5 tips on finding candidates for hard-to-fill roles
When candidates are hard to find, employers need to think creatively to find hidden talent. Experts share five top tips for filling hard-to-fill roles.

When you’re trying to track down the right talent, sometimes an open role can present extra challenges.

Whether the job itself is highly technical, the right skills are in short supply or it’s another reason at play, hard-to-fill roles often call for some creative thinking and clever strategy.

Here are five tips to help you do just that and find the right talent for a hard-to-fill role.

  1. Reach out to universities and graduates
    Universities are often the source of future-skilled candidates, says Matthew Munson, General Manager NSW at Talent International, a global technology and digital recruitment agency. Organisations can advise universities on course content to ensure they remain up-to-date and relevant to the workplace.

    “Universities want to be more relevant to commercial enterprises, but unless people reach out to them and give them the information on what is required, it’s very hard for them to keep their content relevant because things are moving so quickly.”

    Businesses can also set up training partnerships with their peers, education providers or seek government funding to run programs to upskill graduates in particular skillsets, Munson says.

    Lindsay Cramond, Manager - Asset Management and Financial Markets at professional recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, says organisations should consider graduate employees “even if it means tweaking the job description and providing the necessary support and training to bring them up to speed”.

    If graduates are nurtured and treated well, they’ll stay loyal to the organisation in the future, she says.
  2. Show there’s more to your organisation than employee perks
    Traditional work perks such as a free lunch typically don’t go far enough now, says Munson.

    “With the battle for talent and the types of companies coming along that invest vast amounts of money into making their employee value proposition amazing, there are so many incentives they throw at staff that it’s really raised the bar in terms of what employees are expecting.

    “Just saying you’ve got work-life balance and drinks on a Friday doesn’t really separate you from the pack anymore. That’s an expected perk in this day and age.”

    Younger generations in particular are attracted to organisations that demonstrate social awareness and responsibility, Munson says.

    “Getting out there and helping out in the community, and giving something back, is really powerful and attracts a lot of people.”

    Flexible working conditions can also be a big drawcard for employees – in 2019, Australians nominated the ability to choose their own working hours during the day and the ability to work from home among the most attractive work perks.
  3. Attach your brand to industry events and get social
    Identify industry events or meet ups around the industry sectors that have the skillsets you’re looking for, suggests Munson.

    “For instance, if you’re looking for computer developers, look for conferences where computer developers go, and attend or look to sponsor these types of events so you can attach your brand to that market sector.

    “You want candidates to think of you being synonymous with their area of expertise.”

    For many industries and locations now, webinars and virtual conferences have become increasingly popular since the COVID-19 outbreak and can provide another way to ensure your organisation is seen.

    Cramond suggests using social media to generate engagement in the role, and drive traffic to apply online.

    “Engage in content marketing to create and publish interesting content that’s specific to the role, industry and prospective candidates.”
  4. Look for transferable skills
    A powerful way of finding talent is identifying other industries that have similar skillsets, Munson says.

    Some industries, including healthcare, have navigated new demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by hiring non-traditional candidates, and leveraging their transferable skills.

    “When there’s nobody available to do a job, sometimes you need to look at other industries and see if there’s a similar job being done elsewhere,” Munson says.

    To attract candidates with the right transferable skills, it can help to focus on specific soft skills such as communication, self-motivation or ability to work under pressure rather than industry experience, and bring this language in your job ad and interview questions.

    Employee referrals can also be a great way to hire for hard-to-fill positions, says Cramond.

    “Employee referrals are incredibly underutilised, even though a large proportion of referred candidates go on to be employed.

    “Many candidates are enthusiastic about joining companies where they’ll already know someone and onboard faster than other new hires.”

    Talent sourced internally or finding interim employees can be other ways of filling positions as a stop-gap measure, Cramond says.
  5. Job ads should sell the position
    Employers should think beyond traditional job descriptions, says Cramond.

    “Try and view the organisation through the eyes of potential candidates by evaluating what your point of difference is in the market that you operate in.

    “The stronger your point of difference to your competitors, the more likely they are to join you in even the hardest job markets.”

    A job ad should tell candidates what they will get from the job, not what the organisation wants from them.

    “Think like the candidate you want to employ, and write ads that are going to attract them,” Munson says.

    Candidates want to know “all the fun, exciting stuff that makes you want to go to work each day”, including what projects they’ll be working on, and what the career prospects are like.

    Don’t be too prescriptive, as it’s often the best candidates that don’t apply for positions when they can’t meet every bit of criteria, Munson says.

    “You don’t want to put people off applying by asking for things like a degree in a skill-short area, because you might find someone amazing who hasn’t got a degree.”

    Ensuring your business has a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) could also provide valuable material to draw on to create a compelling job ad.

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