Low unemployment creates challenges for employers looking to hire great workers. While star candidates fly off the market in under two weeks, unfilled positions linger and time-to-hire climbs higher and higher. 

Many businesses or departments start the new year armed with a new budget -- and perhaps with approval to add headcount. Even if your company or  your budget is smaller than some, you are probably tasked with bringing top-tier talent on board. 

Here are five areas of focus that are helping forward-thinking hiring managers out-recruit the competition.

Improve your candidate experience -- especially on mobile. 

"Candidate experience" really caught on as a concept in recent years; at HR conferences, the phrase is nearly ubiquitous. But anyone with actual recent experience as a job candidate knows all too well that there are plenty of employers still providing a miserable candidate experience: confusing portals, cumbersome forms, repetitive data entry, slow response times, and so on.

More and more job seekers are researching jobs on their mobile devices, and looking to apply via mobile as well. For employers, the question shouldn't be "Do we allow for mobile applications?" but "What's it like to apply for our jobs via mobile?" Executives and hiring managers should actually pull their phones out and go through the process of applying for one of their open jobs; often times, they may be unhappily surprised.  

Research from CareerBuilder suggests that a whopping 95 percent of candidates will abandon an application altogether if the mobile experience is too convoluted. In any job market, that's a staggering number that shrinks the candidate pool considerably, especially as candidates increasingly want to stay on their phones from start to finish of the application process. 

Write job descriptions for the candidate you want, not the candidate you need. 

A good job description should certainly cover all the basics, giving an indication of day-to-day responsibilities, as well as any screening prerequisites. If you need someone who can lift 250 pounds on the weekends, it's important to say so.

But it's also important to write job descriptions that dig a little deeper, helping you attract stronger candidates. Sell your company's values and vision. Don't just list duties; explain how the role connects with larger goals.

And while employers are sometimes reluctant to divulge specifics, Workpop's research suggests that failing to list salary or wage information will result in a 33 percent decrease in applications. 

Keep the "human" part of human resources front and center.

AI is all the rage in HR tech right now, and with good reason -- it carries the potential to re-shape nearly every step of the hiring cycle, from the initial job search all the way through onboarding and training. But one of the cardinal sins of candidate experience is to make applicants feel like they're exclusively being evaluated by robots. 

Automate tasks like routinely maximizing your sourcing spend; it can be a full-time job unto itself to continually track the performance of various job boards and campaigns, and to reallocate your spend accordingly. By saving time on avoidable manual work early, hiring managers will open more time to work their human magic during the interview and decision process -- a time period when it's essential for the employer to maintain consistent and personalized contact with the prospective employee.  

Think about retention from the beginning. 

Expect to see stronger links emerge between smarter recruiting and healthier retention, even in perpetually high-turnover industries like hospitality. Companies often develop strategies and offer perks for retaining existing employees -- increasing schedule flexibility or adding opportunities for growth -- but this consideration isn't always (or often) extended to prospective employees.

Instead of focusing exclusively on past experiences and accomplishments during the interview process, try to also get a sense of a candidate's goals, and to start thinking about growth opportunities that will challenge and engage from day one. That doesn't mean fast-tracking anyone for promotions, but establishing an early two-way conversation about the future will help guard against unexpected departures because an employee feels stifled, or has been recruited elsewhere with the promise of career growth that your company could have offered. 

Find candidates who don't know they are candidates. 

Blasting a few job boards isn't enough. The best candidates -- particularly in a tight talent market -- are often the ones that aren't even actively looking for a new job. Make sure you have the ability to reach these so-called passive candidates with a compelling message about why they'd be happier on your team. Encourage referrals from current employees, too, as referrals will often wind up outperforming the average hire.

Published on: Dec 28, 2017