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We just can’t find anyone!” I hear it again and again in the current employment climate. So how do you find people when there doesn’t seem to be anybody out there?

It’s been a tough year and I’m hearing it everywhere – good candidates are scarce as hen’s teeth right now. It doesn’t matter if you have ticked all the boxes – you’re clear on the role, you have a great recruitment process in place, and you’re marketing your positions properly – it’s still really hard to find great people. 

I don’t know if it’s good news or bad news, but I can assure you you’re not alone, particularly if you’re in a sector like IT. So in our last post for 2021 I thought I’d leave you with my best tips for recruiting great people in a tough market, especially if you’re a smaller organisation.

And now is a great time to develop a competitive recruitment strategy. The start of the year, at least in Australia, is when the employment market really heats up. People start to think about what they really want over the summer holidays, and when the kids are back in school, people start looking for work. So let’s see how you can maximise your chances of finding them.

Right now is a great time to develop a competitive recruitment strategy.

1. Offer Sign-On Bonuses

Someone asked me recently if it’s legal to pay people money to sign on. And yes, of course it is. If you’re paying somebody according to the award or a contract of employment, that relates to their wages or salary on an ongoing everyday basis. But you’re free to make decisions about payments over and above that

Hesitant Candidates

Sign-on bonuses are quite common in certain roles and certain industries, particularly when the market is really heated. This is a way to convince a candidate to make a decision to come on board, especially in smaller organisations. 

That’s because candidates can sometimes feel there’s a risk to joining your business, for example, they might be thinking:

  • What happens if the business loses a major client? 
  • What if it’s not all as green-grass as suggested?
  • Am I going to be out of a job in six months?
  • In my current role, I’ve got stability. 
  • If I’m made redundant I will get a severance package. 

Sometimes it does take that little bit extra to get people over the line. 

Candidates Taking On Extra Work

The other area where sign-on bonuses can work really well is for roles where you can take people on that have downsized their life. Perhaps they’ve gone into part-time work but they’re happy to take on a few extra days somewhere else, or perhaps they have joined the gig economy or started freelancing. They may be able to come on board for a short amount of time.

One area where this is really common at the moment is deliveries. As we’re all very aware, deliveries have been extremely challenging during the pandemic because everybody’s buying online. Demand has gone through the roof. But we don’t necessarily have more truck drivers available and more courier drivers available. So sign-on bonuses have created interest out there.

Don’t Forget Existing Employees

A word of warning. If you’re offering sign-on bonuses, be aware of the impression this gives to your current employees. It may be worth considering retention bonuses, or some other way of showing appreciation to your existing staff, so they don’t feel like they’re not as valued as the new recruits.

2. Ask for Employee Referrals

People often say that the easiest way to get new clients is with referrals because there’s trust and social proof. When someone is referred to you, people feel like they know something about you, they’ve got the inside scoop

It’s the same with employee referrals. So go to your team members and tell them the roles you’re recruiting. Ask them:

  • Do you know anybody? 
  • Can you introduce me? 
  • Can you send them our details?
  • Can connect us online or in person? 

And tell them – if we end up hiring the person you recommend, we will pay you a recommendation bonus. 

Recommendation Bonus

This sort of bonus is going to differ depending on the size of your business. I’ve seen it start from as little as $100, and go through to $5000. It depends on the role and the company and the affordability. 

That might seem like it’s a lot of money, but think about it. Say you pay $1000 to an employee to bring you a new person – and remember you pay it after they’ve gone through the probation period – that $1000 is a lot less than you would pay a recruitment agency. And it’s probably a lot less than what you would pay using job boards to advertise. 


If you’re going to look at offering bonuses for employee referrals, make sure you have some documentation around it. It should make clear exactly who can be referred, you don’t want employees referring prior employees to you. It should also clarify how fringe benefits tax will be treated. This documentation doesn’t need to be long and complicated, it can just be a one-pager. 

3. Tap Your Prior Employees 

As we looked at in the post on boomerang employees, if you have a process of keeping in touch with prior employees, then this is the time to use it. Go back to them and see whether they’re looking for a change, or just to see if they know someone they can connect to you. 

I know of organisations that pay prior employees for referrals. Your previous employees are great resources to tap into. Drop them a line, or connect with them on LinkedIn and ask them to have a think about people they can recommend.

4. Use Your Socials

This is about really leveraging your employer brand, which I talked about in a previous post. Many organisations will post a job ad on a job board, and then post a link on LinkedIn. The problem is that not many people are going to see it because LinkedIn doesn’t like links to external websites, so it suppresses the post. Also, you only have so many eyeballs on it if you only post it once. 

So you need to go further. Keep posting regularly on LinkedIn, and post the job across all of your social channels, whether that’s Twitter or Facebook or TikTok. Tell candidates about your organisational culture and your employer brand. And tell them what to do if they’re interested in working with you. 

Now, don’t go overboard, or your clients may start thinking you’ve got a lot of staff turnover. Be clever with your copy and talk about your employer brand. You might talk about how you’re growing and expanding the business and that’s why you’re looking for people. 

5. Leverage Your Customer Newsletter

If you’re sending a monthly newsletter to your customers, mention the roles you have open at the moment. Tell your customers, you have great things happening in the business and if they know anybody, to let you know. 

Obviously this strategy depends on your industry, your customers and your clients. But it’s something simple that is sometimes overlooked. 

6. Redesign the Role

Everybody wants experienced staff, but sometimes they’re just not available at the price point that you can pay. We’re seeing that a lot at the moment in some industires, where very early-career roles are offered huge salaries by large organisations. 

If you’re not in a position to be able to match those rates either because you don’t want your salaries ballooning out or you simply can’t afford it, redesigning a role is a great option. 

You could reshape your role as a:

  • Traineeship
  • Apprenticeship
  • Graduate position

Obviously, there’s a bit more work in this because you can’t just hire a trainee, apprentice or graduate and then expect them to work at the same level as someone with experience. So you do need to make sure that you have support mechanisms in the organisation for them to be able to learn and develop. But this is a really good way to start to grow your talent, which helps you to keep people for longer as well. 

7. Sponsor Overseas Talent

Borders have been closed in Australia for two years, so this is a particularly tricky one. But if you are able to have some of your roles working remotely and working overseas, then you can tap into overseas markets.

Start the process of sponsoring people to come to Australia, but have them working in their home country while you’re doing that. Sometimes these sponsorship processes can take six or 12 months. So you need to be comfortable that your new recruits can work remotely for that period of time and they can work remotely if the sponsorship is not successful. 

So if you’re in an industry like technology, construction or financial services, you’re probably going to experience an even bigger crunch over the next six to 12 months. It’s a good idea to start the sponsorship process now.

That means going to a migration lawyer and starting the process of becoming a company that is able to sponsor people to migrate. So when you get to the point that you need to start hiring, you already have that part completed. 

8. Outsource

Maybe it’s because I offer outsourced HR, but I know lots of people who offer outsourced functions like outsourced finance, outsourced marketing, or outsourced sales. So it’s worth evaluating whether you actually need an internal person for certain functional roles, or if an outsourcing organisation might be a better option. 

I’ve had discussions with business owners who have really struggled to find a marketing manager, or really needed a salesperson but just can’t afford it. When I’ve suggested using an outsourced organisation, they tell me they didn’t even know these services existed

You can structure this in different ways. For example you can bring people into the organisation, which is like having an outsourced internal person in your business.

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