The Labor Market is Tight. It’s Time to Change the Way You Hire

November 15, 2021

If you suspect your hiring strategies aren’t working anymore, I’m here to tell you that you’re probably right. Tactics that worked before the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer bringing in the desired pool of candidates. That’s because we’ve entered a candidate-driven market. 

A what? A “candidate market” is when there’s a surge in hiring, and a shortage of candidates. In other words, lots of demand but little supply. As companies look to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, many are turning to new talent to drive growth. The problem is, that talent is hard to find, and even harder to retain.

It’s not all bad news, though. Many experts are predicting a flood of new candidates as people return to the workforce after the pandemic, or as they resume job searches they’ve been putting off during these unstable times. 

Until that flood comes, though, what can your organization do to stay competitive in the hiring race? Below are my favorite out-of-the-box hiring strategies that I recommend you put to use during this tight labor market.


3 Hiring Strategies for a Tight Labor Market

In this type of market, you need to get a little creative with your hiring strategies. While candidates can afford to be choosy, companies don’t have that same luxury. Throw away that shortlist of schools or work experience that you believe candidates should have on their resume, and expand your search with the below hiring strategies. 

1. Expand educational requirements

I’m completely fascinated by non-traditional universities and the candidates that come from them. Don’t get me wrong, Ivy League schools can be great places to recruit from, but they’re not the end-all-be-all. 

That feeling was reaffirmed when I came across Deep Springs College the other week. It’s a two-year program where the students govern themselves, take courses with titles like “Mathematics in Political Life”, and even conduct faculty selection and hiring. They also complete 20 hours of manual labor each week on the college’s sprawling cattle ranch, which “allows students to contemplate their role in a community, to practice working hard, and to foster a sense of ownership and integrity and responsibility.” 

I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty eager to attract candidates with this type of experience. And yet, if you’re screening for four-year degrees or particular groups of universities, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to bring talent like this into your organization. 

2. Consider lived experience

Lived experience, or the personal knowledge that people gain through first-hand involvement in events, often gets undervalued in the hiring process. And yet, the range of skills and qualities that “untraditional” candidates have should be looked at as an untapped asset to your organization. Problem-solving, leadership qualities, a commitment to community — these things don’t come solely from textbooks. 

Especially if you are looking to build a more diverse and inclusive organization, lived experiences are something to value and to recruit for. Here are a few tips (inspired by this Harvard Business Review article) to get you started:

  •  Ask the right questions. Ask about passion and interest, not about proof. Just because a candidate doesn’t have five years of experience at a marketing agency doesn’t mean that they haven’t read every great marketing book ever written, or that they don’t go to poetry readings every night, or that they didn’t single-handedly take their parents’ restaurant from an unknown mom-and-pop to the hottest ticket in town. You won’t know unless you ask the right questions.
  • Remove mandatory years of experience from your job description. Simple as that. Don’t scare off potentially fantastic candidates with unnecessary requirements.
  • Identify people with high potential. Work with community groups and partner organizations to find talent. While an individual’s true potential is easily overlooked by traditional recruiting practices, it’s clearly seen by the people that know and love them. Listen up when someone advocates for an untraditional candidate. They might just have exactly what your company needs. 

3. Be open to flexible hours

Millions of women left the workforce to take care of children during the pandemic. In April 2020 when schools shut down, female participation in the workforce dropped to 57%— the lowest level since 1988. In September, when many schools resumed, 80% of the 1.1 million people who left the workforce were women. Many are hesitant to come back. 

While the traditional 40-hour workweek might not be feasible for many mothers and caretakers these days, some may be open to more flexible commitments. Some businesses, like Kickstarter, are piloting a four-day, 32-hour work week without reducing salaries. They’re not crazy. In 1933, a bill nearly passed to reduce the standard workweek to only 30 hours, and there have been plenty of other attempts to pry Americans away from the 40-hour week over the years. 

Consider it! If there’s a great candidate that wants to work less than your typical hours, don’t rule them out. You just might find that they’re the healthiest, happiest, and most productive employees around. 


Don’t forget about your existing employees, either

My final tip for attracting incredible new talent is this: don’t forget about your existing talent. Engaged employees make the best ambassadors, helping you attract and hire strong candidates. So, show them some love, give them some recognition, and make them want to convince their very smart friend to ditch their current employer and join your company instead. 

Oh, and if all else fails, you can pull in my team. We know a thing or two about recruiting during tough times (2008 ring a bell?) and we work best outside the box. Drop us a line and let us know what you need — a single executive or a whole team. We’ll do the rest.

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