Having a tough time hiring now?

I’ll bet that almost anyone who does hiring as part of their job answers “yes” to that.

Right now we’ve got the lowest unemployment rate in 10 years, combined with the longest time to hire (around 29 days) and the most jobs ever going unfilled.

Basically, all the great potential employees already have jobs. So if you want to fill a role with a top-notch hire, you may have to contact people who are already employed.

Yes, you may need to headhunt.

Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds, and we’ll show you how to do it in ways you can feel good about. We’ll also show you how to prevent your own employees from being headhunted.

5 Headhunting Tips and Techniques You can Feel Good About

Before I knew anything about it, I figured headhunting was sort of a dirty trick. I suppose the name we’ve given it may have something to do with that.

But the fact is, most potential employees are “passive” job seekers. They aren’t out searching job boards on a regular basis (though you may want to look at industry specific boards), but they’d be open to a new opportunity if it was presented.

Here are 5 tips for getting your company in front of them, and doing it well.

1. Use Glassdoor to find employees looking to escape.

Visit Glassdoor on a regular basis and keep an eye on what employees are saying about competitors. Oftentimes the first signal that employees are ready to leave is a spate of negative reviews. Also, look for common “cons” listed about working at competitors, and use this to your advantage.

For example, if everyone is complaining about a lack of paid time off, can you offer a really generous PTO package? It may cost you a little, but having the pick of the best employees will almost certainly make up for it.

2. Show off your office with meetups.

Do you have a nice office? Is it a fun place to work?

People in various industries hold meetups, oftentimes using Meetup. Offer your work space as a host for a meetup. This goes beyond just sponsoring beer or snacks at events outside your office – it gives people a chance to see what it’d be like working there.

3. Send smart, tactful headhunting emails.

Before you email an employee you want to headhunt, ask yourself “would I send this email to someone I know?”

Keep it short, and write an email subject line that doesn’t give away the fact you are trying to headhunt them. Assume their phone is sitting on a desk where their boss can see it. You don’t want the email notification to give away what you are doing. Same goes with the first line of the email, which usually pops up in phone alerts.

4. Catch great employees who made bad choices.

When a candidate who would have been perfect for a role you need to fill takes a position at another company, congratulate them and ask if they know of anyone who’d be good for your role.

Let them know a couple of the best details about what you’re offering too.

If they stumbled into a company that’s not a fit, they may see you as a way out, and let you know that they are interested.

5. Clone your best employees.

Do you ever wish you could just send your best employees to a lab and have 100 copies made? Here’s the next best thing.

Talk to your best employees, and ask them what the best teams were that they worked with in the past. That’s probably when the company was doing its best hiring. Find out who else worked there during that time (use LinkedIn or ask your employees) and get in touch.

How to Know When You’re Being Headhunted, and What to Do

Naturally, reading up about headhunting techniques makes people a little worried about having their own employees poached. Here are a few tips for knowing that it’s happening, and what you can do.

1. Watch your own reviews.

When you’re on Glassdoor checking competitor reviews, keep an eye on yours. If problems start to crop up, help get them under control before they become someone else’s opportunity.

2. Watch for signs that an employee is getting ready to leave.

Candidates usually attend 6 or more interviews if they’re checking out multiple companies. Most of these will occur during business hours so keep an eye out for multiple “dentist appointments,” “have to wait for a plumber to come to the house,” “sick days,” or single day annual leave.

If this happens, find out if there’s something they’re not happy with, and get it fixed.

3. Don’t leave your best hires open to being headhunted.

If the candidate is great and you know they are underpaid or underappreciated, fix it before they get poached. The temporary benefit of keeping a great employee on a lower salary will be offset by months of trying to hire a replacement.

4. Getting intel and fixing the problem.

If you’re really concerned, have a recruiter you trust ring them and ask if they are open to hearing about another role. If they are, bump their salary up or fix the issues they highlight a week or so later.

5. When you can’t beat them on salary….

Big competitors may be able to beat you on salary no matter what you do. But can you find other ways of holding on to star employees? Consider offering employees more flexibility in their schedules, shorter work weeks, more paid time off or work from home days in lieu of bigger pay checks.

Ok, happy headhunting! If you don’t have time for all this, just try following the Glassdoor tips. They’ll give you valuable intel on your competitors and your own company that you can use when you need to make a hire.

Author: Paul Peters is content marketer and job ad writer with Betterteam. Before Betterteam he spent 6 years building an education startup, where he was involved with many aspects of the business, including hiring. He lives in Whitefish, Montana.

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