Finding qualified candidates is consistently ranked as one of the most pressing challenges facing recruiters. In 2020 and beyond, it's only going to be more challenging. But with the right recruitment strategy, you can find the best candidates and hire them before someone else does.

Recruiting top talent is a hard job. And it's getting harder. According to Korn Ferry's Talent Forecast, it was harder in 2017 to find qualified candidates than it was in 2016. You can imagine how much more difficult it's gotten since then.

We'll take a look at some of the recruiting strategies that will help you do that and how they help you plan for long-term success at your company. But first, let's talk about why it's so hard to hire the best people out there.

The Problems Hiring Managers Will Face in 2020

The median time to fill a job in 2018 was 72 days, according to Gartner. But Dr. John Sullivan, writing for ERE, says “that the top 10 percent of candidates are often gone from the marketplace within 10 days."

If a highly qualified candidate is available when you post your job, they'll probably have taken a job two months before you fill yours. That's extremely worrying for companies who want to hire the best talent.

With unemployment as low as it's been since 2008, that problem isn't going to go away. And if unemployment continues to trend down, top candidates will be in even higher demand, shortening the window that companies have to attract them.

Hiring strategies need to adapt to this new reality. Companies who continue with their old recruiting methods will find that they routinely miss out on the best candidates unless they get lucky—which isn't a viable strategy.

So what can companies do to help ensure that they get the best talent possible for their open positions?

How to Meet 2020's Hiring Demands

When it takes companies 72 days to hire people who are on the market for 10, hiring speed is a serious issue. Companies need to be ready to pull the trigger on a candidate. Much of that comes down to company culture and confidence in hiring practices.

By using technology and having a clear understanding of the priorities and responsibilities of each role, recruiters can be confident in their assessment of the candidate.

There are two main ways to do this.

First, hire for aptitude.

This might seem counterintuitive at first. Wouldn't it be easier to source someone who matches the job requirements exactly?

Yes and no. Yes—if you can find someone who matches the description to a T. But how often does that happen? Modern job descriptions include huge numbers of competencies and skills that few candidates can meet without exceptions. That leaves recruiters stuck trying to find as many candidates as possible who come close to meeting the requirements and eventually trying to decide between them.

Hiring for aptitude solves this problem. When a recruiter sees a high-quality candidate who has the core skills for the job and a strong learning mindset, they can confidently make an offer.

A focus on aptitude brings us to the second way companies can more competitively hire in 2020 and beyond: prioritizing generalists.

People who have a drive to learn and experience in multiple fields—though they sometimes lack the exact skills and experience you'll be looking for.

Generalists are the people you want at your company (though there's a place for specialists, too; we'll discuss that next). When Google conducted a study on the qualities that made their employees successful, science, technology, engineering, and math skills were dead last.

Which qualities were more important? Understanding different points of view, being a critical thinker, problem-solving abilities, and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Those are all characteristics of generalists, but the last one–making connections across complex ideas—is especially characteristic. Generalists have been exposed to a lot of ideas, and they can use that knowledge to their advantage.

Focusing on aptitude and hiring generalists lets companies more quickly onboard top-quality candidates. But what about specialists?

Building and Borrowing Skills

Many companies, when faced with a problem, default to hiring a new full-time employee to solve it (the so-called "buy" strategy). In some cases, this is the best decision. But it can also be very expensive—especially if the company spends months making that hire.

But there are two other ways that companies can source great talent for solving specific problems: training existing employees ("build") and hiring freelance specialists ("borrow").

Both options have their advantages.

Building skills among your employee base means you develop the competencies you need to continually solve that problem without spending more on hiring or freelancers. Plus employees are always looking to learn, and supporting their development increases engagement and retention.

Development of current employees doesn't always figure into recruitment strategies. But that's a big mistake.

Of course, building the skills you need in your workforce takes time. And that can be a disadvantage. Especially if you desperately need complex technical skills as soon as possible.

That's where "borrowing" comes in.

The freelance and contract world is as strong as it's ever been. You can find freelancers with any skill in a matter of minutes and have them onboarded and working in a few days. Try hiring an experienced technical employee in that time.

Like training and hiring, good freelancers don't come cheap. But they can be an effective stopgap when you're building expertise in your current employees.

The Flexible Workforce

Working with freelancers and contract employees comes with another advantage: you can hire the best talent from around the world. Many companies are more comfortable hiring remote freelancers than full-time remote employees, and if you fall into this camp, you have an entire world of talent to pull from.

If you're still looking for freelancers that can work from your office, it's time to change how you work. Especially for short-term projects, the real disadvantages of working with remote freelancers are negligible.

That's probably an uncontroversial statement. But this next one won't be: you need to expand your flexible working arrangements beyond freelancers and short-term contract workers.

Let's take a look at why. Korn Ferry's Talent Forecast asked talent acquisition executives what candidates prioritized in choosing one company over another. In 2012, it was salary and benefits. In 2017, it was company culture. Executives predicted that the number one priority for candidates by 2021 would be workplace flexibility.

Remote work and flexible work arrangements are becoming more common, and employees are realizing that those factors significantly improve their quality of life. Studies continually show that remote employees are more productive, take fewer sick days, cost employers less money, and increase employee diversity.

If your workplace isn't flexible in 2020, you'll struggle in recruiting top talent. Make workplace flexibility part of your recruitment strategies to get the best candidates.

Pursue The People That Will Help Your Company Grow

In a tight labor market, it's not enough to let candidates come to you. You need to go looking for them. And, even more than that, you need to go looking for people who aren't looking for jobs.

That might sound like a waste of time. But LinkedIn pointed out in 2015 that 70% of the world's workforce is made up of passive candidates who aren't looking for a job.

Why would you limit your recruiting to 30% of the world's talent? Especially when 87% of active and passive candidates are open to a new job? Just because someone isn't actively looking for a new job doesn't mean they're not open to one. Especially if you're offering a position with the possibility of development, growth, and advancement.

Not every person you get in touch with will be open to taking a new job. But you might be surprised at how many are at least open to hearing about a new opportunity. And with modern recruiting technology, it's not hard to find and reach these people.

But keep in mind that wooing someone away from their current job takes specific preparation. If they've never heard of your company and they don't know what you stand for, you're going to have a much more difficult time convincing them that taking a job at your organization is a good idea.

Which is where employer branding comes in. You won't develop an employer brand overnight, especially if you haven't started building one yet. And a discussion of how to build a great employer brand could fill up several books, much less a single article.

For a quick overview of how you can build your own employer brand to attract the highest-quality long-term employees, look to these four tips from Richard Mosley:

  • Evaluate your current employer brand awareness and reputation, through survey research among your key external target audiences.
  • Define how you’d like to be seen as an employer based on a realistic assessment of your distinctive strengths, and translate this into a clear and compelling Employee Value Proposition.
  • Be more proactive in using social media to share inside stories that highlight your strengths and build a more authentic and engaging employer brand reputation.
  • Ensure that every function within the organization understands the value of a strong employer brand to the success of the business and the role they need to play in sustaining a consistent brand experience and reputation.

Create A System For Growth And Succession

Many future recruiting challenges will be solved by bringing in outside talent. But forgetting about your internal talent pool would be a big mistake.

"Even if you're sourcing and selecting the best candidates right now, at some point, you may need to consider a build strategy," says Sharlyn Lauby for SHRM. "It's better to think about succession planning now because it takes time to develop people and see the results."

You can go headhunting to recruit new leaders and executives. But relying on that as a recruitment strategy for the top levels of your company will have you spending more money and waiting longer for those people to start having an impact at your company.

With more competition for top candidates, recruiters will need to look to the employees they already have. If those employees have been chosen for their aptitude and ability to adapt to new requirements, they'll have the characteristics to make great leaders.

Conclusion: Recruitment Strategies For The Future

With increased reliance on freelancers, contract workers, and hire-now-to-solve-a-problem employees, it can be easy to lose track of the ultimate goal: long-term success for the company.

All of these recruiting strategies can result in great long-term hires. But if your recruiters and talent sourcers aren't taking a long-term view of the process, your company won't make the most of its opportunities.

Take a long view on your hires, contractors, and promoters. It'll benefit your company in 2020 and beyond.

  • What's your company's hiring philosophy?
  • Do you hire for aptitude or specific skills?
  • Do you look for generalists or specialists?
  • How often do you work with freelancers?

Share your experiences in the comments below!