10 Ways to Hire for Hard-to-Fill Roles - Glassdoor for Employers

A Guide for Recruiters

10 Keys to Hiring for Hard-to-Fill Roles


One of the challenges in recruiting is finding enough qualified candidates for hard-to-fill roles—those positions that demand a skill set that’s in short supply in a given location. Filling these positions—many of which didn’t exist a decade ago—requires a fresh approach. Here’s our take on how to combine traditional recruiting techniques with new tools for hiring hard-to-fill roles.

1. Align with hiring managers.

When a role is in high demand and candidates are in low supply, the last thing you want is to lose a candidate because your hiring team isn’t aligned on what they should be looking for. Not only that, an unorganized hiring process can turn off top candidates.

Here’s how to get your ducks in a row:

  • Interview the hiring manager to get a complete understanding of the role.
  • Identify “must have” vs. “nice-to-have” skills and traits.
  • Map out a clear plan for the interview process, from screening and testing through the final interviews.
  • Assign competencies or question areas to each interviewer.
  • Follow up during the process to make adjustments if necessary.

2. Gather competitive intelligence.

Remember, candidates with in-demand skill sets have a wide array of companies to choose from. Take a walk in their shoes and do some competitive research to get a sense of your company’s strengths and weaknesses in the employment marketplace. With over 40 million reviews1 on everything from benefits to leadership, Glassdoor is a top place to conduct competitive research.

Ask these questions as you research the competition:

  • What roles are your competitors trying to fill?
  • Are they posting jobs in similar places?
  • What social channels are they using to promote jobs?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses? Consider culture, compensation, location, and benefits.
  • What percentage of their employees would recommend the company?
  • What are the common themes in the company, CEO and interview reviews on Glassdoor?
  • Are Glassdoor interview reviews mostly from people who have Accepted Offer or Declined Offer?

3. Optimize your job descriptions.

A clear and concise job description will help you attract the right candidate, and can even help you hire for diversity. Here’s how to improve your job descriptions:

  • Write clear, specific job titles with 51 to 60 characters (Senior Software Engineer - Site Reliability - Ruby/Go, for example); they have been shown to outperform other job title lengths, with an average click-to-apply (CTA) ratio of 8.4%.1 For context, job titles with fewer than 30 characters (Software Engineer, for example) get an average of 6.2% CTA, and job titles with more than 100 characters get an average of 3.4% CTA.
  • Write job descriptions with 501 to 1,000 characters; they have been shown to outperform other job descriptions lengths, with an average CTA of 8.9%.2, For context, job descriptions with between 6,001 and 7,000 characters drop down to an average CTA of 4.6%.
  • Separately identify must-have skills and experience versus nice-to-have. Research shows women are unlikely to apply for a position unless they meet 100% of the requirements, while men will apply if they meet 60% of the requirements.3
  • Make sure each role sounds impactful and exciting.
  • Evangelize your company mission, benefits, and perks.
  • Use gender-neutral language.
  • Choose keywords that make each post findable and trackable with SEO.
  • Include links to your company’s social media and Glassdoor profile.

4. Invest in promoting your jobs.

Casting a wide net can help get your hard-to-fill role in front of the right candidate. Promoting your open roles on job sites can help you get your jobs in front of a wider audience. Sponsoring jobs on Glassdoor allows you to tap into the tens of millions of job seekers who visit Glassdoor every month. These sponsored jobs have been shown to receive up to 13X more clicks and 11X more apply starts than non-sponsored jobs.4 Not only that, with Glassdoor sponsored jobs, you can:

  • Use powerful analytics to see who is engaging with your jobs and how.
  • Increase exposure with boosts in Glassdoor search results and in our popular job alerts emails.
  • Target job seekers by location, industry, and role with Glassdoor’s Display Ads.

5. Encourage employee referrals.

For many companies, employee referrals are a top source of hire, and it’s no wonder: research shows that these candidates are typically higher quality, close quicker, and tend to stick around longer.5 To encourage employees to refer their peers to your hard-to-fill roles:

  • Regularly remind employees to promote open positions on their social networks.
  • Offer tiered referral bonuses that pay larger finder’s fees for hard-to-fill roles.
  • Make sure your referral process is mobile-friendly and easy to use.

6. Get smart with content marketing.

Publishing relevant content that matters to your prospective candidates helps build your reputation as an employer of choice. Top candidates do their research and want to know that they’ll be working on great things with talented people.

Key ways to brand yourself as an employer using content:

  • Share press releases and company updates to highlight new product developments, philanthropic initiatives, awards, and other news.
  • Use videos to showcase employee stories on social media and your careers page.
  • Create infographics showing career ladders to illuminate employee growth opportunities.
  • In job descriptions, add links to content that highlights what’s unique about working at your company.

7. Build out social media networks.

Social media allows you to show candidates real-time images and stories of employees already working at your company. Employees’ good cheer is infectious, inspiring more candidates to apply. Also, consider engaging with niche groups in specific fields or diversity-oriented groups.

How to make the most out of social media:

  • Create and regularly update company accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Develop YouTube videos and blog post series.
  • Encourage all employees to use social media to share open positions.
  • Offer training for employees to teach them how to build their online networks.
  • Monitor which networks give you the most traction and results.

8. Refine your sourcing tactics.

Many candidates, especially those in hard-to-fill roles, receive a large volume of InMails per week. This can be a fatiguing amount of chatter for a person who might not even be interested in moving on. In fact, three in four (76%) hiring decision makers report a concern or challenge in attracting and hiring passive candidates as they have grown weary of contact through networking sites (e.g. LinkedIn) and respond at a much lower rate.6

Key ways to hone your sourcing strategy:

  • Track which hiring channels are most effective and adjust spending to the most effective channels.
  • Target informed candidates such as those on Glassdoor.
  • Candidates from Glassdoor are 2x more likely to be hired7 and have 30% higher retention rates.8
  • Share relevant content with candidates at each stage of their journey—whether it’s reviews, articles or videos.
  • Use recruiting automation tools such as Entelo.
  • Entelo allows you to send outreach messages that come directly from hiring managers, increasing open rates.

9. Nurture diversity candidates to broaden candidate pool.

Finding diverse candidates requires more than posting an equal opportunity employer statement and showing up at career fairs. An organized approach to diversity will help you connect with candidates who might not have otherwise considered your company.

Approaches to diversifying your workforce:

  • Include diverse employees in employee stories such as videos, blogs and social media.
  • Engage with women and minority career networks in relevant fields.
  • Address bias in the screening and interview process to give diverse candidates a fair chance.

10. Target both early-career and late-career candidates.

Midlife career-changers, experienced workers with transferable skills, and recent grads alike can bring energy and excitement to hard-to-fill roles. Don’t overlook those applicants that don’t quite fit the unicorn model; instead, think about how they can grow into the role.

Tips for targeting younger and older candidates:

  • Practice age-blind recruiting; don’t disqualify an applicant if they have 20 years experience when the position only requires five.
  • Mention growth opportunities in job descriptions and on your careers page.
  • Include photos of employees of all ages on your careers page and Glassdoor profile.


No one tactic will be the silver bullet when it comes to hiring for hard-to-fill positions, but by establishing a discipline around each of these 10 strategies, you can increase your chances of quickly finding the right people for your toughest roles.

  1. Align with hiring managers.
  2. Gather competitive intelligence.
  3. Optimize your job descriptions.
  4. Invest in promoting your jobs.
  5. Encourage employee referrals.
  6. Get smart with content marketing.
  7. Build out social media networks.
  8. Refine your sourcing tactics.
  9. Nurture diversity candidates to broaden candidate pool.
  10. Target both early-career and late-career candidates.


  1. Glassdoor Internal Data, March 2018
  2. AppCast 2017 Recruitment Media Benchmark Report
  3. Harvard Business Review, Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified, August 2014
  4. Glassdoor Internal Data, April 2017
  5. “Why Employee Referrals Are the Best Source Of Hire,” Laurence Hebberd, https://theundercoverrecruiter.com/infographic-employee-referrals-hire/
  6. Aptitude Research Partners, 2017
  7. Data analysis of 12M applications 7/1/16-12/31/17 from leading ATS provider Greenhouse comparing application-to-hire ratios for Glassdoor vs. other job sites
  8. 2017 Glassdoor Employer Retention Study