Five Steps to Navigating a Low Unemployment Environment

Alyssa Evans ESP Program Manager Emergenetics International

It’s amazing to think about the shift that’s occurred in the job market in less than 10 years. Think back to 2008 and 2009. At that time, Talent Acquisition teams focused on screening out candidates because they had so many to choose from. Now, in 2017, recruiters in the U.S. are experiencing something very different. Today, many are struggling to find enough candidates to apply for their jobs.

In the U.S., unemployment is estimated at about 4.3 percent. In certain states and cities, it’s even lower. For example, in Colorado unemployment is at 2.4 percent and in Denver, where our office is based, unemployment is about 2.1 percent.

While unemployment is cyclical, today’s focus for Talent Acquisition teams is how to attract strong candidates to their companies when fewer applicants are looking, and how to keep employees at their companies for the long-term.

In a low unemployment environment, there are several trends that recruiters need to be savvy about to bring in more qualified candidates. (And global companies in niche markets – this applies to you too!)

1. Reframe your thinking from filling a job to filling your candidate pool.

Rather than thinking about finding someone for one job, start to think about the entire candidate pool. It may be that a person who applies to a specific role today is not a great fit for those job requirements; however, they may be an excellent fit for a job that will be posted if a few weeks.

Keep an eye on all of the candidates who apply to your company and see if they may fit for another role. If you use hiring assessments like the Emergenetics Selection Program (ESP), this is even easier because you can quickly compare their results against your expectations for other positions, which brings us to trend #2…

2. Involve hiring assessments.

This one may be surprising because, when there are already few applicants for a job, isn’t it counterintuitive to use a tool that could further reduce your candidate numbers? The answer lies in the question of retaining employees.

Understandably, many hiring managers are focused on filling a role, but as recruiters are well aware, the cost of a bad hire can be anywhere from 25 to 200 percent of that person’s salary, which is a significant cost to companies.

Assessments like ESP help Talent Acquisition teams and hiring managers set standards around the skills and motivations needed for open positions. Once a candidate takes the assessment and they fit basic requirements, you can feel quite confident that the candidate could succeed in the role, which means companies are less likely to have to let that employee go, and then repost and rehire for the position.

Beyond the initial hire, assessments also speak to a company’s investment in the candidate because assessments can support employee growth. Used effectively, ESP and hiring assessments can identify future roles the candidate could excel in and help build a career path.

This level of commitment to candidates demonstrates that the company cares about them and their success – and that is compelling to any potential candidate.

3. Focus on the top candidate drivers.

My colleague Kelly Fullerton, Director of ESP, recently spoke with a recruiter who asked: “How do you fill a position that just isn’t that appealing?” Specifically, this individual was speaking to the constraints he felt because his open positions paid lower salaries than the competition.

While it is helpful to pay employees more than the competition and some companies are focused on that strategy, salary is not the only driver for candidates – and often, it’s not even the most important. The top drivers for job-seeking candidates include pay and benefits, leadership, culture, communication and perks.

When filling a position, focus on what your company excels in. Perhaps pay is not the best differentiator, but your employee perks are compelling – like employees get access to professional development opportunities or can work from home one day per week. Or, maybe the perks are not unique; however, the employee culture survey results are incredibly positive year-over-year.

Consider all of the aspects that drive candidate interest and identify where you can best promote your company.

4. Get social.

When employees are content or even neutral about their jobs, they likely will not actively seek out new opportunities. For that reason, recruiters and Talent Acquisition teams need to seek them out.

Using social media, recruiters can search for strong potential candidates, look at their competitors and identify individuals they feel could be a good fit based on experience. Then, they can easily reach out to the candidates.

Social media is a great tool to find candidates who are passively looking and may never have stumbled upon your job posting.

5. Build your employment brand.

One of the major priorities for Talent Acquisition teams today is to build up the reputation of their organization.

This does require an investment of time and potentially money. However, if HR teams can put resources into establishing a strong employment brand on sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, The Muse and other avenues, this can be very effective in attracting candidates.

Be sure to think about trend #3 in this listing as you build an employment brand for your company!

While the hunt for talent is highly competitive, this is a good thing as it often means that the people who choose to work for your company are truly passionate about the role and/or your organization. As a recruiter, you can find success by identifying and promoting your strengths as a company, reframing your thinking around your candidate pools and even taking advantage of tools like hiring assessments that you may not have utilized before.

Learn more about how hiring assessments can support your candidate search in times of high employment and for niche companies by contacting me at

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