How to Recruit for Roles That Pay Below the Market Rate

There'll always be jobs to fill that pay below the market rate – this is just part and parcel of recruitment. In some cases, you might choose to walk away from the job on the grounds that the salary is too low, or maybe you manage to convince your client to push the salary up, but there are other times (when you’re working on a PSL, for example) where you simply have to work the job.

These can be some of the toughest roles to work, but if you do manage to fill them, you’ll prove to your client that you’re truly an expert at recruiting in your niche. So in this sense, these roles are worth more time than you might first think!

Here are six practical ways to recruit for roles paying below the market rate…

1. Source candidates with transferable skills

Candidate sitting in an empty waiting room A job that pays less than the market rate can be the perfect opportunity for a great candidate who isn’t being considered by other companies because they don’t have the exact experience listed in the job spec.

So try reaching out to candidates who you know are open to changing industry or job title and have similar skillsets to the job you’re recruiting for. These candidates are likely to be more flexible on salary if your opportunity offers an exciting new career path – even if they have bundles of skills that other companies are after.

If your client is unsure about these candidates because they’re coming from a different professional background, explain that the role is hard to fill due to the salary they’re offering and that it’s in their interest to consider the types of transferable skills your candidate offers. 

2. Use employee advocacy

When a candidate is researching a potential new employer, they’ll trust what current employees have to say more than anyone else (including you!). Therefore, happy employees speak volumes about any employer, and you should use this to your advantage.

Ask your client if you can speak with current employees to see if they’ll share your job ad from their personal social media accounts, or give you a testimonial about working at the company that you can use in your sourcing outreach. These detailed, first-hand accounts will be far more powerful than anything you say and will be a really effective tool for attracting candidates.

You could even ask current employees to talk directly with any candidates who are considering the role but need a nudge over the line. If you haven’t placed anyone there before, just ask your client if they can refer someone from the relevant team to speak to your candidate – after all, they want the role filled as much as you do!

When your candidate hears about the great culture from the people who work there, they’ll be far more likely to overlook a lower salary.

3. Sell the job differently

A recruiter advertising a 'new job' on giant phone and saying "You're a fit". To sell a lower-paying role to a candidate, you first need to find out what they’re looking for in their next role. This will help you unearth what’s really important to them (aside from salary) so you can sell these ‘wants’ back to the candidate and make them more likely to accept the job.

There could be loads of factors that are more important to your candidate than salary. For example, what’s their current work commute like? How important is career development to them or having the flexibility to work from home? The more questions you ask, the more likely you are to find that all-important hook that will help you sell the job effectively and get the placement.

4. Calculate the complete package

The cost of a new employee is more than just salary. Benefits (such as health insurance, bonuses or company cars) have a financial value that contributes towards the total package a candidate is offered.

Often, you’ll find that jobs with salaries below market rate still come with generous packages, so ask your client how much each benefit costs the company so you can calculate the value of the total package.

You can then use these numbers to present the salary as one part of a larger employment package, so you’re transparent about the salary on offer but also show the financial value of the role too. This will allow you to sell the job as a lucrative opportunity and help your candidates overlook the lower basic salary.

5. Look beyond the salary

A recruiter with a key to a door named 'success'. Not all candidates are motivated purely by money. In fact, a survey by Glassdoor found that 80% of employees would prefer additional (non-monetary) benefits over a salary increase. 

This trend is only set to continue too: Generation Z (the youngest candidates currently entering the market) care more about other benefits like flexible and remote working than the generations before them.

So whether you’re attracting candidates with your job ads or selling to them over the phone, remember that salary isn’t always the most important thing to today’s candidates and upsell the top benefits you think are likely to appeal to them.

6. Sell the progression opportunities

Unsurprisingly, it’s normally smaller businesses who pay below the market rate as they often struggle to compete with salaries offered by larger business.

But one great thing these smaller companies have on industry giants is that they can offer candidates opportunities to grow quickly within the company that the big players can’t. And remember that Google, Apple, Uber were all start-ups once upon a time!

Therefore, a smaller client with a solid growth plan is a great opportunity for ambitious candidates who are keen to be part of something exciting. These sorts of clients are worth investing time in, as if you do a great job filling these tougher roles, they’ll remember you when the company gets more successful.  

These difficult jobs will only be low-hanging fruit for so long, so use them to build client relationships that’ll be fruitful in the long run.

Are you working difficult jobs at the moment? The eBook below will help you fill the jobs that no one else can and prove to your clients you’re one of the best recruiter in your niche.

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Matt Jelley

Matt is a Senior Growth Specialist at Firefish. With bundles of experience in the recruitment sector, he's passionate about innovating recruitment with Firefish Software.

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