How to attract top talent in a competitive hiring market

Finding the best candidates can seem impossible in today's competitive hiring landscape. Use these methods to help you attract even the choosiest candidates.

One question that dominates every recruiter's mind is how to attract top talent in an economy that gives candidates the freedom to pick and choose.

As a result, it's more important than ever for recruiters to identify strategies to attract top talent. Here are four ideas to do just that.

Understand the role of content in a recruitment campaign

Content is key to attracting the candidates you want.

By deploying recruitment marketing campaigns that include great content highlighting great experiences, companies can move prospective workers down the funnel toward a matching position, said William Tincup, president and editor at large of the industry web site

That content can include job postings and employer-brand advertising, but it can also include blog posts, webinars, white papers, videos and Instagram posts, he said.

"It's literally any form of content that you create, as long as it's at the intersection of your interest and their interest," Tincup said.

Tailor the message

Attracting top talent won't be successful if you don't tailor your messages. That means you'll need to understand the candidate personas and how best to speak to them.

Attracting top talent won't be successful if you don't tailor your messages.

For example, you're less likely to lure graphic designers with long-form content than you are with posts on Pinterest, Instagram or Snapchat, Tincup said.

Generational issues may also come into play.

Having grown up with the internet, Gen Z considers new technology, such as touch computing and voice controls, to be normal. And because this group personalizes their consumer technology, such as their Spotify playlists and their avatars, they expect personalized work content as well, he said.

When employers don't meet the candidates' expectations, there are repercussions.

"They'll look at you and say to themselves, 'Well, you obviously don't get us,' and move on," Tincup said.

Use storytelling

Today's recruiters have to convey the benefits of their workplace with vivid storytelling that sparks even passive candidates' interest. That means before reaching out to candidates, you'll first need to create a narrative with which top talent can connect.

Besides being the basis for your messaging, that narrative will provide a foundation that ensures everyone involved in talent acquisition is "singing the same song," said Chad Sowash, principal of Catch-22 Consulting and co-host of the recruiting-focused Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Since more of today's workers point to an employer's mission and purpose as critical components of the employee experience, you'll also need to include these in the narrative.

The time's passed when employers could base their message [simply] on the idea of 'we'll pay more.'
Graham ThorntonCo-founder, Change State

"The time's passed when employers could base their message [simply] on the idea of 'we'll pay more,'" said Graham Thornton, co-founder of the Seattle recruitment marketing agency Change State. 

Recruitment marketing must include enough depth and feel to help candidates see themselves at a particular organization, in a particular role, Sowash said.

"We want to do all the things that a great B2B marketing leader would do and apply those things in recruiting," Tincup said. Employers should work to develop a comprehensive set of recruitment marketing ideas, including drip campaigns and nurture campaigns based on those personas they've built, he said.

Nurture your candidate pipeline

The best recruiters know that attracting top talent doesn't stop when you've filled the current open jobs.

Instead, view recruitment marketing as an engine that continuously fills up your candidate pipeline, Thornton said. When you nurture your pipeline, you don't need to start from scratch every time you need to actively fill a role, he said.

The key is to generate recruitment marketing ideas that encourage candidates to share information about themselves.

"You want to capture as much information about a prospective candidate as possible, so when an open job comes up you're not starting from scratch, you're not having to go out and post a job, find a candidate, [and have them] walk through a 30-minute application process before you can talk to them," Thornton said.

Even though the work involved in filling current positions is premeditated, it should be driven by an overarching strategy designed to build your talent pipeline in anticipation of future needs, Sowash said.

"The companies that actually pull off recruiting strategies understand that a strategy is not something that's a month long or even a year long, it's years long," he said. "Tactics are how you pull that vision of a strategy off."

Another critical factor to remember: The runner-up for a current job may be the perfect match for a future position.

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