8 recruiting strategies for hard-to-fill positions

March 19, 2024

8 recruiting strategies for hard-to-fill positions

In today's competitive job market, finding, attracting, and hiring qualified candidates can be challenging. Some positions, such as those requiring specialized skills, are especially tricky. Using multiple strategies to source and recruit potential candidates helps overcome hiring challenges. Advertising on niche platforms, partnering with colleges, and asking for employee referrals are a few methods for recruiting candidates for your organization. This guide explains eight recruiting strategies for attracting and hiring top talent for hard-to-fill positions.

What makes a position hard to fill?

Various reasons make some positions challenging to fill. According to a recent report, the average time-to-hire rate increased to 44 days in the last year. Hard-to-fill positions often remain open for two to three months. With a growing skills gap and increased market demand, businesses fiercely compete to secure top talent. This is especially evident in industries such as professional services, technology, and energy and defense.

Other factors that can make a position difficult to fill include:

  • Lack of skilled or qualified candidates
  • Less-than-ideal physical location
  • No remote or hybrid work offerings
  • Low salary or lack of benefits
  • Overly specific or broad job description

While you may not be able to control some factors (such as your company's location), there are potential issues that you can proactively address. Consider using the following recruitment strategies for hard-to-fill positions.

Advertise on niche platforms

Jobs requiring specialized skills and extensive industry experience may be difficult to fill. Advertise on niche platforms, such as targeted job boards, online communities, and trade journals, to attract potential candidates with industry skills and knowledge.

When posting on niche platforms, describe what is unique about your company. Explain the position's benefits and salary range. Candidates on these platforms often know what compensation to expect, so posting those details can give your company a competitive edge.

Hire internally

The perfect candidate might be closer than you think. Consider hiring internally for hard-to-fill positions. Internal candidates have many benefits, including existing knowledge of the company culture, staff, and processes. This strategy can shorten hiring time and lower recruiting costs, saving you the time and money an external search requires.

When hiring an existing employee for a new role, set them up for success by providing them with the proper training and resources. You might pay for a certification course to expand their current skill set, for example. Consider implementing a mentorship program to allow less experienced employees to learn from company leaders.

"The perfect candidate might be closer than you think. Consider hiring internally for hard-to-fill positions."

Create an employee referral program

Widening your potential network with an employee referral program can also help source candidates for a hard-to-fill position. Ask your employees if they have friends, family members, or former co-workers who potentially possess the skills and experience the role requires. Current employees understand the role, so they are likely to make high-quality recommendations.

Offer an incentive as part of the referral program to encourage your existing employees to leverage their networks. Set clear guidelines for the referral program. You could offer a higher cash bonus for hard-to-fill positions than you normally would, for example. Non-cash ideas for incentives include:

  • Gift cards
  • PTO days
  • Donations to the charity of an employee's choice
  • Public recognition

Work with specialized recruiters

It's sometimes easier to outsource recruiting efforts than find candidates alone, especially when hiring for a niche role. Specialized recruiters have experience finding and hiring candidates for specific roles or industries. They have a vast network of resources for finding skilled candidates. Build relationships with these specialized recruiters to overcome hiring challenges, particularly in an industry with high skilled-talent demand, such as health care or technology.

Build a recruitment brand

The position might not be why you're struggling to find qualified candidates. Potential applicants may not be gaining a clear understanding of the company's brand from the posting. Firmly establishing a recruitment brand gives candidates a better idea of what working for your organization is like. Offering insights into the company's mission, values, culture, and environment inspires candidates to apply for an open position.

A recruitment brand takes time and planning to create. It requires a strategic approach to aligning your recruitment marketing efforts with the company's long-term vision. Elements of a strong employer brand often include:

  • An easy-to-use careers website that clearly outlines the company's mission, benefits, and current openings
  • Job descriptions that differentiate the company from its competitors
  • A blog that provides information about the company's employees, programs, and successes
  • Brand ambassadors who serve as advocates for the company
  • Social media posts and videos that resonate with potential candidates

Target passive candidates

For specialized or niche roles, consider targeting passive candidates currently holding similar jobs. While these candidates aren't actively looking for new positions, they might consider changing jobs for the right opportunity. Find these potential applicants on social media or employment websites. Other possible sources for finding passive candidates include:

  • In-person conferences or events
  • Industry organizations
  • Employee referrals
  • Your network

Once you identify a passive candidate, build a relationship with them through personalized communication. Send them a message acknowledging their career success and explaining why they would be a strong fit for your organization. Share the benefits of working for your company, such as flexible schedules or a comprehensive benefits package, to encourage them to apply.

Attend networking events

While social media has drastically changed recruiting, connecting with job candidates in person is still beneficial. Attend industry networking events to meet people with the relevant skills and knowledge. Search for events in your area that may attract relevant talent, such as conferences, presentations, and workshops.

Introduce yourself to attendees and educate them about your business. You might inform them about the company's benefits and the positions you usually have available, for example. While this strategy may not yield immediate results, it can help you build a network of talented candidates with an awareness of your company's brand.

Partner with colleges

A partnership with a college or university in the area can be a great way to find new talent. Reach out to local colleges that have programs in your industry. Ask professors or career counselors if they can connect you with students or recent graduates who may be looking for opportunities. Colleges also host career fairs. These are great opportunities for you to represent the company and speak with students about open positions.

college recruiting strategy may not be right for every position, especially those requiring prior work experience. It can, however, be a valuable opportunity to hire energetic, motivated people for entry-level roles. Consider this strategy as an investment in your company's future. If you keep the employees you recruit engaged and satisfied, they may choose to stay and grow with your organization as they gain skills and experience.

Hiring for a difficult role in your organization usually takes more than a single strategy. You may find that a certain combination of approaches yields the best results. The next time you have a hard-to-fill position available, consider employing some of these tips. These efforts can help you hire qualified candidates and build an extensive talent pipeline for your company's future hiring needs.

More tips for successful recruiting:

To avoid using a lengthy, complicated application system that might turn off candidates, follow these tips for creating a simpler hiring process.

Your current employees are an asset when recruiting for an open position. Use these tactics to engage your workforce and increase your hiring success.

How do you know whether a candidate will make a good employee? Here's a secret that every recruiter should know.

You can't change the job market, but you can use it to your advantage. Learn how to hire in a tight labor market.

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