If you plan to recruit new employees in the next year, you’ll want to take some time to understand the "sophisticated job seeker" and his or her impact on your ability to hire. It could save you a lot of headaches. I recently did a podcast on this subject that explains in detail what’s happening and how companies can cope. You can listen to it by clicking here.

But if you want the short version, here it is:

There’s a Talent Shortage Right Now

As you’ll see in this Time magazine article, many companies and their executive leadership are unaware of how the massive retirement of Baby Boomers is causing a brain drain of epic proportions. As this generation of more than 70 million retires, there are fewer than 50 million Gen-Xers to replace them. The result? A desperate fight for a limited resource--experienced workers at a competitive price. As companies try to ramp up their training of Millennials to offset the shortage, they’ll still have to get aggressive when it comes to attracting the key talent they need.

They’re Called “Purple Squirrels,” and They’re Very Hard to Catch

Those elusive candidates who have all the skills and experience you need for them to hit the ground running are called “Purple Squirrels” by recruiters. Back in the olden days, when I used to recruit, we called them “Bilingual Brain Surgeons for $10/Hour.” You get the gist. They’re hard to attract--and even harder to persuade to take your job. Studies show they want a lot more than money. Unfortunately, this is where the news gets worse…

Meet the “Sophisticated Job Seeker”

The talent you want usually falls high on the Global Talent Spectrum. Often referred to as “passive candidates,” these individuals are currently employed and don’t visit job boards. Instead, they mimic the behavior of sophisticated consumers and approach their search for their next employer with extreme focus. The way they see it, they don’t want to work for you, they want to work with you. They believe they’re a business-of-one who has the right to find the right partner (a.k.a. ideal employer). To accomplish that objective, sophisticated job seekers leverage some smart search tactics, as follows:

1. They Create Interview Bucket Lists. They find and follow companies they respect and admire on social media. Not only does your company need accounts on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but you also need to be active on them. That’s because…

2. They Do Research--Lots of Research. A study by LinkedIn shows 70 percent of followers of your company on LinkedIn’s platform are interested in working for you. I’d say that runs true for all your social platforms. Customers are fans--and fans love the idea of working for you. But they need lots of data about you as an employer before they invest time and energy into filling out your long online applications. A recent survey by the Career Advisory Board of successful job seekers (those who found a new job in less than six months) indicates 90 percent of them applied to fewer than 10 jobs. They did their homework and focused on the companies they felt a connection with. Which leads to…

3. They Find Someone on the Inside. Sophisticated job seekers would rather go around your online application process. Why? They that know 80 percent of all jobs are gotten by referral. So they leverage friends and colleagues to seek introductions to employees at the companies they want to work for. This helps them get more information so they can decide if the company is worth applying to. It also often results in their getting referred directly to the hiring manager, fast-tracking them in the hiring process. That’s why…

4. They Study the Recruiter’s Brand. Some 76 percent of the sophisticated job seekers over at Careerealism said they would want to know more about the recruiter for a job before applying. What did they want to know? What the recruiter looks for in a candidate. What the culture of the company is like. And, at the top of their list, how qualified the recruiter is to hire for their skill set. That’s right, sophisticated job seekers want to talk to only the best recruiters. Which means your recruiters better have their credentials front and center.

You can see now why companies are re-thinking their recruiting strategies. If you aren’t building a way to attract the sophisticated job seeker, your ability to find (and retain!) good talent will suffer.

A Final Word of Advice: Brand, or Be Branded!

I’ve been working with companies on their employment brands for several years now. I always tell them, “Brand, or be branded.” If you don’t choose to reveal and promote your employment brand to the world, you are telling sophisticated job seekers one or more of the following:

A) You aren’t up to date on recruiting trends.
B) There’s nothing fun, exciting, or worthy of respect about your company as an employer.
C) You’ve got something to hide about your company’s workplace culture.

Don’t let sophisticated job seekers brand your company as a “dud” to work for. Consider their needs, and build an employment brand that intrigues them. You’ll be glad you did!