Want to win the war for talent? Get smarter about sourcing.

Whether you're a corporate recruiter in a big company, or the owner of a thriving small business, you know: The talent shortage is real, and it's harder than ever to attract A-list applicants to your positions.

The first step to finding top talent is to recognize that in many fields, it's a sellers' market. Great candidates know that they're a hot commodity, and that if you don't want them, your competitor down the street probably does. And while passive candidates - the ones who aren't actively looking but would move for the right offer - can be a great talent pool, you have to give them a reason to pay attention to your opportunity and be able to explain the value proposition of the job.

It's time to get more creative with your sourcing strategies

So how do you make sure that the best active candidates apply to your jobs, and that passive candidates at least consider your opportunity? Here are our 7 top tips.

1. Write better job postings.

Sure, you may have an internal job description for the role you want to fill, detailing skills, experience, KPIs and daily tasks. It may be useful internally, but a job posting needs to be more emotionally engaging, and has to do a better job of describing the features and benefits of your organization, the job, and some indication of a positive company culture if you want to attract the A-list candidates you really want.

2. Be more specific.

The more specific you can be about the job, the more likely you are to attract the right candidates without having to sift through an overload of unsuitable applicants. No one likes taking a gamble on "salary commensurate with experience" or trying to match their skills to "should have good computer experience". And it can make candidates think you have something to hide or aren't really sure what kind of employee you want.

3. Make a cheesy video.

Did you know that military enlistment rates go up every time one of those videos featuring soldiers dancing around like goofballs while lipsyncing goes viral? Those internally-produced, low-fi videos make it look like joining the military might actually be a lot more fun and interesting than the viewer thought. You've probably got a few employees who are technically savvy and wouldn't mind hamming it up for the cameras - get them to make a video. (Avoid the temptation to have employees stare into the camera to say how much they love working at your company.)

Here's a nice one from Shopify https://www.youtube.com/embed/dwSe2imUyvg

4. Tap into your employees' social networks (and give them the tools to do it).

Every guide to 'Sourcing Top Talent' tells you to leverage your employees' networks. The problem is that hardly any organizations actually do it, and they almost never give employees the tools to do it effectively.

Here's how to do it better: Make a graphic with your logo and a 'We're hiring!' message, write a brief message like "If you're a fantastic [jobrofession], click here to visit our career page" and then send it to your employees with a polite request to copy and paste it to one or more of their social media channels. Recruiters say that making it this easy for employees to post a job-referral message more than doubles the response rate.

5. Ask the marketing department for help

Marketing is all about delivering the right message, for the right people, at the right time, in the right place. Attracting candidates is no different than attracting customers or clients - it's just about putting the right message in front of the right people at the right time and the right place. So take someone in marketing out to lunch and ask for their help. (BTW, they can also help you with that graphic + copy from #4, above.)

6. Put someone in charge of the talent pipeline

One of the biggest sourcing challenges that small and midsized businesses face is that they're sporadic: They only actively source candidates when they're actively looking to fill a position, so they end up having to start from scratch all the time.

Experienced recruiters will tell you that the best way to find A-list candidates is to have a large, active network that never really goes dormant and can be easily activated when there's an immediate need. So even if you don't have ongoing recruitment needs, make 'talent pipelining' part of the job responsibilities of at least one of your employees, and give them the time to create and maintain a network that you can tap into when you are hiring.

7. Don't dismiss social media

These days, almost every company is doing at least a little promotion via social media. But lots of organizations think that marketing their jobs this way is somehow 'unprofessional', or, if they do try it, they don't get the responses they want quickly enough.

However, depending on your target market, social media can actually help with all phases of the recruitment lifecycle: Reaching passive candidates, increasing awareness, connecting with candidates who are already engaging with your brand, and fostering referrals.

But which social media channels should you use? It'll depend on who you're looking for: LinkedIn has grown a lot during the pandemic but tends to skew older; Instagram is very useful for awareness and referrals but takes time to build; and TikTok is starting to be a great way to reach junior workers. (There are lots of other social media channels to explore, of course.)

If you could just do one thing?

Take the time to make your job ad interesting, reflective of your culture, and just as compelling as any advertisement you would put in front of a potential client or customer. If it's the first thing a candidate sees about you, it can make or break your talent pool.