Finding Talent in a Digital Haystack: Tips for Recruiting for Hard-to-Fill Roles

Benoit Hardy-Vallee

Sourcing qualified candidates for niche roles is a lot like finding a needle in a haystack. In fact, it's one of the biggest challenges recruiters face, especially when it prevents important jobs from getting done. 
 

Take specialized technology roles, for example. Despite a pressing need for these positions, 83% of developers are not actively looking for a new job, according to a 2020 Stack Overflow survey. And while recruiters have options, that doesn’t mean every applicant is the right fit for the job. 
 

After speaking with Phenom customers over the last year, we learned their strategies and best practices in occupying hard-to-fill roles that are just too good not to share. Check them out below — and sort through your own talent haystack with some instrumental tips!
 

1. Create engagement before trying to convert talent. 
 

It’s difficult to convert candidates without giving them a reason why they should want to work at your company. Fortunately, there are countless ways to personalize career sites and recruitment marketing campaigns that communicate your employer value proposition, spark interest, and create engagement that motivates them to apply. 
 

Pre-pandemic, when retailer and customer Newell Brands needed to quickly hire store managers within their home fragrance division in hard-to-fill locations, the company engaged their talent pipeline with a contest to win a trip, along with a fun survey to find their favorite scent. 
 

“Instead of just sending links to jobs, we’re giving candidates content they want to interact with,” Ashley Blackmore, Sr. Manager of Talent Acquisition said, which enhances the experience, builds brand awareness, and piques candidate interest. 
 

Throughout the pandemic, Newell was also able to communicate directly with candidates on their career site through their chatbot and via their talent community. Recent campaigns focused on fun ways to use their products during quarantine — from STEAM projects and backyard camping, to food storage and virtual coffee chats — with open jobs in those divisions featured alongside.
 

By offering relevant content and meaningful interaction fueled by Phenom AI, Blackmore reported their talent community grew by 27,000 members in just a year.


CASE STUDY: Newell Brands Boosted Applies 69%



2. Approach talent with targeted campaigns and events. 


Marketing to specific demographics with customized content drives engagement and conversion. Our customer L3Harris, a global aerospace and defense technology company, knows this better than most. 
 

Due to the specialized skill set for a majority of their roles, the company’s talent pools were limited. Determined to market to talent differently in the hopes of driving more engagement and curate applications, they decided to send email campaigns to segmented talent communities of over 135,000 potential hires!
 

Crafting thoughtful, personalized emails with custom photos, videos, and targeted calls-to-action proved indispensable to their efforts. Through Phenom, they ran a targeted campaign to candidates with a PhD or master’s level degree and experience in super-specialized areas of engineering. The result? They received 45 resumes in just 17 minutes. Before the campaign, they'd only received 18 resumes in 6 weeks. 
 

And if that's not enough, L3Harris shortened their time-to-fill for “influenced hires”  by 25%. Their record to date? Just four days! 
 

By inviting career site visitors to sign up to their email list, L3Harris can easily stay in touch with job seekers, deliver company updates, and share personalized job recommendations for when candidates are ready to make a career move.


BLOG: Filling Mission-Critical Jobs with Innovative Campaigns 


A similar email success story features a healthcare customer that used Phenom Campaigns and Events to ensure successful turnouts to their numerous hiring events. By featuring a convenient event page on their career site and sending targeted messages to potential attendees — complete with links to RSVP and recommended jobs that they could apply to in advance — 11% of leads who responded to the email campaign ended up being hired! 


3. Make it easy on candidates.


Top talent doesn’t want to waste time finding the right role, so our customers ensure applying to jobs is quick and easy. 
 

Case in point: One of our retail customers was hiring for particular technology skills. The challenge was especially interesting because top tech talent has multiple employers in mind (including competitors), and their skills are already hard to find. 
 

After launching a new AI-powered career site tailored to exceed candidate expectations with the best user experience (think hyper-personalized experiences, a conversational chatbot, personalized job recommendations, videos … you get the picture), the TA team saw traffic quadruple and its conversion rate increase by 40 percent. 
 

Engaging and user-friendly candidate experiences can go a long way in accelerating recruiting goals. In fact, another technology client experienced a 42% increase in traffic after launching their new career site. They also received 58% more applications, and increased campaign conversions by 36%!

 

4. Track talent from your competitors and reach out to them. 


What if you don’t have time to wait for candidates to come knocking at your door? If you’re searching for specialized roles and need to hire quickly, taking a proactive approach may be necessary. 
 

When faced with the challenge of hiring for 100 hard-to-fill open roles last year, one of our healthcare customers decided a new hiring strategy was necessary. 
 

First, they set up spotlights (automated talent segments) in their CRM to identify candidates from their competitors. This revealed over 4,700 candidates that recruiters could target with campaigns. They also identified over 500 candidates from competitor websites.
 

By sending targeted email campaigns with information about their employer value proposition, company culture, and the benefits of working at their organization, they were able to engage new talent leads and increase applications faster than ever. 

 

5. Mine your talent experiences data to find — and close — engagement gaps. 
 

Having accurate, robust data is indispensable to talent teams if they know how to use it.
 

During our virtual IAMHR conference, Mick Joneja, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition at Life Time, explained how his team is using talent analytics to anticipate future hiring needs and enhance the candidate experience while increasing conversion.
 

At the time, finding stylists and therapists was a challenge, Joneja revealed, and the company needed to improve career site engagement with potential candidates. Aiming to reduce a high bounce rate and increase time spent on the site, the company created a standalone page on their career site for these specific positions. 
 

The content on the new page emphasized compensation, benefits, and career growth — key needs for this talent pool, according to their talent analytics. The TA team also added personal email addresses of key leaders after learning over time that stylists and therapists are passive candidates who prefer a warm introduction versus a straight apply.
 

The end result? Half the bounce rate and almost double the average time spent on a page. “It’s really helped us to find passive leads we never would have found before, and now we can target them through Phenom’s passive leads campaigns,” Joneja said.


WATCH: Armed with Information: Analytics for Hiring Agility, Speed and Efficiency



6. Check your CRM for best-fit candidates hiding in plain sight.


Sometimes, matching the right job to the right candidate is as simple as checking — and maximizing — your CRM. 
 

A recruiter for a life science customer ran a search within their CRM for a specific skill for a really hard-to-fill role. The good news? They quickly found the perfect candidate. The only hold up? An incomplete application. 
 

Long story short, the candidate was contacted, the application was completed, and the position was occupied with the ideal person for the job. 
 

Another great example: Trilogy Health Services had a major objective to hire more Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). Due to the pandemic, open roles were in abundance, and the talent acquisition team not only had to occupy these notoriously hard-to-fill roles, but proactively prepare for future needs. 
 

Through Phenom Events, Trilogy was able to host a short form to easily capture candidate information. With a pipeline quickly growing, recruiters were able to design and send their own email campaigns based on location to targeted leads in their CRM.
 

To promote even faster applications and a more seamless candidate experience, the team also launched a text-to-apply campaign, which garnered 243 leads in less than 2 months. Job seekers could simply text a number to apply for a position or learn more. By the end of their fourth quarter, Trilogy made 451 CNA hires in 7 weeks, far exceeding their expectations, and providing a template for future role-specific hiring initiatives.


READ MORE: Untapped Potential: How to Source & Engage Internal Talent With Your CRM 



7. Rediscover your “silver medalists”.


Eighty nine days: The time it typically took a manufacturing client to fill a certain job.
 

Two days: The time it took a recruiter at the same company to fill the same job — after tagging silver-medal candidates in their Phenom CRM so they were handy when the role opened up.
 

The lesson: It’s always good in the long-term to stay in touch with job seekers who were a close second for a particular role — especially for niche hiring with elusive skill sets. 
 

Leverage your talent community, campaigns, and events to keep your silver-medalists engaged and your brand top of mind. As relevant roles become available, they’ll be ready to apply and willing to open up the conversation.  

 

8. Use your employee’s network.


Talent knows talent. Especially in technology, many people find their jobs through their own network. 
 

By simply tapping into its employee network, a service organization recently made a significant cut to its cost per hire, and also doubled its number of referrals for a big jump in quality of hire. 
 

The same strategy helped one of our manufacturing clients receive 5,000 referrals a month from their employees. It goes without saying — the company had no shortage of high-quality hires. 


In the end, your ability to find and hire top talent depends upon the recruiting channels you have at your disposal, your ability to attract, engage and convert candidates, and how enabled your recruiters are in searching, pooling and marketing to talent. 
 


Find talent for hard-to-fill roles faster with Phenom.
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