5 Tips for Hiring in a Competitive Job Market

6 minutes • Aug 23, 2021Hiring

It’s a candidates’ market right now.   

In the US, there were 9.3 million job openings in April 2021 and have been struggling to fill those roles. To make the situation even more complicated, workers have been rapidly calling it quits

To compete in this war for talent your team (and your brand!) need to be as dialed-in as possible to recruit the best people. Worry not, there are many ways for you to get creative!

1. See How Your Benefits Stack Up  

The Covid-19 pandemic has altered many of our perceptions about benefits. Certain perks, such as break room fridges stocked with sparkling water and soda, on-site video games and game boards, and free TGIF lunches, became less appealing to many in comparison to benefits like more PTO, more flexible scheduling, and the ability to work from home. 

Employers have been noticing.

Take it from this finding from The Hartford’s 2021 Future of Benefits Study: 75% of U.S. employers increased the types of paid time away from work they offer employees (going beyond what state or federal laws require) in the past year. In fact, according to the study, these were the most common benefits employers added last year: 

  • Medical leave: 46%

  • Sick time: 46%

  • Family leave: 39%

  • Parental leave: 30%

  • PTO/vacation time: 30%

Especially with the rise of remote work, many job applicants now have more options than ever. For example, if your company is only offering one week of PTO/vacation time, but your industry competitors are offering three weeks of PTO/vacation time, that automatically makes your company a less attractive option to any job applicant that values work-life balance.

You should evaluate whether or not your company’s benefits package is competitive through several ways, including: 

  • Comparing it to what competitors in your industry are offering (just peek at their job posts)

  • Surveying your employees on how they feel about their current benefits package and what they would change about it  

  • Asking applicants who turn down opportunities with your company why they did so and what they thought about the benefits package you offered 

Through your research, you might determine that your company’s benefits package needs a refresh. If you choose this path, make sure you also update your company’s website and online profiles (including Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn) so it reflects your new changes. You don’t want an applicant to base their decision on whether or not to apply on outdated information! 

2. Re-Imagine Your Job Descriptions

The first touchpoint in your employee journey is your job description - which of the following snippets sound more appealing? 

  • Copywriter:

    The employee will be responsible for writing one to two blog posts a week, collaborating with internal stakeholders to collect relevant subject matter information. The employee will also be tasked with editing blog posts written by department leaders. 

  • Content Strategist:

    As our internal content expert, you’ll be contributing 1-2 blog posts a week that educate and inspire action for our future customers! As part of that, you’ll regularly mix and mingle with your colleagues in other departments to get their first-hand insights on various topics. You’ll also be doing some editing! We love it when department leaders want to write guest blog posts, but sometimes they need help! With your expertise, you'll help lead the way with our thought leadership strategy.

We bet you picked the latter!

It directly addresses the applicant and paints a vivid picture of what the job will entail. The job sounds engaging and collaborative. In contrast, the first job description sounds, well, a bit dull. It brings to mind a stale environment with high turnover, where creativity might struggle to flourish. 

Job descriptions are usually an applicant’s first impression of your company. They’re your first chance at giving a glimpse into your culture! That’s why you should strive to make each one enticing. To get the best people on board, your company needs to sound like a great place to work. 

Tip: Consider partnering with your marketing (or sales!) team and ask if they can help you write a more engaging, human-sounding template for your job posts. 

Here are some ways you can start writing better job descriptions

  • Avoid using buzzwords like “rockstar” and “wizard” 

  • Include key details, such as the job’s main responsibilities and function

  • Have someone with knowledge of the industry review the job description 

  • Use language that is


Update each job description as needed. For example, as you and your team interview candidates and your company’s needs change, you might realize that the role you’d initially designated to be solely content writing might need to have some social media tasks added to it, too. 

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3. Enhance Your Recruitment Sourcing Strategy 

Generating exciting job descriptions is only one part of the equation. You’ll also need to promote them. Your open job postings are probably live on your website, as well as on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, and other major platforms. However, you can post to some additional places you may not have thought of. Maybe consider a remote assistant to help you with executing this work.

Your Company’s Social Media Pages (Via Your Applicant Tracking System)

Your Applicant Tracking System will help you post to social. Almost every ATS has a feature to automatically push job posts to your company’s social media pages. Below is an example from Terilyn Eisenhauer, the People Manager at Catch Co. She uses an ATS tool called Greenhouse to manage the entire recruiting process. Notice how she includes a hashtag that helps candidates find her post: 

Linkedin job post

Slack Communities 

There are Slack communities for everything. Ask the people in the department you’re recruiting for if they can post the open job to the Slack community. Don’t forget to consider incentivizing your people—a $200 referral bonus (if the person makes it through the first 90 days after being hired) should do the trick! Your employees might know the perfect candidates for your company’s open roles. 

Other Online Communities 

Slack isn’t the only way people gather online. Think about where people in different fields tend to congregate. For example, the team at recruitment solution Harver advises turning to Github if you’re looking for developers and Behance if you’re looking to fill a creative role. You can also check out Facebook and LinkedIn groups geared toward people in certain professions, such as this LinkedIn group for graphic designers. 

4. Revamp Your Company’s Job Application and Pre-boarding Processes

A few years ago, CareerBuilder found that an incredible 60% of job seekers abandon filling out online job applications. Two main reasons why? Job applications are too long or too complicated. 

Think about it from the perspective of the applicant. They might be juggling a full-time position with a job search. They don’t have an hour to painstakingly copy and paste their resume into your special online form, craft a customized cover letter, and write out detailed responses to additional questions—all in the first round, just to get their foot in the door! 

Even if they go through that process, they might get second thoughts if they see that you want them to submit two sample assignments, sit through 10 in-person/video interviews, wait for a long background check to finish, and… you get the picture. 

The simpler your job application process is, the more likely you’ll attract applicants and keep them committed throughout the process. Some ways you can simplify your company’s job application process include

  • Using an Applicant Tracking System 

  • Keeping the initial application questions to the essentials 

  • Making your job applications mobile-friendly 

From there, you and your team might decide to rely on an applicant’s previous work samples rather than a sample assignment. Or, you all might choose to keep the number of in-person/video interviews for non-senior roles to a maximum of three. 

After you re-think your job application experience, look at your existing interview process next. Once a candidate passes your initial phone screen it’s crucial to move quickly to keep them engaged. Otherwise, you risk them backing out at the last minute due to competing offers from other companies. Some ways to upgrade your interview process include: 

  • Be strategic with panel interview scheduling.

    Candidates despise waiting 4 hours back to back, answering the same questions over and over. Get at least 2-3 people in one interview window to save the candidate some time (and sanity).

  • Send a secure link to your org chart.

    This allows the candidate to have  context for their panel interviews (who reports to who, where they would sit in your org, etc.) 

  • If asked to do a project, pay for their time.

    A simple $25 Amazon e-gift card will do. That way if they're not offered the job, the person is much more likely to give your company a positive interview review on Glassdoor ("I didn't make the cut, but it was surprising and classy that they paid me for my website revamp suggestions!")

5. Invest in Up-skilling and Re-skilling for Current Employees 

These two concepts are thrown around a lot, but they don't actually mean the same thing:

Reskilling – (re-thinking) learning a completely new set of skills

  • ex: 

    front end developer wants to join the finance department

Upskilling  – (up-leveling)  adding skills to compliment an existing skillset

  • ex

    : front end developer wants to become a full-stack developer

Up-skilling  is one of the most cost effective things your company could invest in. Consider these 2020 findings from a McKinsey global survey

  • 73% of respondents said their organizations’ up-skilling programs “improved” or “significantly improved” employee satisfaction

  • 50% of respondents said their organizations’ up-skilling programs “improved” or “significantly improved” employee retention 

  • 56% of respondents said their organizations’ up-skilling programs “improved” or “significantly improved” the number of open positions filled by current employees 

Up-skilling and re-skilling your employees has several benefits. For one, it helps with employee retention, as employees will know they have a path forward at your company. Additionally, you’ll be less likely to have to go through a costly, time-consuming hiring process that may not ultimately work out. After all, hiring someone who already works for your organization for a new role is a safer bet than hiring someone new. And even as you continue sourcing outside candidates for some roles, your company’s up-skilling program will be a major selling point. 

A good place to start building the foundation of a skilling program is determining what skills your company currently lacks. From there, you can organize different skill sets and match employees up to the skill sets that are the best fit for them. You can get a good sense of where employees want to go within the company by having managers hold engaging, intentional one-on-one meetings. By asking the right questions, managers can think more like coaches to can better understand how their employees feel about their current situation and how to best support the future growth of the employee.

Other steps you can take to shape your skilling program include paying for your employees to take extra courses and pairing employees up with mentors within the company. 

By cultivating your existing talent, you're strategically putting a longer term strategy into place to dealing with a competitive job market. And for positions that you want to hire externally, you can give yourself a leg up by revisiting your company’s benefits package, creating more engaging job descriptions, enhancing your company’s recruitment sourcing strategy, and revamping your company’s job application and interview experience. All of these steps will attract people, be they internal candidates or external candidates, to jobs at your company. 

Want 13 more tips on hiring in a competitive job market? Listen to this podcast episode!

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