Bright Ideas for Recruiting During Challenging Times


Does this sound oh too familiar?

“Recently, I recruited for a position with a growing, dynamic and exciting small business. I had short-listed four great candidates and was setting up interviews. Although challenging, we settled on a date that worked with a number of executive schedules. Of those candidates, when offered an opportunity to interview, one simply didn’t respond, another implied the location was too far to drive and requested a Skype interview, a third contacted me the day before indicating “something had come up” and asked to reschedule. This left only one person who was ready and willing to interview on the date specified.”

Challengingly, the scenario is increasingly common as job seekers have a lot of choices and the urgency to make one company a priority over another simply isn’t there.

Traditional Recruitment Frustrated 

Skilled candidates are in high demand as unemployment rates continue to drop and those with the right skills are often already employed. In the current labour market, job seekers are not desperate for work, yet many companies employ recruiting tactics that are the same as when the employer had the upper hand in the recruitment game.

Even as few as three years ago, I could easily expect 75-100 applications for a job I was posting for clients, and now I see as few as 20-30 for those same jobs, with only about 15 per cent of those actually being suitable candidates. This shrinking candidate pool is causing frustration and havoc for many employers.

The Current Reality 

A 2018 report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) revealed that we are currently facing the highest number of unfulfilled jobs in the private sector ever recorded in Canada. In British Columbia, approximately one in 25 jobs remains vacant. According to the CFIB report this is because there are simply not enough skilled workers to service many employers in a rapidly expanding economy. Given this climate, it’s more important than ever for employers to change the way they look at hiring. It requires a fresh look at the way job seekers are viewing employment opportunities.

Bright Ideas and Best Options

The question remains unchanged. How can employers find candidates who will be a great fit for their organizations without compromising what they need and desperately putting a body—anybody—into a job?

Quality hires still take time and effort (perhaps even more effort than previously), but a strategic change is necessary. Here are some things to consider.

  1. Articulate your brand (make them want YOU): Job seekers are interviewing you as much (or more) than you are interviewing them. If you want to entice people to work for you, know and articulate what you are offering. Be clear on your mission—what your company is doing in the world. Articulate your values and why your culture is desirable. What do you offer that other companies do not? When it’s a “buyer’s market” for job seekers, you need to define what makes your company stand out from the rest.
  2. Offer an engaging recruitment process: Draw them in. Engagement starts before the hire. Job seekers like to show you what they can do, so give them the opportunity to do that. Create fun assignments or tasks to not only determine whether they have a skill and mindset that matches your culture, but that also help them get a sense of whether they would enjoy working for you. In addition, look at your process from the candidate’s point of view. How many interviews will they have to go through? Do you leave them hanging for weeks after the interview? Job seekers are impatient and will quickly move on. Streamline your process and be aware of their time if you want to be the employer of choice for the best job seekers.
  3. Create an interesting and dynamic interview process: Interviews can be dull and stodgy, leaving candidates feeling bored and disengaged. Research ways to create more genuine, two-way conversations that move applicants beyond canned answers. Reconsider using behavioural interview questions. They are not always the best way to assess a candidate. Not everyone is good at remembering examples of situations on the spot, and this can add to a candidate’s stress, making it less likely you’ll see the real person. If you create an interview where the candidate walks away feeling like they’ve had a genuine conversation, were able to communicate their suitability for the job and learned something about you, you will stand out.
  4. Stop hunting for that elusive perfect candidate: Instead, think about what you really need. Is that Bachelor’s degree really necessary for the job? Will you fuss over three or five years of work experience? Does their actual experience (don’t forget volunteering) make up for some of those stringent requirements? Do they have a great attitude and spirit that would fit beautifully in your company? Tight job markets require businesses to re-examine the expectations they are afforded when jobs are scarce. This doesn’t mean lowering your standards, but looking at the job through different lenses. Many excellent candidates have been overlooked because they didn’t have the exact title or credentials.
  5. Keep your pipeline full all the time: Create an internal process that watches for and monitors potential employees who can move up in your company. The best fit is someone who is already loyal and knows your company. Create an internal talent pipeline with training opportunities like internships, apprenticeships or internal mentoring. Be aware of exceptional people you meet outside of work: that attentive server at your favourite restaurant, the exceptional customer service person at your car dealership, the highly motivated, entrepreneurial college student who asked if you needed work done around your house. Making connections like this may give you a place to go when your next employment opportunity arises. And that candidate on your shortlist who came in a close second the last time you interviewed for a position? Keep their resume on file. You never know where someone might be in a few months or even years down the road.
  6. Treat the candidate like they are important: This is extremely attractive to potential candidates. They want to feel that what they have to offer matters to you. If they get the impression that they are just a number or a cog in the wheel of your recruitment efforts, they will find an employer who is really excited about having them on board.
  7. Create a great offer—or the competition will: The person you’ve selected is likely considering other jobs and/or offers. Fortunately, a great offer does not always revolve around money (although compensation has to be competitive). The truly competitive edge is yours to create and present: a dynamic, collaborative culture, opportunities for growth and development, community involvement, benefits and flexible work opportunities and the opportunity to try new things and contribute to the big picture. All of the above has a powerful allure in today’s talent market. While the worker shortage is very real and many companies are feeling the pinch, these strategies can help you look at hiring from a different perspective, giving you the edge over other companies who are doing things in the same old way.



As principal of SMART HR, Ingrid Vaughan’s focus is building systems and processes that keep organizations’ HR running smoothly, and providing tools to help manage teams in a powerful and effective way.

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