If there were any doubts about the candidate-driven nature of today’s job market, April’s employment report puts those to rest.

The report, which was released on May 4 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, revealed that for the first time in nearly a half century, unemployment has dipped below 4 percent. This rate reflects a growth economy and an abundance of jobs across sectors. At the moment, there are more jobs out there than qualified prospects to fill them.

In April alone, 164,000 new job opportunities emerged. While this job growth spans industries, the momentum is particularly notable in healthcare, manufacturing, and professional services. Collectively, jobs created across these three industries account for well over half of April’s new jobs.

For recruiters, April’s jobs report should signal a need to evaluate existing recruiting strategies. In a buyer’s market, candidates’ behaviors will change, meaning that traditional recruiting strategies must change with them.

How the Market Will Impact Candidate Behavior

Now that we’re firmly planted in a job market that favors the applicant, we can expect candidates to act accordingly.

First, they’ll become more discerning about the opportunities they pursue. With an abundance of open jobs available, candidates will be less likely to cast wide nets with their searches. Instead, emboldened by opportunities, they’ll limit their searches to job openings that most immediately meet their specific interests and career goals. In the same way that hiring managers quickly reject candidates with nonspecific experience, job seekers will turn away from role descriptions that are too broad. Instead, they’ll seek out opportunities that concretely detail how they can apply and grow specific skills. In other words, lazy job descriptions aren’t going to cut it in this market.

Second, recruiters can expect salary negotiations and protracted signing processes to become the norm. In this market, candidates — particularly those who advance far in the process — largely do not have to worry about unemployment. Their relative security gives them real leverage. Instead of leaping at the first opportunity that comes their way, prospects can and will take the time to weigh factors like cultural fit, professional trajectory, and of course, salary. As candidates enjoy this negotiating power, recruiters should prepare to expand salary bands, particularly to fill high-demand, short-supply roles.

Leveling Up Recruiting Strategies for a Buyer’s Market

For companies, the fact that today’s market decisively favors the applicant means the burden of selling has shifted to the employer. It’s on a company and its hiring managers to prove their value to candidates — not the other way around. This marketplace shift requires a shift in strategy. Here are some of the steps talent leaders can take:

  1. Prioritize personalization: Applicants today are looking at prospective employers with a discerning eye. Employers should respond with personalization. In a candidate’s market, relationships trump all. For recruiters, this likely means a mindset shift: Where they once viewed interactions with candidates as transactional, they now must see them as relational.
  2. Look into passive talent: While many recruiting leaders are doubling down on finding and evaluating active job hunters, they often overlook a key demographic: those who aren’t actively looking. For employers, expanding their searches into passive prospect pools is a key way to land new talent. But in order to appeal to the currently employed, recruiters need to deliver pitches that give prospects clear incentive to consider new opportunities. That doesn’t just mean a lucrative pay package; it also means a personalized explanation of how the job will advance a prospect’s overarching career path.
  3. Focus on long-term planning and relationship-building: Many companies approach hiring as a sprint to meet perceived need as quickly as possible. This speed-driven approach to hiring can often result in paying a premium for talent who will not be needed or retained long-term. In a market where every hire counts, it’s important for companies and hiring leaders to spend more time planning for hiring needs far in advance. A good standard is a 12-18-month hiring plan, which allows ample time for company talent leads to cultivate relationships with prospects before a sense of urgency yields impulsiveness.

When it comes to implementing candidate-focused action items, companies should plan longer-term strategies: In a job market that’s been growing for 91 months and counting, it’s safe to say we’ll be in a buyer’s market for the foreseeable future.

Nick Cromydas is the CEO and cofounder of Hunt Club.

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