One of the biggest workplace changes that will take place in the next few years is the way people are hired. So how do you get ready for the changes? Be a good candidate for one thing. But also, be conscious of how employers will start shifting to meet the good candidates, because you want to be right there with them.

Here are four ways hiring practices will change:

1. Companies will make recruiting young employees the top priority.
There is a massive shortage of workers beyond what anyone predicted. Companies were ready for baby boomers to retire. Companies knew they would rely on Generation X and Generation Y to replace those boomers.

What companies could have never predicted is that there are other factors exacerbating this shortage. Gen X is downshifting to spend more time with their kids. So they are working fewer hours. And Gen Y is flocking to entrepreneurship and self-employment. Even those interviewing at companies are finding that travel and moving in with parents is more appealing than the jobs being offered.

This means that the workers replacing baby boomers come from a much smaller pool than anticipated. And one of the most popular topics on the management consulting circuit is recruiting and retaining Gen Y workers. Companies have little idea how to do it, but they know if they don’t figure it out, they will not be able to maintain their growth. (Note: Some companies do get it – Business Week lists some big ones.)

2. Candidates will drive the hiring process rather than employers.
The conundrum of the new workforce is that they are always looking for a job, but furtively. Like, at a party for their girlfriend’s start-up, or while commenting on their father’s best friend’s blog.

There is a growing trend among young people who have honed their skills, and are good at marketing themselves, and have a clear sense of what makes a good job: They don’t need more job offers.

Street Attack is a company that attracts this type of candidate. The company is cool – it markets cool brands in innovative ways to young hipsters. And the opportunities for employees encourage personal growth. So someone like Jennifer Coe, a Street Attack account manager, is part of a large class of employees who is always looking for a job, but always performing very well in her current job and does not need someone to bring opportunities to her. She knows how to make them come her way. This is the kind of candidate everyone wants but cannot recruit.

3. Companies will stop writing stupid ads.
The custom of writing insanely uninformative job descriptions to attract applicants is not working because decent applicants don’t apply.

Companies routinely write vague offers like “salary dependent on experience” when the salary actually does not go above entry level. Or the company asks for impossible skill sets like “five years of design experience and good knowledge of accounting practices.” Companies also say things like “great opportunity” when it is actually a dead end, and “fun office environment” when the office is actually full of people biding time until they can get the hell out and retire to North Carolina.

JobFox is an employment matching site that presents a model for creating better job descriptions. An extensive set of questions – based on industry-specific research – helps companies write the kind of job descriptions that actually inform people about what is being offered. JobFox knows the pitfalls of the job specifications, and the transparency and honesty of the JobFox-generated description could become an industry standard.

4. The quality match will take center stage.
Companies are forced to invest so much in hiring candidates they can’t afford to make mistakes. And candidates have so many choices that they can afford to demand a great match. This means the matching process between company and employee is going to become personalized.

One form this might take is hiring people via their blogs. Blogging lets candidates show their ideas and their personality, and their work habits, which are all the things that matter to an employer. A blog is like a living, breathing resume and network rolled into one, which makes it a very practical job hunting tool for candidates and employers.

Young people are loyal to brands, so another form of personalized job matching could come with companies interacting with people in ways that allow the candidate to know the company. This is a way that a company like Street Attack can attract candidates. But larger companies do this as well, for example Pepsi has edgy videos on MySpace.

And companies like JobFox will continue to develop tools that help employers and employees hone their presentation skills to the point that they can tell each other exactly what matters so that they can create a genuine match.

5. The workplace will get great.
That’s right. The current gulf between what employees want and what employers are offering will have to close, out of financial necessity for both parties. And we’ll see a super-motivated workforce raising productivity levels to record highs while moving from job to job, to gather skills, contacts, and growth opportunities.