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Hiring in a candidate-driven market is tough, and we all know it because a candidate-driven market is one that is driven by the skills of professionals, not by the wants or plans of employers. While there are many factors that have led us to this job market condition, one of the largest, by far, has been the explosion in tech.

Tech companies rely on innovation, and innovation relies on the talents of individual employees within the company. Basically, if you’re a tech company, or any company that wants to keep innovating, then you’re going to need a nearly endless supply of bright-eyed employees with bright ideas to support your organization’s future.

Though all jobs require specific skills, the level of skill demanded by companies in the tech industry has drawn a clear line in the sand. On one side of this line are companies whose employees have the talent to drive innovation for their employer and the skills to adapt to changes in the industry. On the other hand are companies whose employees lack the talent to drive innovation or the skills to adopt new industry practices and technologies quickly.

No matter what industry you’re in, similar lines are being drawn. Organizations whose employees are skilled and talented enough to make critical updates and adjustments will be able to make the jump. Companies without talented individuals in critical positions won’t make these critical moves before their competitors. In fact, they may not be able to make these moves at all.

When it comes to technological know-how, either your employees have the skills or they don’t.

Employees may know more than you do about coding or IT, but that doesn’t mean that they know a lot by industry standards or enough to make the next big leap that your organization needs them to make. It’s sink or swim out there, and you want to be sure that you’ve got some strong swimmers on the team. The challenge is attracting the sort of talent that your company needs, or will need, in order to continue with business as usual.

A Candidate-Driven Market

A candidate-driven market is one in which A-Players have options, and the first step to hiring in a candidate-driven market is accepting that your job is only one of their options. Highly talented candidates are always being courted by recruiters with highly desirable and customized job offers. In order to stand out for talent in this sort of market, you have to have more to offer than just a job.

In a candidate-driven market, candidates:

  • Are solicited regularly by multiple interested parties.
  • Have multiple opportunities from which to pick their next move.
    Have more negotiating leverage.
  • Are more apt to change jobs if their current job is not fulfilling.

In a candidate-driven market, you have to provide great candidates with a compelling reason to join your organization. Candidates are looking for the next step in their career, or at least a position that will help them make that next step. You want to present talented individuals with a job opportunity that feels like it was created just for them.

Hiring in a candidate-driven market is more difficult, but far from impossible. In reality, it shouldn’t be much different than what you’re already doing… if you’re providing candidates with an awesome application experience. The important difference is that you have to drop the pretense that many employers have about their open job – that it’s the best job on earth and candidates should count their lucky stars to be approached about it.

In a candidate-driven market, you need to know how your open position stacks up against jobs offered by your direct competitors, as well as jobs in your industry at large. For instance, if you think the salary is generous, but the competition says otherwise, then you’re going to have to take the hit in order to remain competitive. If you don’t adjust, then you’re going to have a heck of a time making a competitive job offer.

Making the Hire You Need

Hiring in a candidate-driven market requires that your hiring process is an efficient, professional and pleasant experience for your applicants. Providing an application experience that is clunky, slow or even “standard” will fail to impress your applicants and will cause your top choice for the job to drop out of the running.

In order to make the hires that you need to, you have to provide candidates with experiences and information that will prove that your open position is great. While you’re welcome to tell candidates that your job is great, showing them will always work better.

If you want to hire in a candidate-driven market, you must:

  • Emphasize Your Employer Brand and Communicate Effectively
  • Move Quickly
  • Extend an Offer that Feels Personal

Emphasize Your Employer Brand and Communicate Effectively

According to hiring and employer branding expert, Dr. John Sullivan, an employer branding initiative is defined as “An integrated effort to spread the word in an authentic way about the characteristics of the firm that make it a desirable place to work.”

Unlike your company’s brand or the brand of any of your products, your employer brand represents how desirable a job is at your company. Some organizations try to improve their employer brand by offering insane perks and salaries. Unfortunately, but perks and salaries alone don’t guarantee a strong employer brand – neither will the prestige of your brand, the actual work being done at your company, or the way that this work is done.

Your employer brand is a snapshot of the entire picture and takes everything into account including the company culture, the dominant management style, the day-to-day work conditions, and even the spread in your break room.

You should emphasize your employer brand at every opportunity, and that means exposing them to the policies and perks that make your organization a uniquely great place to work. Candidates should also get a real feel for your company’s culture. There are few things worse than a great hire discovering that they don’t fit in very well at your company, so make sure that everyone knows what they’re getting into.

You want professionals in your industry to respect your employer brand, and that starts with giving respect to all candidates that you interview. Interviewers should view themselves as brand ambassadors, and should treat all potential hires with the respect they’d give to potential customers.

Providing candidates with a bad application experience or poor communication is also an important component of your brand. Disrespectful, inefficient, and unprofessional practices will ensure that you won’t be hiring your top choice for the job – maybe not even your second or third choice. No matter how sweet a deal you’re offering, candidates will view a negative application experience and poor recruiter communication as a sign of more pain in the future. Even if they read about how great it is to work at your organization, they will trust their own experience more.

If you can introduce candidates to what your company stands for, your mission, and the way that you support your employees from your first contact with them, then you’re doing it right.

Move Quickly

In a candidate-driven market, time is not on your side.

Highly skilled candidates are more visible than ever thanks to LinkedIn and are often hired into their next job before they’ve even quit their current one. Those who take the more traditional job-seeking path, are being hired faster than we’ve ever seen before. According to the 2015 Global Recruiting Trends Survey, the “best” candidates, are hired within their first 10 days in the job market.

When’s the last time you made a hire in 10 days?

In a candidate-driven market, you should always assume that you have less time than you think to make your offer. While you still need to gather data on what your top candidates want from their next job and test their skills, you also need to account for losing these top candidates at any time. Typical interview models can have you asking candidates to come in for 3 or more interviews over 3 or more weeks, which nearly guarantees that your top choice will have taken themselves out of consideration.

Hiring in a candidate-driven market means recognizing talent early and moving them forward in the screening process. All applicants should have a shot at the job, but true A-Players will need much less vetting than their peers, and will appreciate the chance to show off their stuff.

For instance, if you can see that a candidate is above and beyond their peers in your applicant pool, you should try to have them in for a follow-up interview in the same week as their initial interview. The candidate will appreciate the value you see in them and the shortened timetable allows you to extend an offer before your competitors can.

Though the skill and experience requirements of a role can slow down the screening process, you should always keep speed as one of the top priorities in your hiring. If your hiring process is slow or has periods of dead time, you will probably lose your top choice for the position.

Extend a Competitive Offer that Feels Personal

You should never extend a cookie-cutter job offer in a candidate-driven market. After going to the work of providing a great application experience and accelerating the screening process, the last thing you want to do is extend an offer that is canned or below market for the position.

Instead, you want to provide your top candidate with an offer that is both competitive and customized to their professional wants. Extending an offer that feels personal, however, requires that you gain a good understanding of your top candidates in your shortened interview cycle.

To do so, here are some questions to help you out:

  • Why are they looking for work?
    • How can you make your offer the opportunity they’ve been looking for?
    • Why did they leave their last job (or want to leave), and what has to be different from their next job?
    • Why did they leave their last job (or want to leave), and what has to be different from their next job?
  • How does your job relate to their career?
    • How can you further support their career path in your job offer?
    • Which tools or training programs will help them get there?
  • What did they say was most important to them in a job?
    • Did you write it down?!?
    • How can you give it to them on a silver platter?

When making a job offer to highly skilled candidates, you need to be sure that it aligns with their career goals. Though a competitive salary will be crucial, customizing the role to better suit a candidate will make them feel valued and make them respect your employer brand.

For instance, if your top choice for the job is averse to a secondary duty of that position, like teaching, then you should de-emphasize the role of teaching in the position or nix it altogether. Alternatively, if a candidate was interested in teaching, but this was not part of your original job description, then adding this additional detail will make your job offer stronger.

The leeway that you have to customize the role will always depend on the role, but even small changes can do wonders for the effectiveness of your offer.


Making a good hire in a candidate-driven market requires that you put the candidate first. If you can ensure that ALL applicants have a positive application experience, it will strengthen your employer brand and keep top candidates on the hook. If you can accelerate the hiring timetable for A-Player candidates, it will help secure their interest until you make an offer. If you can extend an offer that is competitive and customized, then that offer will stand out against the competition.

Add it all together, and you have the perfect conditions to make quality hires in a candidate-driven market.

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