The number of job openings in the U.S. is at a near-record high of 7.3 million. At the same time, unemployment is historically low, making it highly challenging for employers to attract top talent and fill open roles. 

Beyond following a standard hiring process such as posting to job boards and your company website, the tight labor market means you need to think outside the box to stand out from the competition and excite qualified job seekers to join your team. I've outlined several creative steps your team can take to stand out in today's hiring landscape. 

1. Build relationships with prospective applicants. 

Your team can't necessarily hire every prospective applicant who applies to your open roles. Several reasons can factor into this, including not having the budget to add a new role at the time, making a close decision between several highly qualified candidates, the applicant accepting a role with a different company, among others. 

While some candidates will never be a fit for your team, you'll want to keep in touch with top candidates for potential opportunities down the road. For qualified talent you don't want to lose, consider meeting with them informally every so often -- either for lunch, coffee or another casual meeting. And once you do have open positions for these candidates, they'll remember the effort you put into building the relationship and be more interested in applying.

2. Consider hiring "boomerang" employees.

Given the tough competition for top talent, in addition to building relationships with new prospective applicants, another option that can give your team a leg up is recruiting previous employees. Also known as "boomerang" hires, these employees might have left your organization on good terms but would be willing to come back.

Say for example an employee left your company because he or she didn't see any more advancement opportunities. If your team has since grown and has more built-out career paths, this offers the perfect opportunity for you to reach out to former employees about your open roles.

Not only does hiring boomerang employees save you from starting the recruitment process from scratch, but your total cost per hire will also be lower for employees who previously worked for your organization. These employees will already be up to speed and bought into your company culture, and are familiar with how your team works, so will require less training. 

3. Don't overlook older workers.

While Millennials and Generation Z are emerging as the largest age groups in the workforce, it's also important for your team not to overlook older workers. A study from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that many employers hesitate to hire employees in their 50s and 60s because they have the misconception that these prospective employees aren't in-the-know about the latest technology and, as a result, cost employers more to hire, train and retain. 

Not only can age discrimination harm your organization's reputation but in today's competitive hiring market, the last thing your team wants to do is eliminate a prospective talent pool simply because of these misconceptions. Many older workers have the same skills as younger generations on paper. And older workers offer the added advantages of experience in the workplace, leadership abilities and loyalty toward their employers. 

4. Keep candidates engaged.

Many of today's job seekers, especially those in younger generations, are constantly on their phones. This trend opens a new opportunity for candidate communication -- text messaging. In fact recent data found that 90 percent of job seekers believe it would be helpful to receive text messages during the application and hiring process.

Attempting to reach candidates via phone calls can lead to never ending phone tag and if you reach out via email, you risk your communication getting overlooked. Instead, text messaging candidates can speed up communication throughout the hiring process and boost engagement. Your team can leverage text messaging to coordinate interviews, share directions to your office, remind candidates of critical hiring process steps, and more.

The historic number of job openings has held steady for several months, leading to stiff competition for top talent. By thinking creatively with your hiring efforts, you can set your team up for success now and in the future.