In a nutshell: In a tight employment market, it makes sense to reach out to potential employees instead of waiting for them to reach out to you.

The laws of supply and demand hold true when it comes to the employment landscape.

Unemployment over the past five years has slowly been decreasing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That means competition for skilled labor is increasing.

In fact, 68 percent of HR professionals are having trouble recruiting candidates for full-time positions in their organizations, according to “The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages,” a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Among the top reasons cited for recruitment challenges: low numbers of applicants (51 percent), lack of necessary work experience among applicants (50 percent) and competition from other employers (49 percent).

Instead of waiting for active candidates to become interested in your industry, your company and your roles, a proactive approach to encouraging young minds to consider these careers will build a pipeline of prospects that will last long into the future. Read on for tips on reaching out to – and grabbing the attention of – these future candidates.

Before College

In elementary, middle and high schools, Junior Achievement programs “inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.” Businesspeople are invited to volunteer with the program to help students gain the knowledge and skills they need to make smart choices and plan for their future. Professionals can teach children about the industry in which they work and all the potential opportunities within it.

Another option is speaking to students during career days. While you will have to tailor your presentation depending on grade level, this will give your industry (and maybe even your company) a chance to connect with younger minds. You may never know how your lecture resonated with them until years later when they’re searching for a job.

College Level

College-aged students are a captive audience for career information, and schools are always looking for community business partners, particularly if they have entry-level positions available. You may see the results of your efforts immediately, as these students graduate and seek out their first jobs. Reach out to the career services departments at local colleges to get started. They should be able to direct you to the opportunities they have for business partner involvement, such as classroom speaking engagements, job fairs and resume review days. Department heads that align with your industry are another option for getting in front of faculty and students, and their contact information can usually be easily found on a college or university website.

By offering internships to college students, you’re not only building a pipeline of potential talent for your company but also increasing productivity while they’re on assignment. Setting up an internship program from scratch may seem daunting, but colleges likely have a framework you need to follow. This will help with the logistics of it, but you need to create a systematic plan to make sure your company and the students are mutually benefitted by the relationship. According to the “Employer Guide to Structuring a Successful Internship Program,” published by Rhode Island’s colleges and universities, employers will benefit from internships by guiding and evaluating talent and students should be able to gain hands-on experience (i.e., not fetching the office coffee) and make connections in a field of interest.

Social Media

The 24-to-34 age group accounts for the majority of users for most mainstream social networks, according to Social Media Week’s “The 9 Major Social Networks Broken Down by Age.” For the rest, it’s the 18-to-24 age group, with the exception of LinkedIn, which spans 35- to 44-year-olds (barely). If you’re trying to get in front of the need for talent, you need to build a strong employment brand on social media. This will keep your company at the forefront of potential candidates’ minds long before they’re looking for a job.

In fact, social media recruitment is responsible for capturing passive candidates (those not actively seeking a new job but open to opportunities). And passive talent is 120 percent more likely to want to make an impact and 33 percent more likely to want challenging work, according to UndercoverRecruiter’s “How to Recruit Passive Candidates Online.” These statistics alone are worth your effort in building a social media presence in your quest of gaining interest in your company.

Sometimes seeking instant gratification is not where we should focus our energy. If skilled talent becomes even harder to find, it’s imperative we get ahead of the need and build a reputation among future career seekers. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to having a robust pipeline from which to find standout candidates.

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