How to Attract Candidates in 2023? Change the Way You Hire

The job market has rapidly changed over the last few years, and as an employer, it can be hard to keep up. Widespread resignation and lower applicant counts have made hiring and retaining the right people for your team more challenging than ever. 

At CareerPlug, we want to make it easier for our clients to hire and develop the right people, and we know that the right hiring process can help employers through these unprecedented challenges. Let’s talk a little about the changes that you should make as an employer to get more applicants and turn those applicants into employees that are happy to be on your team.

Job seekers are expecting more  

Since the start of 2023, there has been plenty of buzz around layoffs, but most small businesses are actually still looking to increase their staff, and many are finding it difficult to hire enough people for their teams. 

For the last year, job openings have outnumbered job seekers consistently. There are plenty of open roles and not enough people to fill them. Plus, many small businesses feel like instead of just competing with others in their industry for top talent, they are now competing with retail giants like Walmart, Amazon, and Target for workers. 

Simply put: The competition for talent is high. 

And job seekers and employees are aware that they have leverage. If they aren’t getting what they need from one company, they can easily go to another. 

As CareerPlug President, Jenny Leman explains: “Candidates have higher expectations from an employer than ever before. Their bar for things like compensation, culture, and benefits is higher than it ever has been. And candidates typically have a ton of choices and they have multiple factors at play. People have the option to switch employers if a better offer comes around.”

Jenny Leman quote on candidate expectations

Job seekers’ compensation expectations have changed

Finally, there’s the elephant in the room: Some industries that have historically paid low wages now have a difficult time finding applicants to fill those roles. 

Consider restaurant workers, for example, who earn a large portion of their income through tips. Many left the industry in the last few years and have been reluctant to return to food service since experiencing the drastic effect something like a pandemic can have on their take home pay and dealing with the stress of unpredictable and ever-changing wages.

But restaurant workers aren’t the only ones. In a recent compensation survey, we found that 55% of all workers are seeking an opportunity to increase their pay, and of those, 67% said they planned to explore new industries or fields. 

As an employer, it can feel like there are less employees out there that actually want to work. But when we take a more nuanced look at what’s happening to the labor market, we find evidence that those job seekers actually do want to work — just for companies that promise increased pay and security, often in different industries altogether.

Which businesses have seen hiring success in 2023?

If you’re a business owner struggling to fill your roles this year, you’re not alone. It’s happening everywhere. 

But the businesses thriving in this moment are those who are getting creative, and shifting their focus to things like the candidate experience, diversity, and competitive compensation and perks. 

Take for example, the increasingly popular workplace communication app, Slack, who’s gotten ahead in hiring by outpacing other tech giants in diversity initiatives. The company stands out with recruitment practices like: 

  • Seeking candidates outside of traditional talent pipelines (like recruiting at an all women’s coding camp) 
  • Working with Textio to analyze job descriptions to avoid gender bias and appeal to a wider audience 
  • Replacing traditional (and often biased) parts of a traditional tech hiring process with more fair practices – like allowing candidates to choose whether they want to take assessments home or complete them in office 
  • Rigorously training interviewers by having them practice interviews with other employees and asking all candidates the same questions to avoid bias. 

Another example is fast-food chain In-N-Out, who has been hiring and expanding since the pandemic, thanks in no small part to a higher-than-average pay structure that they’ve used as a recruiting tool for years. The company believes high wages translate to high productivity and low turnover among fast-food workers. Other companies are taking notice and following suit. Nationwide chains like McDonald’s, have been open about raising wages to remain competitive and attract employees. 

Smaller businesses can put these same principles into practice for more hiring success. Let’s get into some tips for more successful hiring in 2023.

How to attract more applicants in 2023

We certainly empathize with small business owners and franchisees who find these job market shifts frustrating and difficult to navigate, especially since you may not have the budget to increase your payroll unexpectedly. So how do you attract applicants in this new world?

Our advice is to lean into the things you can control. Here are a few tips that we hope will make it easier for your business to attract more applicants.

1. Practice pay transparency

We’ve always recommended that employers practice pay transparency by including the compensation range on job descriptions. In our 2023 Candidate Experience Report, we found that job seekers would prefer to learn about compensation sooner rather than later. This becomes even more relevant in a candidate’s job market

As an employer, you have to be as enticing as possible at the beginning of the hiring process. Candidates will concentrate on opportunities that are upfront about the pay because they don’t want to waste their time trying to guess what an employer might pay.

Make sure they don’t pass on your job opportunity simply because you didn’t advertise compensation in the job posting. And if the compensation doesn’t meet their expectations, then you’re saving your own time by not pursuing a candidate that may not convert to a hire anyway.

You could also go one step further and advertise your compensation and benefits the same way you might market a sale to customers. For example, beloved Texas gas station chain, Buc-ee’s, has long advertised their competitive pay and benefits on signs outside their stores with great success.

Buc'ee's gas station sign with employee wages
Source: Dallas Morning News

2. Offer a signing bonus.

Most employers are familiar with employee referral programs, a recruiting tactic in which employees are incentivized to produce high-quality candidate leads in exchange for a cash bonus. Employee referrals are always going to be an excellent source of candidates who convert into hires at a 9 times higher rate than applicants from job boards. 

But in such a competitive job market, you might want to also consider offering a bonus to the applicants themselves.

If your objective is to make your job posting stand out from competitors — and it should be — then offering a cash signing bonus is a great recruiting tactic. This may be a new strategy for you as an employer, but you’re going to have to get creative to attract great employees to your roles. 

When you consider the cost of the time you’d spend recruiting, as well as job advertisements and other recruitment marketing costs, it’s actually not too far-fetched to instead divert some of that budget directly into your new hires’ pockets. It also serves as a signal to other job seekers that a company values talent. 

For employers who are nervous about implementing a cash bonus program, you can always add a stipulation that the signing bonus will be paid after a specified probationary period has passed. 

Pro Tip: Never include the compensation or the signing bonus in the job title on job boards. Major job boards remove jobs with title modifications. Instead, have a standard job title and attach compensation to the job posting in the appropriate spot.

3. Show candidates that your business is a great place to work. 

More than half of job seekers abandon their pursuit of a job after reading negative reviews about a company on employer review sites like Glassdoor and JobSage. If a business isn’t a great place to work, it can develop a reputation that costs them applicants.  

It’s really important to control the story you tell about your business and that you let job seekers know you care about your employees. You can use your careers page as a channel to market your employer brand and get candidates excited about working for your company. Ask your existing employees to write or record employee testimonials, which can be a compelling form of social proof for potential applicants. 

Add photos and videos of the workplace and the team along with a statement about your company culture, your commitment to their well-being, and any potential growth opportunities. Most importantly: be authentic about who you are as a company and as a manager. 

To learn more about building a compelling careers page, check out this video featuring CareerPlug’s Senior Director of People, Natalie Morgan. 

4. Actually be a great place to work. 

Creating a great place to work starts with supporting your existing team. Your number one recruiting strategy should be retention — especially when you consider that the average cost of replacing one employee can range from one-half to two times that employee’s annual salary! 

Regardless of the job market, the best employees will always have the freedom to be picky about where to work. Make sure you don’t lose them to someone else. 

To build a retention strategy, make sure you’re doing the following:

  • Hire the right people who share your core values
  • Hire people who want to grow with you
  • Give employees a sense of purpose in their work. 
  • Provide frequent feedback to help employees improve and grow and give them the opportunity to provide feedback too.
  • Find out people’s big dreams and motivations and help them achieve what they want. (Start this as early as the hiring process with a “lifeline interview”.)
  • Develop growth paths or career tracks.
  • Find ways to nurture social relationships between employees.
  • Create transparent and equitable policies around hiring, pay, promotions, and terminations. 
  • Communicate openly, even during tough times.
  • Consider offering desirable benefits like work from home options and more PTO 

The most important thing to remember is that empathy for your candidates will go a long way. Consider their struggles. Recognize what they want and what they need — and do your best to give it to them. 

Hiring Data to Help You Hire Better

Are job boards really the best source of applicants? When is the best time of year to post jobs? Learn this and more, plus compare your hiring metrics with others in your industry in our annual Recruiting Metrics Report.


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Originally from small town in central Texas, Ashley Johnson graduated from Texas State University in 2013 with a degree in Business Administration. She was hired by CareerPlug as a Talent Specialist in 2014, and moved up to ultimately lead the Recruitment Services team. From there, she pivoted to Implementation, and is now the Implementation Manager.

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Jenny Leman


Native to Texas, Jenny graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004 and joined CareerPlug in 2017. She retired her first career path as a Registered Dietitian after 10 years, and has found her true belonging in business operations.

As CareerPlug’s President, Jenny leads all teams to an aligned effort toward achieving our vision. She works to build healthy and scalable internal systems to equip and empower the CareerPlug teams to bring their best for our clients. She loves contributing new ideas and rethinking the status quo. Jenny really connects with the company’s core values, but especially with our intent to “Keep Growing.”

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Clint founded CareerPlug in 2007 with the simple idea that there was a better way to help employers connect with quality applicants. Today Clint works every day to fulfill CareerPlug’s mission: Make Hiring Easier. Leading by example, Clint loves spending his time developing new ideas and teaching others.

After graduating from the University of Florida, Clint worked in investment banking and strategic marketing; both experiences influenced the development of CareerPlug. He also spent a year away from the business world teaching 5th grade in Boulder.

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