7 Tips for Recruiting in a Tight Labor Market

In a tight job market, it is vital to engage with potential candidates well before the actual job interview or start date. In a new report, executive search firm CCI Consulting reveals effective strategies for recruiting and some miscues to sidestep. Talent experts from New Frontier Search Group weigh in.

October 18, 2019 – Attracting, acquiring, and retaining talent is more challenging than ever before. The tight labor market demands that companies adopt a recruiting strategy that recognizes that engagement starts well before either the interview process or the start date. A new report from executive search firm CCI Consulting’s Bill McCann reveals effective strategies for recruiting in a tight market and three recruiting pitfalls to avoid.

“Your employment brand speaks to your image and perception of what it is like to work for you, and how you value the candidate experience as they are considering affiliating with your company,” said Mr. McCann. “Your employment brand is the composite of the market perception of prospective employees, current employees and previous employees as well.”

“Company culture, work environment, compensation, employee benefits, work-life balance and development opportunities are top of mind when discussing the employee value proposition,” he said. “Creating a compelling candidate experience and perception will help your organization stay ahead of your competition and differentiate you as an employer of choice.”

Many experienced candidates are conducting careful research on the companies they are considering, including using the company’s website, LinkedIn profiles and employee review sites such as Glassdoor. “They network with candidates who have previously worked for the company to get inside information on what it is like to work there,” Mr. McCann said. “Top-tier candidates have options and are judicious about the opportunities they explore.”

Employers should be watchful of their reputation on job search websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed, both negative and positive, and watch for trends, said the CCI Consulting report. This vantage point, combined with the internal feedback received in both stay interviews and exit interviews, can be insightful.

As an employer, consider the following 7 key strategies to help recruit great talent in a tight labor market:

1. Cater Your Hiring Process to the Candidate

Consider your hiring process from the candidate’s point of view. Is the career page on your website a fluid, efficient, and user-friendly process? Is your organization utilizing mobile technology in the recruiting process? What does your recruiting process say about your organization?

Here are some strategies to help improve the candidate experience:

  • Design your interview process for maximum efficiency and candidate engagement, so that candidates know what to expect in your process and feel respected and valued.
  • Use technology to your advantage and consider Skype or web conferences in the early stages of interviews.

As an executive search consultant with CCI Consulting, Bill McCann is a passionate and vital member of the organization, working with clients to assure a successful search outcome as well as providing exceptional customer service and a candidate experience second to none. His career in talent acquisition spans more than 20 years and he has an impressive history of helping organizations secure top talent to meet their business objectives.


  • Personalize your email communications with candidates; even a standard template can easily be tailored for a personalized tone.
  • Capture interview team feedback quickly while it is fresh and keep momentum and urgency.
  • Avoid losing a top candidate because of delays in the offer letter approval process; assign proxies in the approval process to avoid delays if someone is travelling or unexpectedly out of the office.
  • Consider engaging an external search partnerto manage the project for you and to assure that key components of the employment experience are handled with a dedicated focus.

2. Market Your Organization

The Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Research Report recently found that candidates want three primary things from a hiring company: A clear understanding of the company culture, insight into the employee experience and a sense of connection with the employer brand. The report also said that 75 percent of candidates conduct their job search research across multiple channels before applying. The way your company presents its culture, values and brand is a critical decision factor for candidates. Effectively managing your social media brand increases your candidate pool.

3. Emphasize Your Employee Referral Program

“Current employees can be your biggest advocates and cheerleaders,” said Mr. McCann. “Get creative with your employee referral bonus program. Gift cards, and even cash, are less appealing to some than might be extra time off. Consider if an extra day or two of PTO can work. Some other ideas to consider include tickets to a local sporting event, or a quarterly lunch with the CEO for anyone who referred candidates who were successfully hired.”


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4. Focus on Active and Passive Candidates

You want to find the best candidate, and that candidate may be unemployed, employed but looking, or employed and not looking. “Each type of candidate will have a different level of interest and motive, so you’ll need to have recruitment strategies that appeal to each group,” said Mr. McCann. “Posting employment ads and searching job board databases for active candidates is not enough. Direct sourcing by recruiters and hiring managers, along with materials that tell an engaging story to people who may not be familiar with your company, can generate interest among currently employed individuals, but not those who are actively looking.”

Mr. McCann also said to consider revisiting former high performing employees who have left the company. “They may have left for career development and have acquired valuable skills and talents that you need; or they may have left your company and have found that the grass is not always greener on the other side.”

5. Talk about Salary Early

“Nothing is more frustrating than working with a candidate for over a month only to find out there is a 30K salary difference in what they are looking for vs. what the company can offer,” said Mr. McCann. “Many candidates are reluctant to share their actual compensations and many states are now restricting that conversation.”

In states or municipalities where salary history discussion is prohibited, it can be approached in two ways. The recruiter may ask, “What are your salary expectations?” Or the candidate may ask, “What is the salary range being offered for the role?” to ensure compensation compatibility before moving forward.

6. Always Be Recruiting!

“Continually recruit for a pipeline of talent and build a talent community to engage in your brand,” Mr. McCann said. “That way, when you do have job openings, you are not starting from scratch and can save precious time.”


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7. Be Prepared for Counteroffers

Companies know that replacing a key employee can be time consuming and costly, so they will get very creative to retain their best talent, said the report. Be prepared to be creative on “sweetening the deal,” without upsetting internal equity. Sign-on bonuses, extra PTO, a six-month review, etc., can make a big impact in a candidate’s decision to say yes.

Recruiting Pitfalls to Avoid

No discussion about recruiting strategies would be complete without addressing mistakes to avoid. In an employees’ job market, employers need to fine-tune their recruiting process to ensure they don’t lose great candidates to the competition.

CCI Consulting provides three common recruiting pitfalls to watch out for.

1. Not staying in touch with candidates throughout the process.

Lack of communication on either side, candidate or company, can leave the other party in the dark. Set expectations up front regarding how long the process may take, who will be involved and if there is an assessment tool somewhere in the process. Additionally, if you tell a candidate they should have an offer by the end of the week, make sure that happens. As time keeps passing, the level of the candidate’s enthusiasm may begin to wane. There is a saying that goes, “Time kills all deals.” Keep that in mind during this time-sensitive period.

2. Not knowing the marketplace salaries.

Often, internal compensation growth has failed to keep pace with external salaries and employers face internal equity constraints. While it is a valid internal business issue, it doesn’t change a candidate’s negative perception of an offer that is too low and may even be perceived as insulting. Know the supply and demand in the candidate market and do your compensation research. Candidates have become much more educated in compensation with many salary research websites to tap into.

3. Not being realistic about temp-to-perm options.

In a tight labor market, temp-to-perm it is not really a viable option, particularly for most professional level roles. With unemployment hovering below four percent, chances are slim that people will be willing to walk away from a permanent job with benefits (in other words, medical, dental, 401(k) match, PTO, stock, etc.,) for the “potential” to become a permanent employee. And if you do bring people on as a temp-to-perm hire, they are most likely still getting calls from other companies for direct hire positions and may end up leaving your company anyway. So, they are at-risk employees and you may need to start over again.

“Hiring in today’s competitive market takes more than finding and securing great candidates,” Mr. McCann said. “It also requires building a workplace culture that engages and entices your employees to stay around. As you plan your recruiting strategy, be sure to take an honest look at your current company culture and brand reputation. The time and energy you invest in building a strong brand and culture will go a long way in helping you attract top-tier talent as well as retain your key employees.”

Talent Experts Weigh In

“The CCI Consulting report has some great ideas. However, it did not address the one weak link that 90 percent of corporations have a failing grade: Lack of interview training for hiring managers,” said Russ Riendeau, senior partner of New Frontier Search Group. “Corporations attention to on-going training around manager interviewing skills has been lacking since I started recruiting in 1985. On The American Management Association website, if you review the course offerings, there are just one or two interview courses disguised as leadership training, in part because interview training is hard work, not a constant need and not training that can demonstrate a ROI to profits or check off a mandatory training such as active shooter training, bullying, harassment training etc.”

“I’ve done surveys since 1986 on what percent of hiring managers have had interview training in the past four years and consistently 90 percent of them say zero training,” he said. “Every survey is the same small percentage.”

“Every tip and strategy listed in this article (CCI Consulting) is logical, pragmatic and excellent methodologies,” Mr. Riendeau said. “But these systems are all executed with the assumption that the people writing the job descriptions, posting the jobs online and the hiring managers that are doing the actual interviewing–after HR has vetted them–are competent, self-aware and have had the proper interview training to recognize the hidden talent or outliers that help drive innovation and energy in companies.”

This assumption, he said, is typically incorrect, thus leading to a breakdown in the hiring approach. “Then management blames the cause on a lack of qualified candidates, when the real issue is lack of properly training employees that carry out the processes properly,” he noted.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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