It goes without saying that not all job openings are created equal—they vary widely in the skills and experience they demand, as well as the salaries associated with them. In many cases, recruiters are asked to help fill positions where the number of qualified candidates is far below the mean, precisely because the level of talent required is far above the mean.

Finding the right candidate for a highly competitive position can resemble the hunt for Moby Dick. Nonetheless, there are some strategies that a smart recruiter can use to maximize their chances of success.

Maintain Your Talent Pool – Part of the difficulty involved in recruiting is coping with deadlines—in general, you have only a limited window of time to locate qualified talent for a particular opening. This is one reason why it’s important to recruit continually, twelve months a year, not only when there’s a position to fill.

You need to gather a talent pool with individuals who have skills and experience relevant to your client’s company, and you must ensure that you stay in contact with them until the day arrives when it’s time to call on their talents. Any first-rate applicant tracking system will allow you to store candidate data and communications in a secure yet easily retrievable manner.

Explore Specialized Forums – Social media is a powerful tool for locating talent. This isn’t news, of course—and that’s the problem. When you’re trawling through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for candidates, you’re competing with other recruiters who are employing the same strategy. The rivalry for candidates can be acute even for lower-level job openings, but things get considerably more intense when it comes to highly competitive positions.

Recruiting Tactics

You can stay ahead of the average recruiter by searching through niche forums related to the specific position(s) you’re trying to fill. For example, if you need an IT professional, you should take a look at internet forums dedicated to this community.

Consider Near-Matches – What if you can’t seem to find a candidate who precisely matches the client’s requirements? It’s certainly not an uncommon issue with recruiters, even in the best of times. When you’re dealing with hard-to-fill positions, though, you’re looking at a relatively small talent pool—and, sadly, that perfect candidate may have already accepted an offer with a competitor.

This is where a little imagination may save the day for you. Good candidates tend to be characterized by their ability to acquire new skills; you need to figure out how close they are to the client’s ideal candidate, and whether they could close the gap with a reasonable amount of training.