Hiring challenges abound across many industries. There is already significant competition for the most skilled candidates — and with every new job created, that competition only increases. Job candidates today can afford to be very selective, and more and more companies are dipping into the talent pool, thinning it with every new position they staff and making it that much more difficult on the next hiring manager.

In fact, in a recent Robert Half survey of more than 2,800 senior managers in the U.S., respondents identified generating interest from qualified candidates as the most difficult aspect of the hiring process.

Without question, successfully recruiting the right people today can require a huge amount of effort. But employers that take a smart and focused approach to tackling hiring challenges can still meet their staffing needs. The following five strategies can help improve your chances of finding good candidates in good time:

1. Offer more

Let’s be honest: Money talks. Salary isn’t always the No. 1 factor candidates consider when deciding to take a new job, but it’s a big one. If you offer compensation that’s below current market levels, you simply won’t be able to compete for the top talent you need.

When our survey asked senior managers to cite the most common reason prospective hires decide not to join their company, 3 in 10 said it’s because the compensation and benefits are lower than expected. Look to resources like Robert Half’s Salary Guides to ensure you’re presenting pay packages that are in line with — or, ideally, above — what others in your market offer for particular positions and skill sets. (Use our Salary Calculator to adjust these salaries for your city.)

2. Add perks

The reality is that many of the best candidates fall into one of two categories:

  1. They are on the job hunt and weighing multiple employment offers.
  2. They already have a job and may not be actively searching for a new position.

Either way, you have your work cut out for you. You must offer in-demand professionals a better deal than they have at their current employer or can find through a competitor’s job offer.

How can you up the ante? Start by looking to the competition. What are other companies that seem to be snapping up talent offering new hires? Signing bonuses? Innovative employment benefits on par with Silicon Valley startups? A liberal telecommuting policy?

Talk to contacts in your network and read the business press to see what you can learn about strategies that are working for others. A recruiting agency can also provide valuable insight because they are in constant communication with job seekers and employers.

At the same time, don’t hesitate to ask potential hires directly what would convince them to join your company over another. Requesting that top candidates be frank with you about what they truly want gives you concrete information you can use to make the prospect of joining your firm more appealing.

You might even follow up with job seekers who rejected an offer from your firm. What made a competing offer more compelling?

When conducting performance evaluations, ask current employees why they choose to stay with your firm. What aspects of working for the company do they enjoy or appreciate most? Their answers can clue you into factors — such as a strong commitment to staff training, a family-like company culture or an emphasis on work-life balance — that you should underscore to candidates throughout the hiring process.

3. Move quickly (but not too quickly)

Speed is essential if you want to overcome today’s hiring challenges. Good candidates simply don’t remain available for long. If it takes several weeks to review resumes, coordinate interviews, arrange skills testing and have all necessary parties sign off on a new hire, you’ll miss out every time.

Do what you can to remove obstacles and bottlenecks from the hiring process. For example:

  • Pare down the number of people who interview candidates to only those who are absolutely essential. Asking colleagues who will not be working directly with the potential hire to take part only means more schedules to coordinate and more potential delays.
  • Try to schedule interviews back to back so a candidate has to travel to your office just once or twice. You reduce downtime between interviews and make it easier to collect everyone’s feedback. You also reduce frustration on the part of the candidate, who may need to take time off work or arrange child care during the interview. Consider conducting video interviews if it’s difficult to arrange in-person meetings.
  • Make sure the compensation package has been approved before you reach the final interview stage so you can extend an offer right away.

One word of caution: Don’t move so quickly that you skip key steps in the hiring process. You still need to do your due diligence before bringing anyone on board. Take time to conduct thorough reference checks and assess whether the candidate is likely to thrive in your organization’s workplace culture. Otherwise, you risk making a costly hiring mistake.

4. Be flexible

Here’s an essential truth about the hiring market that surprises many employers: Your ideal candidate may not exist. (This might mean some of the hiring challenges you currently face may be of your own creation.)

A good analogy is buying a house. Your wish list for a home might include four bedrooms and three baths, a large yard, and a three-car garage. The house should also be in a good school district, close to parks or trails, and within walking distance of shops and restaurants. The reality is that you’ll likely have to compromise on one or more of these criteria, because no house checks every box on your list — or the few that do are outside your price range.

When it comes to adding staff, think about what skills and qualifications are essential to completing the job duties and succeeding in the role. Focus on these when evaluating candidates, and consider anything else — an advanced degree or experience in your industry, for example — a nice-to-have.

Also consider bringing in someone with less experience than you seek and training them on the job. It can be quite effective to hire promising entry-level and midlevel professionals, then give them tools and resources to quickly build the necessary skills or knowledge to succeed in the position.

5. Have a backup plan to help overcome hiring challenges

Even as you take pains to hurdle hiring challenges and bring skilled talent on board quickly, have a plan in place so you’re not caught flatfooted if the hiring process drags on.

In today’s hot market, it sometimes takes weeks or even months to find the right person no matter how persistent and strategic you are. How will you manage workloads and prevent current employees from becoming overloaded during that period? Augmenting your team with temporary or project-based staff, or interim management consultants for senior-level roles, is one way to stay on top of business demands as you search for the right full-time hire.

Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half. He writes and speaks frequently on hiring, workplace and career management topics. Over the course of more than 30 years in the recruiting field, McDonald has advised thousands of company leaders and job seekers on how to hire and get hired.

McDonald joined Robert Half in 1984 as a recruiter for financial and accounting professionals in Boston, following a public accounting career with Price Waterhouse. In the 1990s, he became president of the Western United States overseeing all of the company’s operations in the region. McDonald become senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources in 2000, and assumed his current role in 2012. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from St. Bonaventure University in New York.