Right Recruiting excels in finding professional and executive talent for small and mid-sized firms, nationally. As the market has tightened, we’ve developed new tools and processes that help us find people that others can’t. I know that sounds like braggadocio, but facts are facts. We’ve been ranked highly in both retained and contingency searches by independent journals and, in the last 3 months, we’ve identified candidates for three new clients as a second source – a firm brought into a project after another firm failed.
But, we have a problem. Sure, we can find people. Our problem is educating our clients that attracting talent now requires a different approach than 15, 10 or even 5 years ago. That is what we will explore in this White Paper.
As an entrance point to the discussion, a recent Wall Street journal article mentioned that some small and mid-sized companies are now giving their employees 10% and even 15% raises to keep them instead of the normal 3% annual review! My contention is that those companies are ahead of the curve. If you are in HR, an executive or own a company now, it is time to wake up. The entire professional labor market now mirrors the old IT market in intensity – companies actively fight over talent. As someone who ran a multi-city, IT recruitment operation in the dot.com boom, I see similarities in the market now and have real life solutions to help make the situation better for employers.
Once we have identified talent, the client needs to attract them. We would suggest that there are 4 areas of improvement that can make your recruitment process more effective. Some of the examples below are anecdotes we have heard and some are our direct experiences.
- Vacation Policy
It is important to know that the balance of power has shifted. In the past, the assumption was that the candidate needs a job and the burden was on them to demonstrate skills and the company would decide on the outcome. Things have changed. Full employment means that the employer may need the candidate more than the candidate needs the employer. Sound shocking? We recently saw a situation in which a client wanted someone to develop a new sales territory for them. They had a $5,000,000/year region that they wanted to grow to $10,000,000/year. After a 3-month search, the employer found someone both qualified and interested. An offer was presented that was a decent, not dramatic, financial improvement for the candidate but required a drop in vacation from 3 weeks to 2 weeks. When the candidate saw that, she asked for 3 weeks of vacation and was told that “we’ve never done that for a new hire before”. She politely said no, kept her current vacation and stayed at her current job knowing that a better opportunity would eventually appear.
Who really lost here, the company or the candidate? The candidate is cruising along in her current role and probably interviewing elsewhere. She will end up keeping her 3 weeks of vacation in a new job elsewhere. The company has an underperforming territory that costs them money and lost opportunity daily.
As we’ve said before in other White Papers, vacation is the cheapest thing you can give. Most people don’t use all of it and many people work softly while on vacation. Wake up about vacation as an incentive.
- Money, Money, Money
It’s isn’t always about money, as we will see in section 3, but money is a big factor. Traditionally, offers are based on a candidate’s current salary, primarily because it’s an accessible data point. But sometimes that is illogical from a market standpoint. It saves pennies, but costs dollars.
Imagine an employer who interviews 10 candidates for a job, 9 of them making around $160,000 a year and one making $120,000 a year. The lowest paid one turns out to be the best person and an offer is extended. Unfortunately for the company, the offer is based on the salary and not on the data the interviews have already provided. A $135,000 offer was made, a counter offer accepted and the company had to start over knowing that they will probably need to pay $175,000 to attract a $160,000/year candidate. Sad. An original offer of $150,000 would have prevented a successful counteroffer and brought the candidate up to the level that the company’s own interviews had demonstrated as an appropriate salary for the job!
Your interviews provide the market data you need to make the right offer. There are no bargains anymore. This leads us to our next trouble point…….
- Counter Offers
Anyone who you want to hire will get a counteroffer. It is cheaper to keep an employee than to replace an employee. There are two things you can do to minimize successful counteroffers.
Money has meaning but, for many candidates, employment is emotional too. They want to feel they are part of a team. They will work for both a company and an individual person and both the new employer and manager need to engage with the candidate after an acceptance in a very personal way. Welcome them. Be aware that after they quit but before they start, their current employer has full access to them and can engage in a personal way. Of course, we know it is usually a cynical attempt to avoid an expensive replacement, but to someone in the middle of the courtship, it can be persuasive.
To mitigate against that the new employer must continually reach out in the interregnum to maintain the candidate’s emotional engagement in the new situation. You need to start bringing him or her into your fold.
You and their current employer are competing for the same talent. Why give the current employer a huge advantage by just putting the acceptance in your pocket and doing nothing yourself to build the relationship in the 2 to 3 weeks before the start date? It’s not over till they start and sometimes not even then. Some companies contact people weeks into their new job in an attempt to lure them back into the fold. They are looking to take advantage of the new employer’s complacency. Sound extreme? It’s not. That is a talent war.
- Straightforward Offers
If your philosophy is to make a marginal offer and allow the candidate to negotiate upwards you are turning the process into a used car lot. Here is exactly what will happen.
You will make a marginal offer that the candidate will consider. You expect that the candidate will come back with a counter proposal as part of your slick negotiating strategy but instead, they talk to their current employer and get a counteroffer. It’s easy to meet or exceed a marginal offer because your competition is usually just giving the person an early review. They accept the counter offer and you are left with no one who wants to negotiate with you. You thought you were saving $5,000.00 in salary, but instead you are left with a dial tone instead of a continuing negotiation.
The offer you make should be based on the expected counter offer and not what they are making now. Be clear. Tell the person that your philosophy is to make a fair and generous offer as possible and that you expect the candidate to respect that and to avoid any counter offer temptation should they accept.
People hate to haggle because it demonstrates that every salary review for the rest of their career will be a win-lose tussle. If you enjoy a bazaar type approach to commerce, that is your right, but please understand that most people don’t, especially when it comes to salary. People want honesty and clarity because it sets the tone for the entire employment relationship.
We recently had this happen. A new client had a very technical position open in Virginia. The location required a national search, specifically for someone interested in a rural location. We found someone interested. He did research on the location and thought it might be a good place to grow his young family and settle down. He currently lived 1,200 miles away in Houston and wanted out of the congestion there.
Our client liked the resume and wanted to set up a phone screen with the department manager. The candidate was very excited. Sadly, here is what we heard from him post-interview.
The department manager spent 15 minutes just asking questions. He never actually personally introduced himself and gave no insight on the job, career or company in a meaningful way. It was cold. It was rude. It showed no understanding that the candidate was considering moving his family 1,200 miles to work for that specific person. Who wants to work for someone with so little empathy that they come across as a jerk? Unfortunately for us and our client, the candidate disengaged.
Candidates draw employment conclusions from the interviews. Basically, they assume that if they are treated badly or impersonally in the interview it will only get worse as an employee. As we’ve said before, they get a vote too. If you have a manager no one wants to work for, you have a bad manager. Train or replace with someone who can build a better team.
Your company is only as good as your employees. Every employer says that but executing a good recruitment strategy is hard work. Everyone involved should know these five things:
- An interview is NOT someone applying for a job. It is someone with specific qualities valuable to you who is investing time to explore your organization. Respect that investment by making the interview process seamless and efficient. It is your obligation to sell them as much as theirs to sell you.
- An ad response is NOT an application. The few people who do answer ads send out hundreds of responses. They may not even remember who you are 5 minutes later. Don’t let your inbox deceive you.
- Give the candidate an answer to the following question – “why should I quit my good job and work for you?” Remember the old question – “why should I hire you?” Now the shoe is on the other foot.
- Excellent, engaged people want to work with excellent, engaged people. One bad apple on your interview team poisons the whole barrel. Be on the same page.
- If you see someone good early in the process, hire them. Two months later, after you’ve interviewed 10 other people to hit an arbitrary number, they will have lost interest. People move on.
Finally, there is such a thing as candidate psychology. We’ve studied it for decades. You need to tailor your narrative and employment approach to match the needs of the type of person you want to hire. Pace of interviews, subject matter, composition of team, etc. should all be considered for each position based upon the profile of the person you seek.
This all sounds like a lot of work. It is. But, if you are hiring for a small to mid-sized firm in 2017, you are looking for the very same person that Merck, GM, GE and other large companies seek. They invest millions of dollars in devising recruitment strategies, on boarding processes and turnover elimination plans. You can compete with that by being creative, being more personal and just simply showing that your company is a good employer. Have a message and deliver it repetitively or face the fact that your firm can’t compete for talent and settle for whatever is left in the market. Of course, that is the equivalent of saying you can’t compete for customers and your business plan is to just accept as customers people who your competition has avoided or not identified yet.
It’s a new and exciting world. Embrace it. Don’t fight it. Invest in a strategy and plan and enforce it relentlessly internally. Don’t ever forget that the candidate has a choice. You can make it easy on them by putting your organizations best foot forward. Don’t be shy. Improving your recruitment strategy means improving multiple small things that, when added together, will improve your ability to attract and retain talent.
And, as ever, don’t forget Right Recruiting in beautiful Blue Bell, PA for all your recruitment needs.