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What is a Candidate-Driven Market?

ImpactSearch Partners - Blog (2)

In short: a candidate-driven market is most accurately identified by ever-changing market conditions – an unraveling of long-held norms exacerbated by a market with more open jobs than qualified candidates available to fill them. As unemployment decreases and the economy grows, supply and demand are changing the way we hire and who we hire.

Candidate-driven markets are testing outdated metrics

Until very recently, many businesses baked in rigid qualifications to job descriptions. Qualified candidates were required to have a certain number of years of experience in sales, marketing, or technology. Not only was a college diploma from a prestigious university a must, but the diploma should have come from a specific college or university. Maybe strict requirements might have worked in the past. But nowadays, not so much.

Openings with hard-stop prerequisites simply attract fewer candidates. Many candidates read through the job description and self-select themselves out of applying. And then there are other candidates who actually meet all the requirements. They are more than likely overqualified and either come from a higher pay-grade or can reasonably expect a higher pay-grade than what is offered. 

Simply put: metrics such as a certain number of years of experience or a college diploma rarely speak to a candidate’s potential in sales, marketing, or technology. Outdated metrics say even less about a candidate’s ability to influence change or get results. There’s a different metric by which employers measure the qualifications of their ideal candidate – gut instinct and intuition. That’s where recruiters have the upper hand over hiring managers.

When should you consider hiring “outside the box”

Trust your recruiter. A good recruiter knows it’s not about lowering standards; it’s about changing perspective. Recruiters are often better equipped to see beyond what may seem like shortcomings, to spot true potential. So what’s the secret? How do you know when to take a chance on a promising candidate?

The good news: it’s not impossible to discover truly qualified candidates. Often, it can be as simple as having a genuine conversation. As recruiters, here are some of the top indicators we look for in candidates:

  • Knowledge – experience and education are great, but can they speak to sales, marketing, or technology? We like to get specific and hear from our candidates who can tell a revealing story about how they could demonstrate knowledge in their industry.
  • Enthusiasm – the difference between someone who’s excited and inspired by the position compared to someone who is not: night and day.
  • Honesty – nobody likes a know-it-all. Over-assuredness indicates the candidate has nothing left to learn. The candidate who is honest about what they have yet to accomplish is more likely to be eager to learn new things and take on new challenges.
  • Quick and clear communication – this can be a sure sign that sales, marketing, and technology are second nature to your candidate. 
  • Inspired – the candidate who brings new ideas to the table is also the candidate who is most likely to inspire and motivate their coworkers.
  • A good interview – this might seem like a simple metric, but a good, easy-going interview can go a long way in revealing any red-flags in your candidate’s portfolio.

If we were to add one more thing to this list, that would be persistence. Is the candidate actively pursuing a position with your company? Are they applying multiple times and for multiple positions? If so, act quick and hire them before someone else does. Likely, the qualifications they may lack are more than compensated with moxy.

If you’re still skeptical, imagine the difference between onboarding a highly qualified candidate who is not very motivated versus a candidate who may need training but who is eager, learns quickly, and tries new things. There’s a big difference.

What other changes can you expect in a candidate-driven market?

Location, location, location.

If it’s one thing we learned about working during COVID, it’s that what we thought was normal before is anything but. Many executives realize they don’t have to fly across the country to meet clients in person. Many business owners discovered that having their employees work from home was not only doable but could also save them a ton of overhead. The work-from-home trend revealed so many discoveries and opportunities that, in some form or another, working from home is here to stay.

If location is a thing of the past, just imagine what opening your pool of candidates from a narrow local search to a nation-wide search can do for hiring? Let’s take that one step further. What if the typical 8-to-5 workweek is just as negotiable as the position’s location has turned out to be?


During the past year, COVID put a spotlight on a growing childcare crisis for many working parents. The exacerbated strain on parents, especially on working moms, made women one of the hardest hit demographics during the shutdown. Now, as companies begin to reopen and rehire, parents are scrambling to find adequate childcare options.

In a recent survey, it was found overwhelmingly that what working moms need the most was flexibility. 71% of respondents said flexibility was the key determining factor in their decision to return to work. Workplace flexibility could come in many different shapes and sizes, such as options for:

  • Telecommuting
  • Flexible schedules
  • Part-time options
  • Building out freelance options
  • Better benefits

The companies that can shift away from a rigid workweek and meet modern candidates’ needs are best poised to capture a wealth of talent waiting to be discovered and put to work.

Market research and competitive compensation

The recession is over. If you haven’t updated your salaries to reflect the competitive rates in the market, valuable talent will happily find work elsewhere.

Savvy employers are taking more time to stay current on market trends. Those who have a better handle on the fluctuating wages in marketing, sales, and technology are better equipped to offer competitive salaries and attract the best talent. What’s more, a potential candidate can tell how much you value their skills and experience by how much you’re willing to pay for them.

A candidate-driven market means change

Change is good! Change keeps us sharp and keeps us on our toes. Innovation, growth, and market resilience are all components of change and adaptability. Change is perhaps the most pronounced characteristic of a candidate-driven market. Those businesses who are able to adapt, to be realistic about shifting norms, fluctuating compensation and the evolving needs of the modern workforce are the companies who will attract the best and brightest candidates.

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