6 ways to compete for talent you can’t afford (or afford to lose) if you can’t win the bidding war!

Hiring talent is still as competitive as ever. If your business can’t afford to pay top quartile rates, here are other ways to retain talent


We asked Lauren Bass, one of the Talent Directors at Instant Impact to share a few ways companies can attract and retain the best possible talent when budget is an issue.

Despite the media attention it is still as competitive as ever when it comes to hiring talent and with the skills gap it's likely the issue will only become more of a concern.

The key questions I get asked a lot in my role are:

How do companies remain competitive without getting into a bidding war?

What happens if your business can’t afford to pay top quartile rates?

The great news is that you can compete, but it will take work! There are other ways to attract and retain top talent and through my years of Talent Acquisition experience I would say the best starting point is being a company people want to work for!

As we exited the pandemic, some interesting insights emerged showing that candidates aren’t solely interested in the monetary benefits of a new role.

So what can you do?

1. Be a great company to work for

I would say the most important! If you want to attract and retain top talent it comes down to genuinely being a good company to work for. A company that cares about and invests in its employees. If your employer branding and recruitment process reflects your company well, you’ll find that the candidates you want to hire won’t be as swayed by salaries.  

The right recruitment team plays a critical role here as they are the ones ‘welcoming customers to your shop’. If the experience is not on point and doesn’t reflect well on your company, then none of the below will materially impact your position.  

2. Create an attractive window shopping experience 

Like in retail, companies need to ensure their “windows” are displayed in a way that attracts candidates. And by “windows,” we’re referring to your employer branding, how easy it is to find out about real life in your company and how your messaging is being seen by potential employees. Strong employer branding significantly increases your ability to attract top talent, fact.  

Did you know that 4 in 5 job seekers check reviews and ratings to decide where to apply for a job? You need to ensure you’re marketing yourself as a good company to work for. A great way to do this is to encourage your employees to leave reviews on Glassdoor. You can then send your Glassdoor company profile to candidates as they progress through to the interview stage so they can get an inside look into how your employees feel about working for your company. 

Also make sure to regularly share content across your social media profiles that showcase your company, including achievements, employee recognition and team activities. Putting faces behind your company does wonders for your employer branding. 

3. Fish in a different pool

If a low candidate pool in your preferred area is the reason for high salaries in the market, consider hiring from other locations where competition may be less aggressive. Use market intel reports (like LinkedIn Talent Insights) to find hotspots for specific skills. 

Then combine this with the option of remote work – this can be fully remote, traditional hybrid or alternative hybrid (a day a month, 2 days a quarter etc)  in companies where it’s possible it is one of the simplest ways to make your role / company seem more attractive. You may have to consider some funded travel, but generally this will be made up for in buckets through salary savings and engagement; opening up your hiring pool to candidates globally whilst potentially lowing your carbon foot print. 

4. Consider transferable skills

Start putting a greater emphasis on considering transferable skills. Every job role should have a MUST, SHOULD and COULD list – for the right person. Let’s say a candidate ticks all the must boxes and seven of your list of ten desirables, these are the people you should be considering alongside creating a development plan for day one (if you hire) as this sends retention of the charts. Clearly this is if they have the right attitude!

Most of the clients I work with would rather hire a candidate with the right mindset than a candidate with all the skills but a poor attitude. By giving a candidate with the right mindset and transferable skills the chance to upskill with you, you’ll have a more engaged employee who not only does a great job but adds so much more value to your company culture.

5. Create a strong candidate experience

I think we all know that gone are the days of candidates solely needing to impress employers. Nowadays, it’s a real two-way interview with the employer needing to sell themselves to the candidate. This starts with providing a top-notch candidate experience—from the moment of first contact through applying to interview and (hopefully) onboarding. A positive connection with your hiring team may just mean more to a candidate than salary. This can start with reviewing your process, tools, and technology that contribute to the candidate's journey and experience, it can also include ensuring your hiring managers are trained and skilled interviewers.

Many candidates me and my team speak to are looking to leave toxic work environments, so if you can prove that you offer an amazing work culture, you’re sure to attract top talent.

6. Invest in early careers and future leaders

Invest in your entry-level employees. Develop clear progression plans in consultation, not isolation, ensuring clear promotion and development opportunities both vertically and laterally. By investing in early careers, in their development you will not only improve your current workforce retention but also upskilling future leaders with the skills your future business will need. Win win!

But don’t silo your thinking to just early careers, while it’s easier to hire for entry-level roles than highly skilled ones, it’s even easier to recruit from your own business! So why not invest in the people already in your business by teaching them the skills they need? It’ll save you money and time in the long run.

While the list is not exhaustive in my opinion all of these are critical in today's competitive market, if you're paying top salaries or not!

Without the knowledge, experience and motivation to apply the above solutions, your company will quickly fall behind your competitors.