Don’t Get Tunnel Vision: Setting Salaries that Attract Top Talent

Don’t Get Tunnel Vision: Setting Salaries that Attract Top Talent

Setting Salaries

Setting Salaries

I worked with a startup client in recent months who was in search of a senior level Java developer. Early on, they set their expectations for what competitive compensation looked like, determining that the market should be yielding $110K – $115K for high level candidates.  In reality, the going rate for senior level Java developers in their region started at $130K, with some markets yielding as high as $200K for the right talent. Despite this information, the company was insistent that the offering would attract what they needed.

For startups, this is a common mental pitfall, and can be a difficult one to escape.  Companies will take one data point from an existing candidate or employee, and latch on to that number as the basis for their offering. Although this may reflect an accurate offering, there are many instances where this data point is based on an underpaid employee or a less experienced candidate. For cash-strapped emerging companies, it can be difficult to stray away from a low number once the expectations are set. Founders can easily get anchored to an attractive number that is unreasonable in reality. Yet for today’s startup, trying to attract needed top talent while competing with a below market rate can ultimately lead to failure.

Sometimes, companies get tunnel vision because of an unreasonable data point. Yet many founders simply have difficulty determining the market rate for the talent that they need.  After all, too low of an offering simply won’t attract what you need, but too high an offering can be a waste of resources, and in itself can also cause some candidates to opt out.

Thus, the real question: How do you set your salary offering to get the talent you need?

1. Research setting salaries for comparable positions: This makes sense as a starting point, since this almost literally defines the ‘market rate.’ Be sure to look into positions requiring the skill sets, technology exposure, and experience level that your company requires.

2. Research the going rate in the job’s locations: The salary for a senior level Java developer in Kansas City will be dramatically lower than one in Palo Alto.  Even within the internal geography of the Bay Area, there will be salary differences based on location.

3. Ask your candidates: The talent that you already interact with can be a great source of data. Gather information about what they make with their current work and what they are seeking at their next venture. If you can get a straight answer, you can also inquire about other positions that they are researching and/or applying to, and put research around the compensation for those positions.

4. Consider what it will take to lure top talent away from their current position: The fact is that top talent is rarely out of work. Thus, your market for top performing employees is mostly passive, and has the option to simply stay where they are. Although salary is only a small factor in choosing work among top talent in most cases, especially for those looking to work at startups, it remains a component that affects every candidate’s decisions nonetheless.

5. Compare what you can afford to the importance and long term impact of the position: As mentioned, emerging companies are inherently strapped for cash. Yet early on, any new hire will have a significant impact on the bottom line and on both the short and long term growth of the organization. This should not be a strong factor in setting salaries, but may help you determine whether you are hiring for the right position at a given time.

You may be cringing at the market rate that you just recalculated. But consider this: If you don’t get top performing talent with the right skills and experience for your needs, what kind of damage will that do to your startup’s progress in the long term? If your compensation doesn’t compete in the talent marketplace, you will have difficulty getting what you need, and hinder your company’s growth.  So don’t anchor yourself to a number, and stay open minded. Get multiple data points from a variety of sources, and figure out where you fit within that mix. And if you still have trouble justifying the cost for the benefits of the position, then you might want to reconsider the hire altogether. After all, your company’s talent will be its most valuable resource and its highest yielding investment.

3 Keys To Hiring a Passive Candidate

3 Keys To Hiring a Passive Candidate

Hiring a Passive Candidate

The top talent for your essential role is currently employed and not actively looking for other opportunities. These passive candidates are frequently approached with new opportunities by many tempting suitors. At Millennium Search, we run across this scenario on a regular basis, but we have identified several elements to address that lead to a higher rate of success. To ensure that you capture their attention and turn them into your employee, address these 3 key elements.

1. Define The Compromises You Can Make

Target your shortlist of non-negotiable skills that encompass the three or four that are core to the role. Narrowing down these essential skills allows you to remain flexible on the overall arsenal of experience a candidate holds. Having levers and a level of realism that finding perfection is a challenge will allow you to think outside the box. Without a targeted core skills list you might exclude a passive candidate from consideration because they don’t fit the full laundry list of desired criteria. But if this passive candidate excels in your core essentials and demonstrates a strong ability to quickly acquire more ancillary keys for success, they could be the right person for the job.

2. Be Quick To Engage The People You Like

Because you can more quickly identify that passive candidate as your leading candidate on paper, you can engage them more quickly than your competitors. The initial dialogue is key to acquiring talent, but more important is keeping the candidate engaged once an interest is expressed. Do not leave this candidate waiting. When a real star surfaces and it is evident they are “the one,” keep the communication prompt and flowing with requests for information and interviews. In addition to keeping them warm, it creates opportunities for you to re-qualify their interest level and gauge other opportunities they have under consideration. Waiting to see if the grass is greener with another pool of candidates increases the likelihood that you will lose the passive candidate altogether.

3. Be Prepared To Compensate

Often, your biggest competitor for the passive candidate is not one of the other companies soliciting offers. It is the candidate’s current employer. Such top talent is not going to be allowed to go quietly. You can be sure that a counter-offer will be presented as soon as yours is made. In this competitive market you cannot get away with paying less salary because of options and upside. To attract high quality, you need to be aware of market compensation and structure your compensation package accordingly. A strong salary with options and a bonus will allow the candidate to resign without second thoughts.

Preparation is paramount when targeting the passive candidate. Before you do anything else, you must set the key skills for your role to recognize the variables that you can be open with. This allows you to quickly identify talented passive candidates to target them before others can. Being ready with your qualifying process gives you the ability to be swift and constant during engagement. And doing your research on market compensation gives the passive candidate the confidence to join your team, regardless of their current employer’s efforts to retain them.

Passive Candidates: The Holy Grail of Recruiting

Passive Candidates: The Holy Grail of Recruiting

Passive Candidates

The ability to recruit the people who are already employed and place them in a new role with another company is what differentiates recruiting firms from internal corporate recruiters and hiring managers. The longer you work in the recruiting industry, the larger your network becomes and the greater your experience level in finding and converting passive candidates into new hires. Credible recruiting firms specialize in this area of expertise and the process is actually quite simple, when you know the keys and use the tools to implement them.


Passive candidates are bombarded by emails, in-mails and voice mails on a regular basis. After a while, they all start to blur together. Just another recruiter pitching the same job they don’t want over and over. Your message needs to be clear, unique and confident. When passive candidates hear your message, you can guarantee they are going to research you, your firm and your reputation before deciding whether or not to waste their time engaging with you. Therefore, your online activity and profiles need to tell your story succinctly and effectively. Your profiles should consistently tell the story of why candidates and clients alike turn to you for the perfect match. Be a thought leader, and display your expertise. Contribute new information to stale discussions. Share recommendations on your LinkedIn profile that back up your story. These pieces of evidence attract attention, build your credibility, make you trustworthy and encourage passive candidates to respond to your offer.


Have you ever found yourself in a voting booth without much knowledge on the local candidates running for the town election? What do you do? You vote for the name that is most familiar, or least offensive, or because they live in your neighborhood. Not necessarily the wisest method for voting, but a reality nonetheless. The same reality exists online within social media. The more frequent your tweets or posts, the larger your following, the broader your presence across a variety of platforms, and the more recognizable your brand becomes to passive candidates. You become familiar. You travel in the same circles. You offer quality content with consistency. Your message eventually gets across. Not by spamming. Not by offending. Don’t be that person. That person gives recruiters a bad name.


It’s one thing to read, create or share thoughtful content. It’s another to comment on it. But it is even better to read everyone else’s comments first. When you attend a networking event, you don’t just walk in, blurt out your elevator pitch and walk away. No, you introduce yourself. Listen to what other people have to say. Don’t deliver sales’ pitches; have conversations. You offer networking ideas, swap contact information and build on that relationship later with a personal base established. That message is going to be returned as a result. By reading through the comments on an article of interest, you can discover high quality responses from high quality talent. Seek them out on LinkedIn and reach out to them with a message that instantly commands attention by explaining how their thoughts on that article led you to feel they could be a great fit for the role you are recruiting.


There’s nothing like a referral in the recruiting industry. Passive candidates live in your Rolodex – you just need to be confident enough to find them. A terrific way to locate passive candidates is to go where you have placed someone previously. Ask your clients’ hiring managers. Research their story as much as you would a candidate’s. Find out where they’ve been and who they know. Armed with these details, you can target your referral search through them by requesting introductions to passive candidates they know from a specific former employer. Candidates you have placed are natural referral sources. Because they are happy in their new role that you’ve matched them with, and especially if they too were a passive candidate you converted, these allies will gladly provide you with introductions to their network and perhaps do some additional promo for your skills in advance. In the end, regardless of the person you are speaking with, when you are engaged in conversation you need to get the most out of them – names of passive candidates and introductions to them.


Social Media sites have extensive tools built within them and often outside tools designed specifically to enhance their usability. Become an expert in the functionality of the sites you utilize so that you can find the features that maximize your effectiveness in finding and communicating with the passive candidate audience. For example, LinkedIn groups allow you to filter searches within the groups themselves by keywords of your choosing. Go beyond simply posting your job listing in the group. Filter a search within the group to find the members who have the skills your role needs. Be proactive and reach out to them with an advance shot at the opportunity. Because you are actively contributing to the group with quality discussions and information, your message has a greater chance of receiving a response. They will see your profile, find confidence in your reputation and respond with a desire for more information, or perhaps refer you to someone else instead.


Everyone wants to know the secrets behind the magic touch, but the reality is it is all about confidence and competence. People want to work with winners. People want to work with a winning formula. People want to make sure you’re listening. Recruiters need to know how to build relationships and then take them to the next level. Listen closely to the passive candidate you’re talking to. Know exactly what you’re talking about. Always hit upon what they want by asking what their ideal situation would be. And then listen. Never bother them with openings that aren’t relevant to them. Let “That Person” bombard them with irrelevant roles that frustrate and infuriate. Stand out by knowing how to deliver quality matches for their desires. This will make them a willing part of your network and keep them coming back to you.

Millennium Search is a leader in the executive search world, with years of success helping startups and organizations in the high technology sector connect with top talent.

Capturing Top Talent in a Competitive Market

Capturing Top Talent in a Competitive Market

Capturing Top Talent

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.

Create A Startup That’s Attractive to Top Talent

Create A Startup That’s Attractive to Top Talent

Startup That's Attractive

Regardless of how brilliant your concept/product/service may be to the world of consumers, if you don’t have the best employees in place to produce what needs to be consumed, your business will fail.

Quality talent – top talent – will make or break a startup. Having them on your team will make your life easier, your idea better and your returns more profitable. So how do you convince them to leave their cushy, high paying, secure job to take a role with your startup?

Have a Good Business Plan and Goals

Regardless of the size or longevity of the company, when a business plan is not in place, failure will follow. A business plan is vital to providing a firm roadmap for leverage in luring both investors and talent. The basis of a viable business plan is to first outline your company’s goals. You know what you’re doing, what you want to do and how to get there. The more clearly you express that in your plan, the more confident your investors and employees will be in your company, making you appear as lower risk and higher reward.

Research your niche and know what everyone else is already doing. By becoming an expert in your field, you will attract investors and talent. Define your edge, and why that makes you the place to be. What do you do that no one else does? What do you offer that they can’t? Every business has a unique feature – find it and highlight it. Also be sure to identify your team’s weaknesses to know the talent to hire with those strengths.

Becoming organized is essential to the success of your business plan. Create a detailed accounting of every step in the process towards reaching your goals; from launch to IPO and also for undesired exit plans. These days, candidates cycle from one job to the next every few years. Even if your company fails, it generally takes several years before your path is firm and clear. Of course, putting the right talent in place can keep failure from happening. Your business plan is a fluid document – finances, trends and your resulting strategies change. Keep your plan as up to date as your research, marketing and financial reporting. Having a multi-year game plan in place gives talent a measure of security with you, compared to the same timeline with a standard stepping-stone role at a more established company.

In the end, your goals allow you to measure success on both a company and employee level. Communicating those goals reassures your team that a strong foundation is in place and tells them where your desired structure is heading.

Recruiting Talent to Your Startup

You don’t have to be big to be known. What is most important is getting your name out there. Links to your press coverage on established name brand sites carry weight with talent, instantly making your company more relevant. Speak at industry conferences and network with the resulting ready-made audience of people interested in your brand; if your leadership is as inspiring as it should be, this could be easy-pickings.

Avoid Hiring Blinders. Just remember that sometimes the hiring process creates them. Be careful not to fall into the trap of just hiring the most talented person for the job, if that person is not as passionate about your goals as you are. You are passionate about your company. You want to target talent with the same passion for your niche. Therefore your team of talent needs to be as supportive of your goal as you are in order for the organization to excel.

The lure of having the opportunity to work in a place producing this shared passion can be enticing enough. If they still need a stronger pitch, sell them on the edge that startups overall can provide.

Promote your creative incentives/benefit packages when listing your job so candidates can see what you are able to offer them that will advance their career (such as allowances for courses, new equipment, seminars, etc.) Explain how working for you is not only a secure career path, it is advantageous to their career. By being able to take ownership of greater responsibilities, their growth is recognized more easily and promoted more quickly than when working in a large corporate structure. Their ideas get noticed and implemented more quickly in a supportive environment.

How To Retain Employees

Once you’ve hooked that premier talent, don’t let them slip away. Be the lead and inspiration that your organization needs. Create a place where talent can develop, learn, grow and advance. Foster and emphasize personal relationships with your team, allowing for flexibility in their roles, their location and their hours to maximize their talent for your brand.

Don’t be the boss, be the leader. Be the loudest source of motivation, making your enthusiasm contagious. Top talent wants to work for an energized organization embracing their contributions, not following the same red tape procedures. Switching over to a startup can be like throwing open a window to fresh air after languishing in a stuffy cubicle – if your game plan is strong, you trust in their abilities and your attitude is inspiring.

And what better way to promote your brand than through your employees? Referrals from quality talent usually result in more quality talent. Implement a rewarding referral program. The better their experience is, the more they will talk to their friends, family and former co-workers about the best decision they ever made – working for you.

Millennium Search is an Executive Search Firm focused on recruiting talent for the high technology industry. Speak with us today about your search for top talent!

Use Social Media To Find Your Next Job

With the growth in social media, it was only a matter of time until job seekers turned to these sites to find their next careers. If you think that all of your profiles should be private and just for your friends, here is an interesting fact: 1 in 6 job seekers found their last job through an online social network. That includes Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

I am going to give you some tips on how to use the big three sites, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to use Social Media to find your next job.


44% of job search activity happens on Facebook. Facebook is used for networking, which is a great way to get a job. Your friends or their friend (or friends of their friends) may work somewhere that is hiring. Post something on your wall about looking for job, and if you have a good network, chances are you will get comments letting you know who may be hiring.

Also, Facebook creators have developed an app called Work For Us. This app allows companies to post their current job openings on their Facebook fan pages. This is good news for job seekers using Facebook because all you have to do is upload a resume.


Follow the right people, because you never know who might read your tweets. With that being said, tweet relevant information about the industry you are trying to get into. Keep up-to-date on industry trends and technology, and add your insights on these topics to attract attention.

Also, follow industry-related hashtags, recruiters in your field and job posting accounts where you live or want to live, i.e. @charlottejob and @jobslosangeles. Keeping up with these will allow you to see job postings.


First, make sure you have a complete profile. This includes having a professional picture, education, skills, past experience and a brief summary of who you are. Try to get a recommendation (or several) for some of your past experiences. This is like a reference and will help when you apply for a job.

Join LinkedIn user groups in your relevant field. By joining these, you will get access to the contacts in the groups, which will grow your network and give you the ability to contact them for potential jobs.

Companies also post their job openings on their company pages, which makes it easy to find and apply.

To Sum Up

Remember, social media sites are not just for hanging out and communicating with your friends. They are also essential tools for networking during your job search. By following these easy tips, you will be able to find jobs by using social media.

These stats were borrowed from What Social Network Has Most Job Search Activity? Inforgrafic.

Real Time Web Analytics