4 Rules for Recruiting in a Tight Labor Market

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Eric Torigian

4 Rules for Recruiting in a Tight Labor Market_Two co-workers talking in office

I have been around the HR space for long enough now to have seen both tight and booming economies. When I started at Ford in the late 80’s, the job market was very tight and unemployment was high. We had an employment office and literally had a line there every morning with people looking for work. Today the economy is much different. The job market is tight but unemployment is very low. People are working in non-traditional gig economy roles, starting businesses and yes, some are looking for jobs.

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You have to modify your approach to recruiting to land them. I remember recently driving between two plants with a CEO whom I supported.  Our discussion focused on the topic of recruiting. We were trying to identify which KPI to track and had the standard discussions about days to fill, open roles and active candidates. As a result of that conversation, I developed the following four rules (plus one!) to lead our recruiting function:

Recruiting in a Tight Labor Market

  1. First recruit from your own team! Remember the people you know the most about are already hanging around your office. Take the time to evaluate your teams and know their capabilities. Real succession planning should have three key components. First evaluate all your positions and the skills needed to excel; then evaluate your team for core skills and passions; and finally, align the two.
  2. Recruiting is a sales process! Build a funnel of candidates and identify needs in the organization that fit them well. I had a company actively recruit me for more than a year until the right role opened up. The recruiter was either emailing or calling me a couple times a month. We would talk about anything and everything. She truly knew who I was, what my skills where and what excited me. I knew the company, culture and challenges. It was an awesome fit. I know there is no metric to track this but she was a recruiting superstar.
  3. Be ready to react! You need to be ready to move quickly once you have your candidate finalized and the hiring manager gives the final yes. This is where a good onboarding map pays big dividends. You need to be able to trust the plan and move the candidate quickly to a new hire!
  4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Your candidates are being talked to by other recruiters and you need to ensure that your messages stays fresh. Every touch point with the candidate matters and don’t let anyone sit in an unknown or waiting status for too long. Candidates are paying attention to how you communicate as a demonstration of your company culture. I cant make this point often enough. Many good candidates will skip great opportunities if there is a drop in communications.

Bonus Rule - Ambition matters!  Look for the candidate who is actively looking; who is taking the time to research the company online, look at who they are connected with, trying to learn about your culture, reaching out on LinkedIn, Twitter and elsewhere. If you can harness the energy this candidate is putting in up front and turn it towards a passion for the mission, everyone will win.

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Yes, it’s a tricky time to recruit and you have to stay sharp. I am starting to dislike the term ‘War for Talent’ because war has casualties. I think it’s more like a giant puzzle my kids received as a Christmas gift. Inside are four different Peppa Pig puzzles.  Each puzzle has a unique number identifying it.  Each piece of the puzzle has a printed number on the back indicated with which puzzle it belongs. The challenge is to find the right pieces for the picture you are working on. The talent pool works the same way. There are many pictures and many places to fit those unique shapes. We just have to work hard to piece them together.

As always, please let me know what you think and for more discussion on this and other leadership topics, subscribe to my podcast.


Eric Torigian is the VP & Assistant General Manager of Global HR for Akebono Brake.  He is also an HR Exchange Network Advisory Board member and a Speaker for Talent Exchange Live.  To register for Talent Exchange Live, click here.


Image courtesy:  Stock Photo Secrets