For anyone looking to hire top-tier talent these days it’s hard to resist the urge to mentally revisit those happy times (it wasn’t so long ago) when it felt like there was an endless supply of highly qualified candidates who were lined up around the block to compete for every open position. Candidates who were only too willing to jump through every hiring hoop, endure the most convoluted interview process and accept any offer as soon as the ink was dry. Those were good times for recruiters and hiring managers. And in case you hadn’t noticed, those days are over.

The hard reality is that the hiring landscape has radically changed in the last 12 months. Recognizing the change is the first step. Responding to it effectively is what separates the winners from the losers. Keep the following in mind.

1. Supply and Demand: With the economy showing signs of life again, hiring is on the up-swing. Many companies are using the extra breathing room from improved financial performance to scale-up and tackle strategic objectives and initiatives that require top talent. As a result, the competition for the best and brightest is fierce. Proceed accordingly.

2. Power Shift: It’s no surprise that when demand for premium talent is high and supply is low, the balance of power shifts to the job seeker. Top candidates are exploring multiple opportunities, entertaining multiple offers and are now in a position to turn down anything that offers less than everything they want. Be prepared to give them what they want.

3. WIIFM: It stands for “What’s In It For Me?” and it’s a question that every highly qualified candidate is going to ask you. In the good old days, almost any offer was accepted. In today’s market, a candidate’s decision making process is likely to go beyond compensation and benefits. They will want to know what else your organization and the specific opportunity brings to the table and you need to be prepared to sell the whole package effectively. Put that sales cap on.

Success in today’s candidate-driven marketplace requires a savvy, competitive response to a changing landscape. Companies that respond quickly and effectively, who can adapt their hiring program to the new market conditions, will radically improve their chances of attracting the best candidates. Organizations who continue to use “old school” hiring processes will have a difficult time achieving their true hiring potential. Here are 5 tips that can help you get on the fast-track to the winner’s circle.

Winning Strategies
1. Be Confident: As with many things in life, attitude is at least half the battle. Yes, candidates are in the driver’s seat but that doesn’t mean you need to be shy about touting the unique and compelling aspects of your company, your culture and your opportunities. It’s all about creating the right perception with candidates—if it talks like a winner, looks like a winner and acts like a winner it’s probably a winner. Candidates will pick up on this attitude and internalize it.

2. Pay Up: Losers will focus efforts on driving down offers across the board to pinch pennies. This is a serious mistake when you’re trying to attract top talent. Any recruiter worth his or her salt knows that a great employee will deliver 2 to 3 times more value than an average employee. Your best approach is to open with a compelling, highly competitive offer that puts your opportunity top of mind. The reality is that you may not get a second chance to make it into the candidate’s consideration set, so open with a winning offer.

3. Streamline the Process: If you’re still running an old school interviewing and hiring process (the gatekeeper interview with HR followed by a dozen more interviews and eventually months of multiple approvals for an offer) – rethink it immediately. That simply isn’t going to work in today’s market. If you want top talent candidates to give your opportunity serious consideration, be competitive and move along your hiring process quickly and assertively. When it comes to recruiting, “you snooze, you lose” has never been more true. End of story.

4. Make an Emotional Connection: Don’t leave out or underestimate the power of the emotional component of the selling process. This involves helping the candidate create a clear mental picture of day to day life at your company. A life that is happy, challenging, successful and rewarding—a life they want. When candidates have to choose between opportunities with equivalent rational benefits, it’s the emotional context that largely drives the decision making process.

5. Update Your Skills: Everyone involved in the hiring process—from compensation specialists to hiring managers and recruiters need to take an honest look at their individual abilities and hone the skills that matter most in today’s hiring marketplace. How effective are you at writing compelling offers? Can you sell the unique value proposition your company, culture and openings offer to high-demand candidates? Do you understand how to use your internal company connections to fast-track the hiring process for high-value candidates? Identify any skill sets that are soft or missing and address those opportunities for improvement immediately.

Change is inevitable. We all knew the days of relatively easy hiring couldn’t go on forever. But the recent shift to a candidate-driven marketplace doesn’t prevent you from being highly successful in your recruiting efforts. It simply requires adapting your approach to meet the new challenges head on. You’ll have to be a little sharper, a little faster and a little more skilled when it comes to attracting top talent. But the payoff is worth the effort because you’ll be converting more of those high-value candidates into highly valued employees.