With UK unemployment levels at their lowest since 1971 at a rate of just 5.4% in February, the competition to recruit suitably skilled employees and increase in skills shortages intensifies.

Although low unemployment levels are positive news for UK job seekers, it means that employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find candidates with the correct skills for their roles. It is equally challenging for employers to retain employees in a significantly candidate-led job market, so it is important that employers have a clear idea of what they are after when hiring to avoid taking on the wrong people.

The 2016 REC Jobs Outlook survey reported the most affected sectors are professional and managerial level roles where 15% of employers expect to find skills shortages this year. A further 14% expect skills shortages in technical and engineering roles and 13% in the driving and distributions sectors.

The need for candidates is forcing companies to become more innovative and creative in their recruitment strategies. Here’s three fast and simple strategies for companies to find candidates:

Hire for development

If you can’t find candidates with the required skills and qualifications, one option for employers is to ask for less in your person specifications. Changing some of the ‘essential’ competencies to ‘desired’ ones and finding individuals that are eager, hardworking and willing to learn new skills means a larger candidate pool is available in a market where skills are scarce. Offering the opportunity to work towards a qualification or undergo training on the job will improve the appeal for your roles. You can then work with employees internally to develop the relevant skills.

Hire using agencies

As competition for skills increases in the job market, the depth of capability and knowledge of a recruitment agency should not be under estimated. Almost 50% of employers revealed that they expect their use of agency workers to increase over the next 4-12 months.

In terms of geographical region and skill set, agencies are likely to have unrivalled access to the candidates that business are looking for and the resources to acquire them.

Hire graduates

Graduates are quick to learn and cost effective to hire. They are also well practised in transferable skills such as organisation, written and oral communication and data analysis. To acquire top quality university talent employers should consider attending careers fairs, use social media in ways to target students and starting the hiring process at least 6 months before the graduates finish their course. If you have the resources and time to focus on this group, it can really pay off.

In some cases, companies may be required to use all three of these hiring strategies to gain the best candidates in the current job market.