Strategies to Combat the War for Talent

War on talent

We’re hearing it everywhere: unemployment in North America is at its lowest rate since 1969 at 3.6 percent. Job numbers, however, are growing. In January, they were at a 15 percent increase year-over-year. This is no surprise—as any basic economics class would tell you, it’s a case of supply versus demand.


United States Unemployment Rate 1965-2019


And with baby boomers now retiring, the labor participation rate fell in April to its lowest rate (82.5 percent) since 1987, apart from the last recession. The power has now shifted to candidates. Candidates are negotiating better rates and better terms, and they have the pick of the litter when it comes to fast-growing companies that offer great benefits and opportunities.

This has a lot of recruiters concerned. Sixty-one percent of respondents to Bullhorn’s GRID report said that “candidate acquisition and sourcing” is one of their top priorities for 2019, yet only 36 percent responded with “Engaging candidates/Improving the candidate experience” to the same question. Some professionals must be employing other plans and strategies to solve this challenge.

It’s important to note that this is not just a North American issue. Other countries with strong staffing industries are also seeing a similar unemployment rate trend (United Kingdom – 3.9 percent, Netherlands – 3.4 percent, Germany – 3.2 percent, Japan 2.5 percent). In some ways, the staffing industry should give itself a pat on the back. But don’t stand still for too long, because your competition is already thinking creatively to overcome the new challenges of this environment. How can your agency think outside of the box or even just make small changes to win more talent? These won’t be applicable to every person in every market, but I’d hope one of these options creates food for thought:

3 ways to win more talent


Kevin Green, Chief Executive of the Recruitment Employment Confederation in the UK, recently talked about the “inch wide, mile deep” approach to staffing. Staffing companies that have become more niche in their approach are actually seeing increased revenue numbers. Wait?! Focusing on smaller candidate pools is equating to bigger billings, how exactly?

These companies are hyper-focused on a small, manageable volume of candidates.  They nurture deep relationships with these candidates by understanding their area of focus, motivators, skill sets. They then take this a level further by creating a community of like-minded professionals, and they can connect with these candidates at e-breakfast events, luncheons, conferences, round tables, and other value-adding events. Because they are so close to these candidates, they can ask them to invite their friends, who “just-so happen” to have a similar skillset to the original candidate.

By getting these referrals and providing an incredible experience, these candidates have the utmost confidence in the recruiter, and therefore trust them on a role. On the other side of the coin, companies hiring this specialist group of people know exactly where to turn, because all of the candidates are accessible by this hyper-focused staffing agency. And with supply versus demand, these businesses can charge a higher than average rate and ultimately increase their revenue numbers with fewer placements. 

Get Personal 

Better relationships and more thoughtful interactions lead to greater loyalty and trust. Building the relationship is the first step of this process. One roadblock? Generational differences can prove to be a challenge that recruiters have to overcome, which makes embracing new technology is more important than ever. With 46 percent of respondents to GRID stating that Millenials are the most difficult to engage, there is research out there that suggests chatbots and technology are actually the type of interaction millennials crave. Personalization is not just about having every interaction face-to-face, it’s also about understanding your customer and how they want to work with you. 

With the speed of innovation and number of new recruitment software companies being created, when you are looking at the central point of your recruitment technology ecosystem you want to ensure they have the ability to integrate with other technology but also that they are at the cutting edge of their own domain and the general recruitment technology space. It is extremely common to have 5 or 6 technologies all speaking to each other ultimately storing data in the CRM/ATS for recruiters to use to enhance their relationships and conversations. Being able to customize and integrate your technology as you grow is not just a nice to have, it’s a must-have.

From the GRID survey results, we can see that 54 percent of participants rated themselves less than 5/9 for knowledge of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The first thing to think about if you are considering any artificial intelligence or machine learning would be “Is my data in good shape?”. If you have triggers, automations, machine learning using bad data, things can get considerably worse. So make sure you start with your data integrity and perhaps some reporting tools could help to uncover that. Technology is not going to do everything, nor do we want it to (remember iRobot?), combine Artificial Intelligence and Human Intelligence to create Collaborative Intelligence and you’ll have a far more advanced strategy.

Some examples of technology out there that you should be thinking about are:













Engagement Tools

Bullhorn Onboarding

Haley Marketing


Flash Recruit

Spark Hire


Engage Talent


Provide Additional Service Offerings

Differentiators come in all shapes and sizes, but if they can directly result in more revenue or exclusivity of candidates, then they are more fruitful than most. 78 percent of GRID respondents believe “employers must accelerate pay increases to compete for qualified candidates”, but I’m sorry to report that only 45 percent of companies are considering this as a strategy.

Other strategies, however, could provide an opportunity to get ahead: 

36 percent offer more flexible working arrangements

This enables recruiters to capitalize on the close to 1 million persons that “had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.”

31 percent train current employees to fill vacant positions and 24percent hiring more employees that take upfront training

There have been numerous accounts of success in delivering billable training and consulting services for prospective candidates but also for current contractors that are working for clients. A lot of people already know this with 74percent of respondents on GRID stating that this is an effective way to address talent shortages, however, a Robert Half survey suggests that 70percent of HR managers are open to hiring people who don’t have all the skills but do have the “soft skills”. It’s worth considering what can be offered to candidates for free but also is there a diversification option that could be revenue generating training for clients?

Canadian unemployment rate higher than the US at 5.8 percent.

With a higher unemployment rate, there is talent available across the border, avoiding stepping into the political minefield that is immigration during this article it can certainly present an opportunity. I have seen a business in Europe that is predominantly a staffing company providing Visa consultancy services, using online applications, legal advice and even employing candidates themselves to reduce the client risk, knowing they can always redeploy them at another site, this is truly starting to think outside the box. At SIA Exec Forum in Austin, Barry Asin’s Keynote he talked about the talent just being in the wrong place, there are talented individuals out there that can fill highly skilled roles, but they just need the advice and guidance to understand the opportunity in front of them. 

17 percent offer College Loan Repayment or College Savings Programs

This is a bit more “out there”, but what a differentiator this could be for some of those really tough-to-find roles. This isn’t financially feasible for all firms or for all positions, but it could be game-changer for firms looking to fill complex, high-demand roles. Companies such as Blue Vine also offer lines of credit that could help you to finance such a strategy, or maybe you could convince your clients to offer this as a potential benefit to get the best talent. After all,  17 percent of companies are considering this now.

Want to learn how to source candidates during a talent shortage? Find all our great sourcing content in one place in our guide to candidate sourcing.

candidate sourcing

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