Tackling the Tight Talent Market

two employers interviewing a candidate

The challenges of finding job candidates over the past decade are well-known — the War for Talent has lasted so long it’s become a cliche. But what are the reasons behind this immense and seemingly intractable issue? What’s causing the incredible shrinking labor pool? And more importantly, how can employers create an effective, cost-efficient and sustainable talent acquisition strategy that overcomes their labor hurdles and keeps them operating at full capacity?

Although the individual circumstances of local markets preclude one all-encompassing solution, there are many broad-based factors companies should evaluate and consider. Starting with a realistic pulse on the challenges and threats your company is up against will help you develop an effective recruitment strategy.

Demand for talent

The country has added jobs for 92 consecutive months — the longest streak on record — according to the Department of Labor (DOL). With the U.S. economy continuing to outperform expectations, employers are still adding jobs at a steady clip. 

For white-collar jobs, the hiring outlook for 2018 is even hotter. Employers surveyed expect to recruit 13 percent more bachelor’s degree graduates during the upcoming school year compared with last year, creating the eighth consecutive year of steady hiring expansion. “It’s the longest sustained period of growth for the college labor market since 1970, since we’ve been tracking it,” says Phil Gardner, the study’s author and director of Michigan State’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute.

Ways to beat the trend

It’s clear that the volume of new job openings and record low unemployment rates have made hiring an issue for many employers. However, there are ways to address the trend. Here are five strategic ways employers can make sure they have enough workers to sustain their business:

  1. Ensure market-rate wages
    After a long period of generally tepid growth in wages, notes Staffing Industry Analysts, “there is a palpable anticipation that continued robust growth in employment will eventually drive wages, as remaining slack in the labor market is removed.”

    Perhaps that’s why more than three-quarters of HR managers in 2017 said they are feeling pressure to pay workers more, as more jobs are created and competition for quality workers intensifies. Most candidates, not surprisingly, agree with this strategy. A recent candidate survey noted that 76 percent cited good pay/compensation as their top criteria for accepting a job.

    Passive job seekers — workers who are already employed — seem equally motivated by increased wages. A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that pay was a reason cited by more than 75 percent of full-time workers either actively looking or open to new opportunities:
    • 50 percent are doing so because they want a higher salary
    • 59 percent say a higher base salary would make them consider a new opportunity
    • 13 percent of employees would leave their current job for a raise in pay
  1. Prioritize your job descriptions
    In a recent trend that’s been called degree inflation or “credential creep,” some employers have begun raising their minimum job requirements to higher levels than in the past. They’re requiring college degrees for positions formerly held by high school graduates and demanding experience for positions that once welcomed entry-level employees. Or they’re insisting that candidates have years of work history doing the same job in the same field to be considered.

    Given today’s tight talent pool, it’s a good idea to take a fresh look at where you draw the line between your “must-haves” and your “nice-to-haves” when you’re screening applicants for a new job  — especially if speed of hire is important. Cast a wider net.
  1. Take advantage of internal training
    Realizing the need for a sustainable pipeline of experienced and knowledgeable workers, PNC created a training program established a corporate training program in 2007 to build its ranks and allow employees to develop career tracks. A decade later, its CEO says their current success couldn’t have been accomplished without the focus on recruiting and training top-quality employees.
  1. Be competitive, even against other industries
    As the stats on the shift of jobs from manufacturing to restaurants/retail shows, your fiercest competition for available talent might not be in the same business, or even the same industry, as your company. Make sure your competitor research draws from different industries fishing in the same talent pool, then develop a strategy to deal with them individually when it comes to acquiring talent.
  1. Present an attractive EVP
    The Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Research Report recently found that job candidates want three primary things from a hiring company:
    • A clear understanding of the company culture
    • Insight into the employee experience
    • A sense of connection with the employer brand
    The way a company presents its culture, workplace and brand is an increasingly crucial component of an effective talent acquisition strategy. A positive brand that accurately represents and promotes your company culture and employee value proposition can help increase your candidate pool and keep your staffing pipeline full.
  1. Employ specialized, competitive recruiting
    Employers need to be extremely resourceful and proactive to find the best engineers in this talent landscape, and should leverage partnerships wherever possible. While hiring managers have expertise in sourcing and recruiting, they may not have the deep understanding of the hard skills necessary, nor the access to organizations and groups that niche workers often belong to. At Aerotek, the best recruiters and hiring managers have a good grasp of the skill sets and company needs so they can have an educated conversation with candidates. Don’t expect your online job postings to do all the heavy lifting, recruiting needs a personal touch.

    Expert recruiters at Aerotek use a wide range of strategies to ensure they have a handle on the top talent. They target passive as well as active job-seekers, and seek out opportunities to build relationships that deepen the long-term pipeline. They follow blogs and career resources at universities that specialize in industry and skillset-specific programs. And they also network in person as well as online. They also maintain contact with previously-placed talent; because employers often see the best results from employee referrals.


Employers might be weary of dealing with the hunt for job candidates, especially given the magnitude of the issue and the variety of contributing factors. Although the limited labor pool presents a significant and ongoing obstacle, there are a number of tactics employers can use to minimize the impact and keep their business running at full speed. If you’d like to know more about the six strategies outlined here, contact Aerotek now.