Which skills should stand out in a competitive job market?


The job market has taken a turn in recent months towards a competitive status quo that favors employers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and its monthly jobs report, employment expanded across most industries in April 2023, with professional services and health/social assistance each adding more than 64,000 jobs.

Look at the reality beneath the stats and you’ll see how these trends affect the real people in the market. For job seekers seeking administrative positions, the frustrating truth is that the supply of jobs is dwindling (with 500,000 since 2022) while demand is rising and still rising. The past two years of post-pandemic shifts have seen many roles cut, plans halted, and projects scrapped. Layoffs have become less of a temporary placeholder strategy and more of a status quo.

What does this mean for employers looking to gain a competitive advantage in the talent department? Well, as job searches have become more competitive, employers looking to fill spots on their teams have more and more choice.

Why is now the time for employers to hire?

The market is (to bursting) full of experienced, qualified, enthusiastic and creative candidates who are missing out on certain opportunities – not through any fault on their part, but simply because the market is so crowded.

This means that employers can scour the market to find the absolute best candidates for their position, and they can become pickier. They don’t have to pick the next visibly qualified candidate that comes in; they may take a little more time and lay out a few more parameters. For example, they can assess whether the workplace and culture are a fit rather than hoping their new hire will fit into the team.

It also means that employers can discover the “hidden” skills and qualifications that really mean high quality and rare talent. They can discover candidates with interesting perspectives, relevant values ​​and life goals, niche knowledge bases that fit your company’s next project, and so on.

However, it won’t be immediately obvious how to look for this next level of skills and talents, so employers will need to think a bit about how to transform their hiring drive to look for these ‘hidden’ qualities.

How can leaders find better candidates in a crowded job market?

In a competitive landscape, urgency is commonplace. As long as the ball is in the employer’s court, leaders have time and space to flesh out their recruiting strategy and attract top talent. Here are a few places to start:

1. List all your business needs before you begin.

Most hiring mistakes are made because employers or employees (or both) feel pressured to accept or award a job offer. With time on your side, you can be more discerning and avoid tenant’s remorse.

Consider before you start hiring all your business needs, even those traits you previously ignored as “nice to have” or “unlikely to get.” Make sure there aren’t any hidden skills you want this new hire to have that aren’t in your job description. If you can afford to be picky, why not ask for exactly what you want? Are you looking for a game designer with a penchant for stop motion and a background in talk therapy who speaks Finnish? Ask for it.

2. Embrace the non-traditional career path.

With the power of selection in your hands, you don’t have to settle for traditional qualifications and resume builders. Non-traditional careers can be a gold mine for the extra talents and niche skills you’re looking for.

“Honestly, focusing only on those with a college degree isn’t just bad for candidates –it is also bad for businesssaid Mike Northup, general manager of corporate relations at LaunchCode, a national non-profit workforce development organization focused on free and innovative technical training solutions. “If you reject non-traditional applicants in advance, you’re excluding randomly qualified candidates from interviews. As a result, you’re likely missing out on perfectly qualified, enthusiastic candidates with the right skills and experience. It also means your hiring process can take longer and cost more In addition, it can lead to weaker hiring decisions.”

It’s frustrating, to say the least, that many hiring teams are quick to fire candidates who don’t have a traditional educational background. It leads to people being deterred from even applying for certain jobs because they feel they will be slighted or ignored. Fortunately, some major companies – Google and Bank of America to name a few – have updated their stance on education requirements. Why not join them?

3. Find ways to make the process more fun for candidates.

The fact that you are allowed to do the selection this time does not mean that you should underestimate the strength of the candidate. When you’re ready to hire someone, consider finding tangible ways to move through the hiring process less grueling for candidates. The environment is tough enough out there without putting them through rounds and rounds of audition-style interviews or refusing to answer additional questions. Let your hiring process be an example of what it will be like to join your team: friendly, warm and interesting.

The employer-friendly job market doesn’t mean employers have to become ghosters (as has become a rather disturbing trend). Instead, it’s time for employers to differentiate themselves in the way they approach and treat candidates, and how they design hiring processes that better suit their unique business.