A couple of weeks ago I discussed a war for talent. As cliché as the war for talent sounds, it is real. Recruiters and HR professionals have been talking about this war for over a decade and most are sick of hearing about it. The one thing we cannot hide from though is data. Data shows concrete evidence of what is going on in the marketplace.

America has been through two recessions since the millennium. The recession of 2008 hit most all of us, and most Americans are still rebounding. Let’s look at some data. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October 2009 the unemployment rate was 10% — in January 2015, it has dipped to 5.7%. In Michigan, the unemployment rate was 14.2% in August of 2009 and just 6.3% in January of 2009.

Job growth is at its highest since 1999, and 2015 looks to continue that trend. Underemployment does seem to be high, as many workers are still overqualified for their roles and doing involuntary part-time work. The underemployed are competing for the available jobs, and companies are still looking to hire the best talent available.

It is a confusing recovery, but a recovery nonetheless. Organizations are going to be competing fiercely this year to attract and retain employees. With unemployment dropping, consumer confidence is rising and candidates will be quietly listening to opportunities. When people have their guards down and are open to changes, this leads to a higher “recruit-ability.”

For the first time in many years the tables have turned — it is going to be a candidate-driven market. Candidates will be looking to make a change for a number of reasons. There is going to be some key driver that causes a desire to passively look for a new opportunity. Candidates could be looking for a higher salary, a faster-growing organization, a company with expanded opportunities, or simply to work for a high-profile industry leader. Candidates are going to be wooed by just about every organization. Organizations realize the time is now and they need to get their key players in place to capitalize on the job growth that we haven’t seen since 1999.

Job-seekers are going to have to trust recruiters and the organizations recruiting them. Relationships will be key this year! Without trust and a clear understanding of the goals of the competing organization, the organizations will not be able to attract or, for that matter, retain candidates. Companies are going to have to be relentless in their approach and get to the real issues of why people are looking to make a change and address them.

Beyond the recruiters though, the organizations that are going to win the war for the top talent will need a culture and employer brand that stands out. Marketing and recruiting will have to work hand in hand to make a clear, concise message. The organizations that will win this war will have a brand that is highly recognizable and relatable. With so much information readily available out there via social media, without a good online presence and brand, you aren’t going to be able to compete.