Dear Matt: I’m hearing it’s a candidate driven market now. What does that mean, and how does it affect me?

Matt says: As the job market improves, employers have fewer options and employees have more — especially those with in-demand skills. That’s what employers are seeing now, and that’s what is called a candidate-driven market. What’s more, the quits rate — used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track how many people are leaving their jobs — is the highest it’s been since 2008, suggesting more professionals are seeking greener pastures.

According to data compiled by specialized staffing firm Robert Half (RHI.com), there were seven unemployed workers for every job opening at the height of the recession; today there are 1.9 unemployed workers per opening.

So what does this all mean? Employers that take too long to hire will miss out on the best candidates because another company will snatch them up, and candidates who are not serious about making a move are going to be passed over by candidates ready to move on. And local recruiters are seeing job seekers who are not serious about the job search.

“I have seen candidates come to me for positions, only to find that they are really not that ready to move,” says Jake Wyant, Director of Staffing and Capacity Planning for Avaap, a global IT services and software development firm. “They either back out — too scared — or they try and play games. What I mean by ‘games’ is they try to get into some heavy negotiations over salary, benefits and vacation — and then they wonder why they got passed over.”

As a job seeker, this is a good reminder to think about what it is you want in your next position. Take some time to review what’s important in your career: Work/life balance, company culture, company mission and core values, a shorter commute, work-at-home opportunities, comprehensive benefits and retirement, the opportunity to work with new technology and so on. Then think about what’s missing at your current role. Will you be able to clearly express this to a recruiter if approached?

“It’s important for candidates to be honest with recruiters as to what they are looking for,” says Wyant. “If we have done our job by asking the right questions and finding them a new position that meets all if their needs and the offer is such — why not make the move? Were they just holding back and not fully up front in the first place? Did something change between the last conversation and offer letter?”

Negotiate, ask questions, learn as much as you can about the job and company — but be serious about the job search and a potential job offer. It’s a candidate-driven market, and the candidate who is ready and serious will get the job.

Contact Matt at jobslink@startribune.com.