Anyone who has been hiring recently knows that it is becoming tougher and tougher to find good candidates for tough- to-fill technical positions. Examples of these position are found in Information Technology, Software Engineering, as well as other disciplines.

We’re in a tightening labor market where the candidates, not the companies, are beginning to get the upper hand. It’s happening slowly but surely and, with the economy improving, it is only going to get worse. I see recruiters struggling because companies don’t yet recognize this shift in the market. The mindset of hiring managers is still to ask recruiters to provide multiple candidates who met their “must have” criteria (usually a length list).

The problem is the “perfect” candidates are not easily available in today’s market. Most candidates who are seeking employment are not necessarily the ones companies want. Companies who will be successful in today’s job market will be the ones that change their recruiting strategies.

I have listed some strategies below which companies can execute to be successful:

Loosen Up on Hiring Criteria
Forget the long list of “must have” criteria for the qualified candidate. Hiring managers have to determine what skills are absolutely “must haves” versus “nice to haves.” Consider the cost to the company of having a position unfilled for many months by waiting for a candidate who meets ALL of the criteria versus hiring a candidate who meets MOST of the criteria and would come up to speed quickly on the remaining.

Think “Out-of-Box”
In a tightening labor market, it’s time to think outside of the box. While the ideal candidate may come from the same industry, an excellent candidate may also come from a related industry. Consider someone who has the same skill set you need, and has demonstrated success with those skills, but in another industry. You can train a new hire so that he understands the intricacies of your industry. A person who wants to break into your industry will often work that much harder to get up to speed. In fact, he or she may be a superior choice to the candidate who works for the competition, but is just an average worker.

Position Your Company as an Employer of Choice
Since this is beginning to become an “employee’s market,” companies need to do a better job of selling themselves to candidates. Examine your salary and benefits package. Is it competitive? Does it meet or exceed the industry standard? Consider changing or updating your policies to be as attractive as possible. Remember that money is not always the reason a candidate takes a job. Talk up your company’s vision, technology, and culture.

Become More Creative in Sourcing Employees
It is time to be a little more creative in how you recruit employees. If you don’t already have one in place, start an employee referral program. Employees are often your best recruiters, and can be quite motivated when there’s a financial reward for successful matches. Create a buzz about your company in other ways. Try Internet chat boards, recruiting functions, industry meetings and more. If there’s a venue where potential candidates gather, you want to be front and center.