A year since the U.S. began seeing record turnover, exhausted recruiters are putting everything on the table.
The recovering pandemic economy has proven to be a job-seeker's market, with nearly 48 million people quitting a job last year and 76 million taking a new one. Still, the labor market currently has 11 million openings, according to recent Labor Statistics data, and roughly two jobs for every person looking for one.
"If the labor market today is a golden age for workers, it is a lump of coal for recruiters not able to adapt to the new world we live in," says Pete Lamson, CEO of Employ, the parent company of several recruiting brands.
To make up for it, recruiters are fighting to hire by advertising skyrocketing pay bands, throwing out buzzy benefits and putting everything on the table to chase down a candidate — before someone else scoops them up.
Pay transparency is gaining steam as businesses in some states and cities, like Colorado and soon New York City, are being required to include their salary ranges in job listings. Angela Copeland, senior vice president of marketing at Recruiter.com, says more forward-thinking companies are advertising pay to attract talent.
And the bands are ratcheting up, too. Copeland recently heard from someone who was being poached by a competitor and was offered three times their current pay — they weren't even actively looking for a new job, she says, "and the original salary was not a bad one."
Most people negotiate a raise with a new job, she says, but "to go above and beyond and be extra aggressive like that is a new phenomenon."
Advertising high pay is extra important for companies trying to find in-person workers, says Erica Thomas, a technical recruiter in Palm Coast, Florida. If she's courting someone working remotely for a job that'll require them to be on-site, "we might not get anywhere," Thomas says. But if she names a high-enough salary range, it could be enough to sway them into an interview. "If I say, 'you'll be on-site and the range is $118,000 to $130,000,' now we're talking. You might be interested in going on-site for that amount of money."
"You have 4 to 8 seconds to catch a candidate's attention, whether they're looking actively or passively," Thomas adds. "People want to know the bottom line: how much they'll be paid."
Higher salary and remote work are table stakes for a lot of job seekers these days, so employers are scrambling to offer the latest and greatest, says Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. That includes instituting a four-day workweek, flexible work hours (popular among caregivers), paid vacation time with a stipend (attractive in a high-inflation environment), and reimbursements on work-from-home costs like phone and internet bills.
In the last year, Crystal Brown-Tatum, a Dallas-based HR director, began rewriting all of her company's job descriptions to lead with benefits first. People know what job and company they're applying to, after all, so why waste precious time when she could tout all the benefits they have to offer?
McDonald says there's "no question" throwing exceptional perks into the mix is helping companies close their time to hire. According to a July 2021 Robert Half survey of more than 2,800 senior managers, 48% are providing signing bonuses, 43% are giving more paid time off and 40% are offering better job titles to attract new hires.
Lauren Rackley, 31, recently got a $19,500 relocation bonus to move from North Carolina to Florida for a new pharmaceuticals job. She's had to relocate across the country for jobs before but never got more than $5,000. "It's the best I've ever gotten," she says of the offer, which allowed her to pocket any funds she didn't end up using on her move.
As a recruiter herself, Brown-Tatum sees the "aggressive" competition from both sides. She's taken two new jobs since the pandemic began and gets an average of two recruiter messages per week with what she considers a certified job offer — not so much an "are you open to having a conversation?" but more of a sales pitch of "we have this job we want you to take," she explains. Shortly before our call, Brown-Tatum says she got one such message offering $40,000 more than her current salary.
It's common for recruiters to try and respond to candidates within 24 hours of their application, Brown-Tatum says. With the rapid pace of closing offers, she's seen as many as eight people quit one workplace within a month — all of whom pulled in six figures each. "When people walk away from a $100,000 job so easily," she says, "it lets you know how tight the market is."
Recruiters are casting a wider net on LinkedIn by searching for people with the right job title but easing requirements for education, years of experience or location. It actually makes it a good time to switch industries, says Lamson. "There's a mobility in the workforce if recruiters can look beyond check-the-box requirements and more about a worker's ability, aptitude and attitude."
But they're having a hard time being targeted and personal while trying to expand their reach. Copeland has seen an increase in recruiters using LinkedIn to send prospects video messages, up to 3 minutes long, inviting them to apply. "It's a really different approach and takes a lot of time," she says.
In some cases, recruiters might be willing to re-consider former applicants and meet negotiations they previously rejected.
Deanna Havrelock, 25, lives in Medicine Hat, Alberta. She applied to a job as a production supervisor at a food manufacturer earlier this year but learned it would be a contract position without any benefits, bonus or relocation assistance (she's currently a 5-hour drive from the plant). It didn't feel like a "safe offer," she says, so she turned it down and said she hoped to join the company eventually.
Earlier in April she saw the job was still open and applied again. The recruiter called within weeks and made her an offer with full-time pay, benefits, bonus and relocation money — everything she previously wanted but was told no.
Havrelock hasn't given them an answer yet. She's also up for an HR role with the company, which could have better hours and more room to negotiate.