tips for hiring in tight labour markets


We all want to hire great people

Those special characters with the skills, traits and attitude that make our company a great place to work. But they are hard to find at the best of times – so how do some companies consistently nail the hiring brief, even when the going gets tough? How can you be that company?

When a candidate shortage coincides with a hiring boom, the difficulty of hiring good people increases exponentially. Applicants understandably become more selective, creating a vicious circle in areas such as salary expectations, benefits and employment conditions. Here we look at some of the steps that you can take to ensure that your company becomes, then remains, good at hiring – regardless of market conditions, and without a truck-load of cash to drop on salaries.

Don’t wait for a candidate shortage before you start looking at your talent acquisition capability (TAC)

At the start of the GFC (for those of us that remember), and to a lesser extent at the beginning of COVID, there was a period in the early days where large numbers of companies rapidly realised they needed to be better at collecting money. Many had been running high DSO numbers due to a casual approach to chasing debt. There had always been plenty of money around, so where was the problem? When the crunch came, they were in trouble.  They had fallen behind, had to scramble to get up to speed and found the necessary changes did not happen overnight. Behaviours had to be relearned, expectations re-managed; both within the team and also externally with customers. Conversely, companies which had always implemented strong cash control processes had an immediate advantage as they had not been waiting for a crisis to prompt best-practice behaviours.

There are significant parallels with an organisation’s talent acquisition capability. Finding the best available talent (consistently!) relies on the implementation of continuous behaviours across your company. These behaviours take time to implement and are a series of parallel processes rather than a linear sequence – there is no silver bullet – but the early positive changes of implementing them can be felt in months if not weeks.

If you can’t (or won’t) offer stacks of money you’d better have something else – like a great EVP

A great place to start is by asking – what is your employer brand best known for? What makes you the number one employer in your space versus everyone else? If it is money, then you will attract a lot of people (and issues unless you consistently remain the best payer in your market). Is it training and people development? Innovation? Autonomy? Great perks? Interesting projects? Establishing what you are best at in your market (for your employees) is the cornerstone of your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and the message the market needs to hear – BEFORE things get tough. Within reason, there is no right or wrong here – it is deciding what you want to be known for as an employer, then making sure every current and eligible future employee knows it too.

Build communities of future applicants

The concept of ‘making sure every eligible future employee knows it’ can be summarised as engaging relevant candidate communities well in advance of your hiring needs. If you are known in the market as an employer who offers something nobody else does, or you are simply better at it, then your reputation literally precedes you. A strong social media presence, networking events and a compelling employer branding video can work together to share your unique proposition with the candidate market. Sure, that means you will lose interest from certain tranches of the market, but a) your early, upstream communication means you are reaching a larger overall market over a sustained period (hence even a subsection of it will be larger than a snapshot response to one advertising campaign) and b) any candidates who do proceed via this path are more likely to have motivations which are already aligned to your core employer values and USPs, increasing your hiring efficiency and ‘cultural density’.

Streamline your processes, not your standards  

Time is of the essence when talent is scarce, so acting quickly and responding to shifting timeframes really can make the difference when competing for an active, motivated candidate. However, this should not be confused with compromising your standards during the process. Compressing the timeframes for interviews is great, but the level of screening around skills, traits and drivers needs to remain high. Candidates who align with your values should expect to be tested against their suitability and feel that joining your organisation is an achievement worth the effort. It is a powerful message to be able to show a favoured candidate why you chose them, based on a detailed understanding of the person, gained by thorough screening. Furthermore, if you can show them the areas where they fell short and your plan for developing those areas (for benefit of their career), you are far ahead of most of the competition. This can be a tough line to hold when the candidate has three other offers, but over time, combined with professional and friendly interviewers, you have a more compelling offering, aligning your corporate vision with the actual person being hired. Of course, a charm offensive never hurts, but this should be in addition to the fundamentals of a solid interview process and screening.

Find out how attractive your brand is to potential candidates with our obligation free Talent Acquisition Capability (TAC) Review.