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How to Recruit Employees in a Competitive Job Market

Female professional sitting across two professionals during an interview

The national unemployment rate in the United States has been hovering near a historic low for months and currently sits at 3.7%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As such, it is a purely competitive labor market for employers. As you look for employees to hire, many of the top-performing candidates you’d want for your company likely already have jobs. Or, if they don’t, they are being offered opportunities from recruiters trying to hire for your competitors. This means that to stand out as an employer in this competitive job market, in addition to offering the most competitive jobs, you also need to do something to make your company shine. To help you achieve this goal, our team of staffing experts compiled a few tips to help you recruit employees in a competitive job market.

Understanding Today’s Job Market

The unemployment rate remained stable for most of 2023, and the year closed out with 2.7 million total job gains. Though some indicators show the tight labor market is loosening a bit, consistent job growth and a persistently low unemployment rate mean the job market remains resilient. 

For companies looking to hire, this means the stiff competition for talent isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Employers are pulling every lever to get qualified candidates in the door, offering appealing benefits and enticing perks like flexible work arrangements and sign-on bonuses. 

Failing to have a recruiting game plan for the current job market puts unnecessary pressure on your margins as you’re forced to spend more to meet your hiring needs. It also puts your employer brand at risk of damage if you develop a reputation for having trouble hiring. This is why deploying recruiting strategies built for a challenging labor market is beneficial. 

Strategies for Recruiting Employees in a Competitive Job Market

Today’s competitive job market makes it difficult for employers to stand out from other companies that seek to fill their roles with top talent. Here are a few ways you can make your business stand out from others in the current job market:

1. Build a strong brand image and reputation

One great way to help boost your brand image and reputation in the competitive labor market is by capitalizing on your employees. When considering or applying for jobs, candidates and applicants often turn to online resources such as Glassdoor, Great Place to Work, and Indeed to learn about employers.

Keep your company’s information on these websites up-to-date and as accurate as possible. Additionally, encourage your employees to voluntarily write honest online reviews about your business to help build your reputation.

2. Offer compensation that matches the competitive economy

Two main ways to make your business stand out in our competitive job market are through reputational differentiators and pay. Although some employers may not like candidates inquiring about the salary or benefits of a position, salary is an integral consideration for any job applicant and something heavy on the mind of many individuals in the current economy. 

According to the BLS, the real average hourly earnings increased just 0.8 percent between December 2022 and December 2023. When you compare that against a 3.4% increase in the consumer price index (which measures how prices of consumer goods change over time), it’s no wonder why people are readily willing to leave their jobs for another that pays more. 

Show that you value your candidates’ skills, knowledge, and experience and are willing to pay realistic and competitive compensation and benefits. This will help to set you apart from other employers who seek to go the cheapest route possible.

3. Go after passive job seekers

Finding the right candidate for the job isn’t a simple or easy task, and it shouldn’t be left on the back burner. According to LinkedIn, a passive candidate is employed and not currently looking for a new employment opportunity but may be willing to discuss one when approached.

To recruit employees in a competitive job market, don’t wait for job applicants to come to you. Meet prospects where they are by actively seeking out active and passive candidates on LinkedIn and other professional social networking platforms. See who your competition employs; you may find your next systems administrator, field technician, or pharmacy technician among their ranks.

4. Treat job applicants and candidates like customers

A successful employer in our competitive job market treats prospective candidates and applicants like customers. A mistake some employers tend to make when hiring employees is treating job applicants and candidates poorly. While this may not be done intentionally by using rude language or other related mannerisms, this sentiment can be unintentionally conveyed through:

  • Poor communication,
  • Unresponsiveness, and
  • Allowing things to fall through the cracks

Using strategic recruitment messaging can help you stay on top of candidate communications and maintain a positive experience for applicants all the way through the hiring process. 

5. Leverage social media

Social media platforms are the perfect medium for building organic relationships with candidates that make them want to work for you. You can use a platform like LinkedIn for active sourcing by searching for candidates based on their location, industry, job title, and skills, then reaching out to them with a tailored introduction message to share your latest openings. 

You can also use other social media channels, not just LinkedIn, for inbound recruiting by sharing materials that spotlight your employee value proposition. Content like videos, infographics, and blog posts can be consumed at a viewer’s leisure and introduce your brand in an inviting, low-pressure manner that can be appealing to passive job seekers. 

6. Emphasize referrals

Trust is of utmost importance when recruiting employees in a competitive job market. Not only is it necessary to be sure a candidate has the credentials they say they do, but you also want to be able to trust that an individual is accepting a job offer in good faith and intends to remain with your company for the long haul. Access a network of trusted candidates by leveraging referrals from your existing workforce

Referral programs let you tap into a pool of skilled, dependable professionals already known to the people in your organization. This approach accelerates the hiring process and increases the likelihood of hiring high performers. Referrals amplify the reach of your recruiting efforts by engaging employees in spreading the word about your open positions and promoting employee buy-in into your hiring process. 

Finally, referrals offer the added benefit of securing stronger cultural fits since candidates are being introduced by those already familiar with the company’s work style, environment, and values. 

7. Put your recruiting data to work

One of the easiest ways to find out how to recruit employees in a competitive job market faster, smarter, and more successfully is by looking at the data on your past recruiting efforts. Your hiring metrics can tell you where you’re doing well and where your work isn’t paying off so you can make actionable improvements that lead to better results. 

For example, if your recruiting data shows that you’re hiring for certain roles with increasing frequency but are not growing in net new positions, this indicates a turnover problem. Identifying which roles are affected and examining why your efforts are falling short in that particular department can help you avoid wasted resources and ensure every dollar you spend on hiring goes toward long-lasting, successful new hires. 

8. Use the services of a professional staffing firm

Many outstanding large, midsize, and small businesses choose to make themselves stand out by relying on a professional recruiting and staffing agency or a headhunter to handle the recruiting, screening, and qualifying of candidates. The right agency can help you recruit employees in a competitive job market.

Ultimately, the job of a professional staffing agency is to make your company look good while also attracting and screening the best talent faster and more efficiently than an in-house human resources team. Whether you are a large enterprise or a small to midsize business, the right staffing firm can help you not only find employees to hire in this tight job market but also find the right candidate for the job.

Named by Forbes Magazine as one of the most respected recruiting firms in the U.S., 4 Corner Resource has a long history of supporting businesses of all sizes — from the largest enterprise organizations across the Fortune 500 to small to midsize businesses (SMBs). Our relationship-focused approach allows our team to offer flexible solutions without sacrificing speed or quality.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can put our expertise to work for your business.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn