in a Candidate-Driven Market

The fact that we’re currently in a candidate-driven market is not surprising. After all, the Great Recession was over 10 years ago. The economy has been in recovery mode for 11 years, maybe more.

As a result, qualified candidates are scarce. Top talent is difficult to find. In fact, the National Unemployment rate is hovering near a 50-year low. So while everybody would agree that we’re in a candidate-driven market, what does that mean, exactly?

Candidate-driven market: what is it and what does it mean?

So . . . what is a candidate-driven market? Great question.

A candidate-driven market is a market in which there is an abundance of job openings and a scarcity of qualified candidates to fill those openings. A candidate-driven market is actually a byproduct of the Law of Supply and Demand. In short, qualified candidates are in high demand, but there is a low supply of them. As a result, top candidates are more valuable to employers.

So . . . what does a candidate-driven market mean for recruiters and employers? Another great question.

It means a few things, actually, First, it means that all job seekers and candidates have more employment opportunities and professional options. Second, it means that the best job seekers and candidates have the most employment opportunities and professional options. And third, it means that the best job seekers and candidates have the best employment opportunities and professional options.

So a candidate-driven market means that the top candidates in the market have the leverage. In other words, employers need them more than they need employers. This, as you might imagine, causes problems. It means that recruiting and hiring in a candidate-driven market is more difficult. And it’s more difficult for everybody. It’s more difficult for:

  • Internal recruiters
  • Corporate recruiters
  • Third-party agency recruiters
  • Human Resources personnel
  • Hiring managers

For the purposes of this blog post, though, we’re going to focus on third-party agency recruiters. We’re doing this because Top Echelon has been serving the needs of third-party agency recruiters for more than 30 years. Not that the insight provided can’t be used by the other people on the above list. The advice transfers easily from one group to the others.

How to recruit in a candidate-driven market

It’s a candidate’s world out there. And it’s only going to get worse, as long as this recovering economy continues to roll along. With all of this in mind, what third-party agency recruiters (and everybody else involved in hiring) needs are strategies for dealing with a candidate-driven market.

To discover these strategies, we’re going to draw upon the wisdom of recruiting industry trainer Jon Bartos of Revenue Performance Management. Bartos is a premier writer, speaker, and consultant on all aspects of personal performance, human capital, and the analytics behind them.

According to Bartos, below are seven strategies for recruiting and hiring in a candidate-drive market:

#1—Don’t just fill jobs; bring top talent to the table.

As the time-to-fill metric continues to lengthen because of demographic shifts, placing candidates will become tougher and tougher.  The most successful recruiters will have anticipated this and be prepared to deal with it proactively.  They will spend more time bringing the impact player or “most placeable candidate” (MPC) to clients.

In this tightening market, recruiters will find themselves with more job orders than they can handle.  However, the placements will come more frequently from the MPC marketing call.  Your mission is still to find that exceptional “A player.”  But now you must spend the time necessary to truly market them to targeted companies.  It is hard work that will pay big dividends.

#2—Find all available opportunities for top talent.

Once you’ve found top talent, be prepared to “wow them.”  Don’t be content to simply take an “A player” to the market.  Be as thorough as possible, finding all available opportunities for him or her.  In a sense, you’re selling yourself to the candidates to get exclusivity.

You can bring an extremely strong value proposition as a recruiter when you can say to your industry’s top talent, “I’m going to go out there and market you to all the prospective companies that make sense.  I will bring to you all the available opportunities that fit your background.  I can help you decide what is best for you and your career.”

#3—Stop relying on job boards and employ alternate networking tools.

Like last year’s favorite birthday gift, the job boards have lost their novelty.  You are not going to find the “A players” on the job boards anymore.  The top 10% of the talent pool are gainfully employed and knocking the cover off the ball for their employers and not looking for another job.  Job boards today are populated with “B and C players” who are looking to make a change.  Every recruiter across the country has access to the job boards and thus to these candidates.  You aren’t going to find anything special there.  The last words of a recruiter about to go out of business are “But that is the way we’ve always done it.”

The truth is, “A players” are invisible to the job boards.  They don’t have their resumes posted and they don’t look at job postings.  You’ve got to come up with new ways to find them.  The best recruiters are direct recruiting and using the alternate networking tools. Some of these tools include social media sites like LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, university alumni associations, and Top Echelon’s MEGA Database. (The MEGA contains over four million recruited candidates in just about every industry and discipline.)  These kinds of alternate tools will replace the job boards in effectiveness very quickly in this shifting market. Conveniently, some of them are free, with additional feature upgrades available for a nominal fee.

#4—Coach your team of ‘A players.’

Once you’ve identified the “A players” in your industry, you need to become a trusted career coach to your talent.  Like a great coach who talks with and mentors his athletes every day, you need to touch your most valuable talent on a monthly basis.  Keep yourself in front of them so they are reminded of your value.  Keep them abreast of market trends.  Don’t let them forget for a moment who you are and the value you bring.

Always inform your talent inventory about great opportunities and make it a point to provide information that will help them in their careers.  In the end, the game will be won by the recruiter with the best talent pool.  Develop yours, communicate with them monthly, illustrate your value, and you will have clients knocking down your door to get at your talent.

#5—Only work with clients who want a close partner.

We’ve all heard it: “I need you to search for this position, but we will have our internal recruiting or HR staff working on the job, as well.”  While we may have been willing to work under these conditions in a client-friendly market, these are the clients we need to lose in a candidate-driven one.  Winning recruiters should make it a firm rule to only work with clients who are 100% committed to you and your efforts on their behalf

Recruiting should never be a race against a client’s internal HR department or against another recruiter they have engaged.  That is a losing proposition.  A team approach where the client and a sole recruiter work together will deliver the best results for everyone involved: an efficient hiring process and a successful hire.

#6—Work with clients on multiple openings.

Recruiters in this market need to be choosy.  If a client will only give you one job to fill while handing others to their internal staff or competing recruiters, you may want to discontinue the relationship.  The clients we want are the ones that give us multiple openings of the same kind of search, allowing us to benefit from the synergy that comes naturally from the similar opportunities.

#7—Set expectations up front.

Part of being a good recruiter is being a great communicator.  Set expectations up front with clients and candidates.  Explain your strategy clearly; it will be crucial to your success.  Discuss with hiring managers how you work, your role in the search, your responsibilities, and your hiring time frame.  Make sure you define right now the types of situations and clients you will work with tomorrow and those you will not.

When dealing with candidates, it’s even more important to establish ground rules immediately.  Explain your approach, agree on communication methods and expectations, and make sure they understand your role and their own role in the search.  Stress open and honest feedback.  Always keep your eye on the prize: the exclusivity to work with them on multiple opportunities.

We’ve all faced challenges in our professional lives.  This highly competitive climate can defeat us or energize us to new success.  Whether you’re a Baby Boomer who has seen our industry evolve from headhunters to professional talent consultants, or a 22-year-old recruiter for whom the profession is bursting with potential, now is the time to develop a game plan for a new playing field.

Recruiters who are agile and prepared will continue to build winning teams—one player at a time—and achieve prosperity in a rewarding career.

Training to deal with a candidate market

As always, one option for dealing with a candidate-driven market is to engage in continuous education and training. The good news is that Top Echelon offers a free monthly webinar as part of its Recruiter Coaching Series. After the webinars are over, we post the recorded version of the webinars in our Recruiter Training Library. These webinars touch upon a variety of recruiter-related topics. These topics deal with both candidates and clients. As always, our goal with these webinars (and corresponding videos) is to help recruiters make more placements.

Jon Bartos has multiple videos in the Top Echelon Recruiter Training Library. Some of these videos are listed below. Click on the title of each video for access:

In addition to training and webinars, Top Echelon offers other recruitment solutions. These solutions include the following:

For more information about Top Echelon and the products and services that it offers, visit the Top Echelon website by clicking here.