Joblessness is at its lowest point since the Great Recession of 2008, according to U.S. News & World Report. Trading Economics indicated that in January 2017, the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent. With the number of unemployed people remaining steady at 7.6 million, total labor force participation actually rose slightly to 62.9 percent.
This is great news, of course! But it will also impact entrepreneurs and small business owners. For job seekers, this kind of climate creates a “buyer’s market,” so to speak. They can be more selective, taking the time to find the right culture fit and career trajectory for their goals. With more jobs available, candidates don’t have to “sell” themselves as hard as they did in the past.
As an employer, you are the “seller” in the job market. In fact, according to a 2016 research report by the Society for Human Resource Management, 49 percent of polled organizations said that competition from other employers makes it difficult to recruit. That means you’ll need to differentiate on factors beyond money, such as growth, culture, autonomy, continuing education and more.
To find a great fit, candidates want compelling reasons to join and stay with your team.
When you need to build a team quickly, how do you compete in a buyer’s job market? As with any other sales initiative, it all comes down to knowing your target market. Here are four ways to stand out as the kind of company the best people want to work for.
1. Be honest about who you truly are, warts and all.
You need to put all the wrinkles of your organization out there — the good, the bad and the funky. Figure out what’s attractive about your business, as well as what might be difficult for some people to handle.
One of the biggest challenges for our company, Hawke Media, is that it’s a very flat organization, without a clearly defined hierarchical structure. We think this is part of what makes working with us so great, but it’s not the right fit for everyone — however, it will be for the right candidates. So we don’t lead applicants down the primrose path.
Whether it’s something as simple as saying, “Hey, parking sucks around here” before candidates come in for an interview or letting them know that your office isn’t in a great neighborhood, be upfront about processes or a culture that might not be everyone’s speed. While it may seem totally counterintuitive, if you’re not open about potentially problematic aspects of working for your company when you’re in a tough job market, you risk seeing lots of future disillusionment and churn.
2. Show candidates more than just the money.
This means more than the traditional base salary and benefits — you’ll pique more interest with a whole package. Just as you tailor product development to fulfill customers’ needs, you need to differentiate your company for candidates by showing them the value that working with you can provide their careers.
There’s always going to be someone out there with more money to offer. Instead, you should focus on something your company does exceptionally well. One of the most popular options is to offer a robust training program, especially if you can cast a clear vision of how much room there is to grow within your organization.
One human resources professional at Businessolver in Iowa chalks the company’s recruiting success up to promoting this kind of program. It lets candidates know they can move into leadership quickly, which is attractive to the ambitious, creative people they’re seeking.
As icing on the cake, 42 percent of organizations train existing employees internally for roles that are notoriously hard to fill, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. So if you set up a comprehensive training program, some of your longer-term hiring needs could take care of themselves.
3. Grow from the inside out.
Along those lines, try to build on what you have to avoid shooting in the dark. Developing an internal referral program and encouraging your team members to grab the best and the brightest from their networks is a great way to ensure that you can hire great fits when the market tilts in job seekers’ favor.
The exact number is always changing, but roughly 50 percent of our employees have come from referrals from other team members. We’ve found that this not only lands us great hires, but it also creates strong ties within our organization. This makes our employees more likely to share positive experiences at Hawke with their friends and family, which further boosts our recruiting efforts.
The beauty of applicants knowing someone within your company is that they’ll already have an idea of what your culture is like. Plus, when they have connections to help them navigate and understand the new environment, it improves your chances of closing strong candidates.
4. Go inbound.
Get creative with recruiting by treating it like an inbound marketing campaign. With the current unemployment rate, you’re going to have to work harder to find talent, which means more time devoted to posting jobs, going to job fairs and getting crafty. Just as with sales and marketing, you want to find “qualified leads” on applicants who could be great fits.
One pizzeria found a wildly creative way to fill its recruitment funnel: When a competitor closed its doors suddenly and unexpectedly, Amici’s posted fliers under the defunct pizza joint’s “Closed Indefinitely” sign, advertising new positions. Former employees found a new door opening for them on the one they used to enter, which built instant affinity for Amici’s.
The more you can do to get great candidates interested, the easier it will be to narrow your options later. No matter where you are, focus on differentiating your company and communicating your value proposition — the right candidates will find their way to you.