Quality talent can be difficult to find in the best of times. With many industries experiencing shortages of qualified candidates, it becomes even harder still. A lack of applicants with the right skill sets leaves companies little choice but to poach talent from competition or to hire and train underqualified workers.

Forty-one percent of recruiting professionals say that the talent shortage is their greatest challenge, and 68 percent list it as a top-three challenge, according to a new report from recruiting software firm Bullhorn.

“The most important thing a recruiter can do is to create a personal relationship with candidates and top talent so they can really understand what they’re looking for and the kinds of roles they’re interested in,” says Gordon Burnes, Bullhorn’s chief marketing officer. “Building this kind of relationship takes time and consistency, checking in with [candidates] regularly, even when they’re starting an engagement, or whether or not they’re ready for a new role. This is the edge that recruiters can develop in a particular market, and without those relationships, they’ll lose the talent to the competition.”

Looking for Candidates in All the Wrong Places

Most recruiters use the standard talent pipeline to source talent, but with skills gaps existing in so many industries, it may be time to think outside the box. While you’ll certainly find talent in the usual ways, you’re also competing with everyone else who wants that same talent. Instead of looking for a candidate who is a perfect match of experience and skills, focus more on the skills and then consider how a different type of experience could translate to the open role.

“In today’s war for talent, recruiters are looking at lots of different sources beyond job boards for talent, including meetups, Craigslist, and industry events,” says Burnes. “However, more than mining new sources, recruiters are thinking differently about the kinds of people that might be a fit for a particular job. They’re emphasizing skills over experience and thinking about different talent pools they can tap. They’re also thinking about how to make the roles even more attractive, as many times choosing to accept a position comes down to cultural fit and employee engagement. So, recruiters are working hard to market the employee experience.”

Building relationships is not only key to onboarding new talent, but also crucial to acquiring talent in the future. Thirty percent of respondents to the Bullhorn survey say that referrals are the best source of high-quality talent, and 62 percent say referrals are one of their top three sources.

Maintaining relationships means not only sourcing, but also following up through onboarding and into the job to ensure the candidate is happy in the role in which you’ve placed them. If a candidate does decide to move on, they’ll come back to you if you’ve earned their trust and treated them well.

Spend Money to Make Money

Revenue and profitability top the list of major concerns for staffing agencies, according to the Bullhorn report. This makes some executives hesitant to invest in technology that may improve the number and quality of candidates and the speed at which they can be processed.

“Revenue and profitability are always top concerns, but the reality is that the market is in a growth phase, which is a great time to invest in new technology capabilities, including automation,” Burnes says. “Regardless of what kind of investment you’re considering, however, the most important thing is to make sure you’re solving a specific business problem so you don’t waste time and money on something that doesn’t give you a good return on your investment. The risk of waiting on making these kinds of investments is that your competition will leapfrog you and end up being faster at filling the jobs you’re competing on.”

Nobody is saying you need to be decked out with robot butlers and flying cars to woo candidates and clients, but staying abreast of the latest recruiting technologies and investing appropriately will definitely set you apart from – and often ahead of – the competition.

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