There are still some people out there who believe the market is not competitive. Everybody thinks they have the best new, shiny object. And they just might, but the reality is that for every one shiny object, there are another 200 that are not quite as shiny. It is essential to recognize that the market for unique talent sits with the ability to make an object the shiniest of all, and is still incredibly competitive. Once the environment is recognized, hiring executives then need to focus on three key pieces to lure and place that talent with them.
Successful hires are born from openness to compromise. Companies must establish their role’s core non-negotiable skills. These cannot be everything in the job profile. Target the three or four things that will instantly exclude a person from consideration if they don’t have them in their arsenal. Once that is established, hiring executives need to be very open and willing to think outside of the box. For example, if years of experience is negotiable, companies need to be flexible and understand that if more experience is desired, they have to pay for it; if less experience is acceptable, that provides more flexibility on cost. Have levers and a level of realism that finding perfection is challenging. Capturing top talent is passive, meaning they are currently employed and are being approached by numerous new opportunities at the same time.
Regardless of how one of those candidates is discovered, whether via a recruiter or independently, engagement is critically important on the part of the company if there appears to be a strong fit for the role. While the candidate has to sell themselves to the client, it is vital in a competitive market for the hiring executive to engage early on in the process and continuously sell the company to the candidate. Once an interest is expressed, companies cannot just shut down. They need to stay engaged with the candidate to keep them warm via ongoing emails, requests for more materials and setting up a follow-up interview. These create opportunities to constantly re-qualify the candidate’s interest in the role as well to determine what other opportunities they may currently be considering. And when a real star surfaces, it is time to make a move. Forget about the other fish in the sea or the fact that a quota pool of candidates hasn’t yet been fully presented. When a candidate looks like “the one,” get it done.
Recently, when the market was less competitive, early to mid-stage start-ups in particular could get away with paying less salary for high quality because of options and upside. In this competitive market, in order to attract the same level candidates, market compensation needs to be paid in addition to options and generally, a bonus. Preparation is key while working on capturing top talent. Recognize that they are likely to receive counter offers from their current employer. And within that context, it is important for hiring executives to constantly re-qualify talent throughout the process. This ensures that when the hiring executive makes their offer, the candidate is prepared to resign, no matter what, and be in place at their new company to make new, shiny objects brighter than all the rest.
Sandy Bleich is Senior Partner at Millennium Search. She has seen success in both large corporate and startup environments, with over 25 years of experience as a technology executive. As a recruiter, clients and candidates have consistently recognized her as an excellent communicator and valued partner.