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How to Hire Top Talent in a Competitive Job Market

By Jeff Zinser, Last Modified
Aug 01, 2018
> Human Resources

The war for talent rages on among companies vying for a dwindling pool of skilled workers. While great for job seekers, it is nerve-wracking for employers. In June 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor reported more job openings than unemployed workers for the first time since at least 2000. Job-hopping has become a lucrative sport, with those leaving jobs outpacing those staying in their jobs in terms of average median wage growth – 3.9 percent to 2.7 percent. This talent war has made it increasingly difficult for employers to attract skilled applicants, and retain them once hired, via conventional methods. You will have to use different tactics to attract the workers whom you'll need to survive and grow.

The cost of a job war is steep

One consequence of the talent shortage is that companies are unable to grow. About half of the CFOs in a 2017 survey attributed the unlikelihood of being able to pursue all of their intended value-creating projects to the inability to hire the employees they would need. Although long-term economic predictions can make weather forecasts seem reliable, a 2018 report projects that by 2030 the U.S. could lose $1.748 trillion of annual revenue – about 6 percent of the country's economy. Worldwide, there could be 85 million fewer skilled workers than needed and $8.5 trillion of unrealized revenue. Skilled workers may not be a dying breed, but their inability to keep pace with the needs of companies leaves productivity – and profit – on the table. 

Steps your company can take to become a talent magnet

The best way to attract more talent is to make your company more attractive. A traditional method has been to increase salaries and incentives, but today's employees have the leverage to seek compensation in the form of quality of life and peace of mind. Robust but targeted benefits have become an effective motivator, and talented employees are scrutinizing their potential employers more. The public perception of your company and sometimes even your industry matters.

Beef up benefits

A Glassdoor survey found that 60 percent of people report that benefits and perks are a major factor in considering a job offer and 79 percent of employees would decline more pay in favor of new or additional benefits. However, you need to know which benefits will attract your particular employees. These benefits appeal to different types of workers:

  • Student loan repayment plans for recent graduates.
  • Health insurance plans designed for chronic illnesses of baby boomers.
  • Health and wellness plans tailored to the talent you need.
  • Paid family leave for workers planning to start a family.

Even though these perks can be expensive, think of them as investments toward your recruitment and employee retention strategy.

Sell your brand

A positive public perception – both of your company and your industry – can help you stand out among your competitors. The quality of your brand drives sales for your products or services, and it can also aid in your recruitment efforts. Skilled workers may value working at your company more highly if it gives them a sense of prestige. Visible displays of corporate social responsibility and prominent service in your community are ways to enhance your brand. Demonstrating that your company is innovative and a problem-solver could also attract more applicants who want to take pride in their work and be on the cutting edge of their field.

How you portray your industry also matters. A study showed that recruitment in the oil and gas industry lagged because of its poor, outdated image. News coverage focusing on accidents harming the environment didn't help. Reminders accentuate the positives of the industry and show us energy's role in our daily lives as well as a company's investments in developing clean energy. An applicant who can choose among different industries may favor yours based on a greater sense of purpose.

Rather than focusing strictly on profitability, pay special attention to the overall wellbeing of your employees and the community they serve. Money isn't the only means of success for many, but working for an organization that practices meaningful values can lead to dedicated employees for years to come, which helps you retain that dream candidate you initially hired. A shared mission also allows you to show a potential employee that there is a shared passion that goes above and beyond a job and a paycheck.

Looking beyond talent

If you adhere to rigid job qualifications and requirements, you could be missing out on high-performing potential employees. Look for applicants who share your company's culture and its core beliefs but may lack the "right" degree or experience. The skills those workers have could translate into what you need.

The term "war for talent" was coined in a 1997 survey by McKinsey and is in full force today. The need for effective recruiting of skilled workers presents many challenges, with productivity, innovation and growth hanging in the balance. Identifying what motivates today's talent, such as targeted benefits and your company's positive public image, will help you land those prized employees.

Jeff Zinser
Jeff Zinser
See Jeff Zinser's Profile
Jeff Zinser started Right Recruiting in 2003 after a successful career managing a Philadelphia-based national recruiting organization with offices in multiple cities. Jeff began his career in recruitment in 1980 after studying Labor Relations and Economics at Penn State. In addition to running Right Recruiting and managing projects, Jeff has been a resource on employment issues for FoxNews, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fortune Magazine, FastCompany, FierceCEO, CBS and other regional and national media outlets. He has also appeared on multiple symposiums at institutions like Drexel University and TED Talk heroine Amy Cuddy.
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