You've probably noticed that hiring for open positions these days feels harder than it ever has before.

With the unemployment rate at a historic low--it fell to 3.9 percent in July--there are more open positions than there are job seekers for only the second time in the past two decades, according to the Labor Department. The percentage of American workers who quit their jobs is also up, reaching 2.4 percent in May, the highest level in 17 years. That means workers are increasingly switching jobs and feeling confident they can find a new job and perhaps get higher pay.

"Candidates have all the power," said Josh Howarth, district president of the staffing firm Robert Half International. "Most good candidates have multiple opportunities they are considering."

So how do hiring managers fill open positions with quality workers? Here are four tips for how to adjust your hiring practices in today's brutal job market.

1. Broaden your search.

Finding the perfect candidate is a tall order, so business owners should be more flexible in their requirements for prospective hires, according to Howarth. Focus on finding people with strong personal skills or who match your firm's culture, instead of putting an emphasis on technical skills, which often can be acquired on the job.

"If a company requires a degree, two rounds of interviews, and a test for hard skills, candidates can go down the street to another employer who will make them an offer that day," Amy Glaser, senior vice president of Adecco Group, a staffing agency with about 10,000 company clients in search of employees, told The Wall Street Journal.

Glaser added that one in four of Adecco Group's employer clients have made extreme changes to their recruiting process since the start of 2018. For instance, some clients dropped drug tests or removed preferences for high school diplomas or higher degrees.

2. Study the competition.

Make sure you know what other companies are offering potential employees, not just in salary but also in benefits and perks, Howarth says. Many businesses are offering flexible work schedules, the ability to work remotely, and access to wellness programs as a way to sweeten the deal. It's important for companies to recognize that such perks typically don't cost anything and can please employees without increasing the annual spending budget. However, you may need to be prepared to spend more on salaries. 

"Do your research and know what competitive firms are doing in those areas," Howarth says. "You have to pay competitive salaries if you want to land top talent."

Compensation for workers rose to a nearly 10-year high in the second quarter, increasing by 2.8 percent year-over-year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private industry, government, sales, transportation, and hospital compensation increased in the same time period. Additionally, analysts expect to see a 2.7 percent increase in hourly earnings in Friday's payroll report.

3. Sell yourself.

When posting a job opening, don't focus solely on the position and required duties. Remember, candidates are likely facing a barrage of opportunities. Howarth recommends companies put an emphasis on the business and why people should choose to work there.

"Sell the benefits of your organization so individuals who are looking into your opportunity aren't just reading about the responsibilities," Howarth says. "It should say why this company is great and why people want to work there."

4. Act quickly.

A recent survey from Robert Half found that during a job search, candidates were most frustrated by the long waiting period before hearing a yes or no. Almost a quarter of respondents (23 percent) said they lose interest in the business if they don't hear back within one week, while about half of those surveyed said they lose interest if there's no status update one or two weeks after an interview.

"If you want to land the best person, you need to move quickly," Howarth says. If you don't, your competitors will. 

While the job market is tough for employers right now, Howarth warns it could get worse in the next six to 12 months. If your business doesn't come up with creative ways to adapt to the changing environment, you're likely to be left behind. "Businesses out there will figure out ways to try and get the best talent," Howarth says.

Published on: Aug 3, 2018