In a talent-scarce market, the last thing you would want to do is scare away potential hires with your recruitment strategy.

If you’re thinking recruiting new employees in the new year will be a walk in the park, think again. Competition for talent is becoming more intense and many employers are surprised at just how competitive the market has become in a number of industry sectors.

In a recent Robert Half survey, an approximate nine in 10 respondents indicated that it was challenging to find skilled professionals today.

Candidates are often considering multiple offers, which could drive up salaries as a result. Employers too, are making counteroffers as they try to retain valued staff.

To increase your chances of landing the talent you need, you’ll need to step up your recruitment strategies:

Hit the ground running
Make sure you have clear criteria in place so you know just what you’re looking for in candidates.

If you wait to figure out what you need until you’re meeting with the candidates themselves, you can appear disorganised and unprofessional to the very people you want most. And chances are, your recruitment process will take longer – putting you at risk of losing the best applicants before you’re even ready to make an offer.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Finding skilled talent in an increasingly competitive market means you can’t just rely on one recruiting channel. If you depend solely on online ads for instance, you’ll diminish your odds of locating applicants who are best suited to address your unique needs.

Instead, broaden the strategy. Start attending professional events so you can network. Even if you don’t meet any job seekers, you may connect with people who know of ideal candidates. You can also spread the word of your hiring needs to your circle of contacts and through social media.

Specialised staffing firms are another useful resource because their recruiters are tapped into local businesses and may know of suitable professionals who aren’t even actively looking for new jobs.

Don’t forget to ask your current employees for help, too. After all, who better understands what it’s like to work at your company and what types of skills are most needed on your team? Consider offering referral bonuses to those recommending candidates who are subsequently hired.

Be convincing
As you start interviewing, keep in mind that the meeting is a two-way street. You are there to make sure people are a good fit for the job, but candidates will also be assessing you and the company.

Be sure you enter interviews with a clear plan for promoting your job opportunity with applicants. You may also want to point out the benefits of joining your team. Mention any perks you might offer, such as flexible work hours, telecommuting opportunities and childcare assistance.

If your firm is doing well financially, share this news. Without offering any guarantees, note any expansion plans or other signs that you’re not likely to be reducing your workforce in the near future. People want to work for employers who will be around for the long term.

Arrange for candidates to meet with selected staff members. Your employees can give a realistic picture of being a part of your organisation while also providing you their impression of the candidates.

Don’t play games
When you’re competing for in-demand professionals, the last thing you want to do is scare them off with your interviewing process. If you ask awkward  questions like, “If you could be any kind of building, what would you be?”, you’re likely to leave applicants worried about what it’s like to actually work at your company. Small actions like providing a friendly greeting and remembering to smile at appropriate moments can make a difference.

If you’re serious about certain candidates, schedule follow-up meetings right away. Streamline interviews so top contenders can connect with key decision-makers in just one or two visits. You’ll show respect for applicants’ time while helping ensure your favourite is still in the job market when you’re ready to make an offer.

Get them on board
If you’ve been “wowed” by a particular applicant, chances are that other employers will be too. Make sure you’re prepared to present an offer as soon as you’ve decided on your final choice.

Be armed with your most competitive offer. Salaries are rising and you don’t want to put yourself out of the running because your compensation is too low. Read the latest salary surveys and government reports to make sure your pay levels are up-to-date.

That said, although you want to do all you can to recruit the right potential hires, don’t go overboard. Your efforts to attract one person could damage morale among your staff if you’re not careful. It’s easy to get caught up in the situation and make an offer that’s out of balance with the compensation and benefits you pay your existing employees. Rest assured that word will get out.

Competing for candidates successfully all comes down to good planning. The better prepared you are at recruiting, interviewing and making an offer, the greater your chances of landing the talent you need in today’s market. You’ll give yourself a solid advantage over managers who still believe they have the upper hand and can breeze through the staffing process easily.