Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

Viewpoint: 17 Creative Recruitment Strategies to Attract More Job Applicants

A sign that says help wanted on the door of a restaurant.

​As I comb through the many recruiting groups on social media, one problem I am reading about more frequently is that the number of applicants to job postings has dropped substantially in the past few months. This quote by one talent acquisition pro says it all:

"It's been a struggle for us, specifically since the new round of stimulus went out. I've been in recruiting/HR for about three years, and never have I seen a such a decrease in applicant flow, and an overwhelming increase in turnover and attrition all at one time. At this point, companies are literally begging people to work."

That's a big issue that many employers seem to be facing despite reopenings and a swelling number of vaccinations happening every day. It seems a lot of workers are taking stock of their career prospects for a post-COVID-19 world.

So what's an employer to do if jobs are everywhere but no one is applying?

Boost Your Wages

First, I think it goes without saying that you have to have great wages and great benefits to attract today's job seeker. In retail, where companies like Amazon and Target have upped wages to $15 an hour, you'll have to compete with that. My daughter just left a daycare job paying $12 an hour for a job at a country club paying $15 an hour. To her, that's a huge increase in weekly wages.

One of the retail companies that does a great job at paying workers well (and using it in marketing) is Buc-ee's. They have "now hiring" signs in stores that spell out exactly what you'll make per hour:

  • Cashier or Gift Associate: $13 to $15.
  • Food Service, Maintenance or Car Wash: $15 to $17.
  • Team Leader: $15 to $19.
  • Assistant: $18 and up.
  • 40+ hour workweeks available.
  • 3 WEEKS PAID TIME OFF: Use it, cash it, roll it.

Fix Your Application Process

Second, you must optimize your application process to make it faster and easier to apply. Still making people log in to apply? Get rid of it! Still requiring a lengthy application? Shorten it! Chances are your application is keeping people from applying. Go back and streamline it.

Job applies are a numbers game. The average rate of careers site visits to number of applies is around 5 percent for mobile candidates, according to Appcast. That means if the company is directing candidates from a job board to their careers site to apply, they are losing 95 percent of the candidates with no way to reach out to them. Just changing this conversion ratio from 5 percent to 10 percent is a 100 percent increase and would double your applicants! 

This is where modern recruiting automation comes in. Jonathan Duarte, founder of GoHire, says his platform has increased the apply conversion rate 500 percent for several clients. "It's repeatable, and anyone can do it with a low-risk, low-cost solution," he said.

Try These Tips

Beyond technology solutions, there are a number of creative ideas you can implement to drive more applicants:

  1. Leverage influencers. Find and hire social media influencers in your industry to promote your jobs and culture. For example, let's say there's a nurse on TikTok with 80,000 followers. She'd be a great fit for a travel nurse company to help promote their openings.
  2. Apply from the job board. The vast majority of jobs on job boards redirect the job seeker to an applicant tracking system (ATS). If you want more applies, let people apply on the job board instead. There's a company called JobSync that allows you to do this on sites like Indeed and Facebook Jobs while still delivering the data to your ATS. Even LinkedIn has their own apply button. Use it.
  3. Apply reminders. Since the vast majority of clicks to your job listings don't lead to an initial apply, why not remind them to come back? Text recruiting software platform has a solution that lets you place a reminder popup after a few seconds that captures the job seeker's phone number and then sends a daily text reminder to come back and apply.
  4. Boost employee referrals. Here's what one recruiter told me she did: "I created a campaign of 'Become a referral hero' with a superhero theme. I have fliers and gave referral business cards to the employees to give out. I've done a blitz-type reward, such as refer someone who is hired by a certain date and we'll buy you a big screen TV as a reward. Employee referrals are the best thing that works for us."
  5. College newspapers. If you recruit in a college town, look at advertising in the student newspaper and website. Or partner with local fraternities and sororities to spread the word.
  6. Billboards. Offline advertising strategies are an often-underused tactic. Billboards (which are sold by the month) are a good strategy to try if you have never done so before. Just be sure to keep the messaging brief with a strong call to action.
  7. Virtual job fair. Host your own virtual job fair. There are a number of vendors like Brazen who can help, or for a DIY solution just use Zoom. Check out my article on virtual job fair platforms.
  8. Streaming advertising. Streaming services such as Spotify and Hulu now offer self-serve ad platforms. Why not create an audio or video campaign to advertise on these up-and-coming audience networks?
  9. Local Facebook groups. Post your jobs in local job-search Facebook groups each day. These groups are essentially mini-job boards inside of the world's biggest social network.
  10. Think leads, not applies. You can advertise for leads (people's contact info) on ad platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Trucking companies do a great job at this by simply collecting the basics: name, e-mail, phone number and whether the person has a CDL license. A lead is better than no resume at all.
  11. Internal ambassador program. Incentivize your employees to share your jobs on their personal social accounts. One employer does a cash drawing of $1,400 each month for employees who do so. If they also post about why they like working there, they get a second entry in the drawing.
  12. Use temps. Partner with a temp agency to help fill applicable roles. Give those workers a 90-day review period, and if they're good, bring them on full time.
  13. Start texting. Texts work much better than e-mail for some potential workers. Duarte from GoHire said, "When was the last time you sent an e-mail to someone under 25 and they responded to it in a week, if at all? Exactly! The only reason, outside of school, that the mobile-first and hourly workforce has an e-mail address is to sign up for Instagram, Snapchat or another social network. They don't read or respond to e-mails."
  14. Sponsor high school sports. Contact local high schools and see if you can sponsor sporting events. Perhaps you can even hold a hiring event at the game to help recruit parents in attendance.
  15. Relocation. If the job is really hard to fill, have some form of relocation package at the ready. 
  16. Job wording. Hire a copywriter to rewrite your job descriptions. Be sure to match the language in the ad with the kind of candidate you want to hire. Words matter in job ads.
  17. Content. Start giving job-search advice on a company blog. Write about life at your company. Give candidates tips on how to impress your recruiters. Be an advocate for their success.

Sure, it's tougher than ever to recruit, but it's even harder for hiring teams that are stuck recruiting with old strategies and technology. Jobs are everywhere today, which means yours must stand out above the rest.

That's where creative thinking and technology like text messaging and recruiting automation come in, and you don't have to be a big company to get it. Improving or replacing your recruitment technology will go a long way toward increasing the flow of applicants. Be creative, experiment with new channels and see what works.

Chris Russell is managing director of RecTech Media, whose mission is to inform the modern recruiter. Connect with him on LinkedIn.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.