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7 recruiting tactics that work for this talent market – and 3 that won’t

As we kick off the new year, it would be awesome to shed the high rates of turnover, disengagement, and hiring challenges that have been dragging our organizations down all last year. Unfortunately, those talent struggles show no signs of letting up and teams will have to endure this so-called Great Resignation for a while longer.

Linda Le Phan
Linda Le Phan

Linda brings a decade of expertise crafting content for HR startups, focusing on remote work, productivity, and recruitment.

recruiting tactics

From workers refusing jobs due to unacceptable work conditions and pay, to signs of a brewing (and surprisingly large-scale) anti-work movement, there are currently way too many open jobs and not enough workers willing to take them.

This isn’t an exaggeration either. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported record-high quit rates in four of five consecutive months from June to November 2021. What we thought was just a talent “reshuffle” to accommodate long-term remote work has spiraled into a full-blown economic crisis.

So where do we go from here?

While we could spend time hashing out the same recruiting tips that you might turn to anytime your team is experiencing turnover or needs to do a big hiring push, the talent market conditions we’re in now are unprecedented. This means old tricks aren’t going to cut it.

So, instead of basic recruiting tactics, let’s have some honest conversation about what recruiting tactics will actually work in this labor market, what tactics won’t, and why.

3 recruiting tactics that don’t work

1. Sign-on bonuses

You’ve probably seen that a signing bonus could be a good way to attract candidates, but here are a couple of reasons why it’s not a good idea.

For one, there’s the big possibility of candidates “cashing in and running”. Many candidates in today’s tight labor market know they’re in high demand and are often juggling multiple opportunities. So even if they take the bait of your tempting sign-on bonus, if your role doesn’t fit what they’re looking for on a more holistic level, they could easily leave for another opportunity.

Another reason sign-on bonuses may be a waste of your time is the fact that it’s actually not that impressive to candidates when looking at their compensation as a whole. For example, if the role offers a $150,000 yearly salary and the sign-on bonus is $5,000, some might see it as barely a drop in the bucket. It’s not the most effective of recruitment tactics.

2. Asking “why do you want to work for us?”

Somehow, over recent years, this question has become the ubiquitous interview talking point amongst hiring managers. It has prompted more than 200,000 advice articles on the internet guiding job seekers on “how to answer ‘why do you want to work for us?’”

The problem with this recruitment tactic? Well, for one, this question rose in popularity before the pandemic when there were fewer jobs to go around and employers had the clear upper hand in the talent market. Given that employers had a position of power, this question turned into hiring managers’ way to freely test interviewees on their undying love for the company.

That’s simply not going to have the same effect in today’s candidate-driven talent market. In fact, asking this question to candidates in this market – who likely have other opportunities lined up for them – might even turn them off from you for good. If you insist on covering how your company is great during the interview process, try making “why our employees enjoy working for us” part of the conversation as more of a discussion rather than a spitfire question.

3. Adding personality to the job description

Let’s get one thing straight, many job descriptions leave much to be desired. That includes especially those that get copy-pasted from old internal team documents, or worse, from competitors’ job ads.

But aside from making your job listing slightly easier to read and possibly more entertaining and honest, adding some personality to your job description – without fundamentally changing what the role is about, the pay and benefits, and the impact the role will make in your company – isn’t going to help all that much with your recruiting efforts.

Go ahead and make some updates if it’s to be more honest and or to sweeten the job description. But, if it’s just a ploy to make your company sound cooler, just know that that may annoy candidates enough to make them click next.

7 recruiting tactics that can make a difference

1. Assess your needs before you post the job

Whether you realize it or not, you may be putting too much emphasis on just the recruitment process itself. Sure, losing a team member or noticing a department is stretched for bandwidth are classic signs that you need to hire. But if that’s all you look out for before rushing to hit “Publish” on a new job listing, you might be jumping the gun.

Before you post the job ad, be sure to do your due diligence as a team:

  • Meet with hiring team (hiring manager, interviewers)
  • Align on current needs vs. long-term needs
  • Identify skills gaps within the larger team that may impact new hire
  • Put together team-building strategies
  • Carefully craft what you need in the new role
  • Build a long-term development plan for that new hire

Doing these exercises before every new recruiting process will ensure a great job description and a well-oiled process that’ll make for a great candidate experience AND help you decide on the right hire.

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2. Shorten your job descriptions

This one is an easy tactic that so many hiring teams could benefit from, especially those having trouble getting enough applicants and in need of some quick wins.

With today’s job market in candidates’ favor, job seekers are weary of lengthy lists of requirements and duties and they’ll swipe right pretty quickly without even a second look. It would be good to pare down the list to a few must-haves so that you bring in a healthy number of candidates who also appreciate that you’re showing some flexibility in the process.

3. Design jobs that people want

We’ve talked a lot about how to improve your job descriptions. But it’s worth mentioning that no matter how much you rewrite, promote, and incentivize an undesirable job with subpar pay, it’s still undesirable to candidates.

In pre-pandemic days, finding people to accept these types of jobs wasn’t actually all that hard to do. But since we are now experiencing a very real surplus of jobs and a more emboldened talent market, companies have but one choice of action if they want to attract candidates: design better jobs that pay more.

That means not lumping three different jobs into one person’s role. That means matching the role with market-rate (or higher) pay. That means not using arbitrary or inaccurate job titles to be clear or whatever other reason. Those are just a few examples, but the point is, be more than fair when designing your new job roles.

4. Revamp your compensation package

The last two years have challenged every workplace tradition that we all used to expect as standard aspects of employment, such as draining daily commutes (a major gripe resolved by flexible work in the UK), synchronous-only team communication, micromanagement, unfair pay, being measured by hours worked vs. outcomes, and so on.

Not only are employees finally able to take a stand against these unappealing (and unacceptable) work standards, they’re also not going to budge unless companies start paying up.

Here are some examples of how to revamp your compensation package to not only attract more candidates to individual job listings, but also upgrade your entire organization’s employee value proposition:

  • 3+ weeks of PTO to start
  • Upgraded parental leave for all parents
  • Better insurance plans
  • Stipends (for remote work, wellness, learning, etc.)
  • Stock options
  • Ability to work remotely
  • Schedule flexibility

5. Tap into a broader talent pool

As they say… if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. This applies perfectly when it comes to the hiring process.

  • Do you base all of your new job postings on old or pre-existing template job posts that you haven’t updated in years?
  • Do you just post your jobs on your careers page and LinkedIn, sit back and hope for the best (a.k.a. the “spray and pray” method)?
  • Do you automatically set all of your job listings in your region only, with no option for (or mention of) remote work?

These aren’t bad things to do, per se, but they’re severely limiting your reach and talent pool size. As one-time Workable SVP Rachel Bates says about how this limits the diversity of your available talent: “If you put on your job description that you need two to three years of sales experience and you’re hiring in Boston, guess who you’re going to get?”

“If you put on your job description that you need two to three years of sales experience and you’re hiring in Boston, guess who you’re going to get?”

To ensure your recruitment efforts reach more candidates, avoid “going through the motions” of an outdated recruitment process. Think about who your ideal candidate is, where they’re looking today, and what you’re up against in this job market.

Use that knowledge as you write up your job description and start promoting it, with the assumption that if what you’re offering isn’t interesting, inspiring, and generous, candidates aren’t going to give you the time of day.

6. Start hiring earlier than you need to

Hiring has always taken longer than most company leaders would like. Whether it’s hiring managers being over-selective, unique job requirements, or a complex application process that includes extra hurdles like drug tests, background checks, personality tests, and skills assessments, it would seem that time isn’t in anyone’s favor when it comes to recruitment.

Knowing this is true, start the hiring process well before the need becomes urgent. This might involve:

  • Having regular and early conversations with hiring managers and department heads about future headcount needs
  • Drafting job descriptions even before they get through the approval process
  • Treating your talent pipeline like a supply chain by sourcing talent proactively, monitoring your team’s networks for potential good future fits, and also keeping an eye on internal candidates and training them as needed

7. Follow up on what you’ve promised after the hire

Recruiting today means pulling out all of the stops and, in many cases, giving up way more than you’re used to. For example, you’re likely offering higher pay and better benefits, putting tons of effort into making job descriptions compelling, and promising candidates tons of learning and development opportunities.

If this sounds like you, you better be following up on everything you’ve promised. That’s not only the right thing to do for integrity’s sake, but also, in delivering what you’ve promised you will be nurturing that new hire to be an awesome long-term employee and establishing a career arc for them so that they can thrive (and so can those around them).

This builds more employee loyalty and a stronger organization, which makes recruiting easier in the long-term.

It’s time to step up as an employer

The working world we live in today is light years away from how things were two years ago when it comes to candidate expectations, habits, and desires. And as the job market itself continues to lean heavily in candidates’ favor, the companies that will stand any chance of attracting and retaining great talent today are the ones who throw out the old recruiting strategies they used to hold dear and deeply reexamine and reinvigorate their recruiting approach going forward.

Taking heed of these seven recruiting tactics (and skipping the three we told you to avoid) is a great first step. Applying these tactics with a genuine effort and an open mind will ensure the next time you put recruiting activities in motion, they’ll actually bear some fruit.

Linda is a Boston-based content writer who crafts content for human-centric B2B brands. With nearly 10 years writing for tech and HR startups, she covers topics ranging from remote work and productivity, to recruitment and employer branding, to mental health and the future of work. Her goal is to promote transparency, empathy, and honest introspection within companies and their leaders. Find her on LinkedIn.


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