Jun 05, 2012 | Post by: Vikki Pachera Comments Off on How to Win in a Tough Talent Market

How to Win in a Tough Talent Market

If you are hiring today, particularly in high tech, you may be pulling your hair out as you try to land talent. Indeed, 2012 is proving to be a very difficult year to attract and close key people. The market is challenging norms like ‘internal equity,’ putting more pressure on how to elegantly approach candidates, and diminishing the value of transactional recruiting, i.e. job postings and applications. There are several factors at play:

Financially shell-shocked: People are still recovering from the economic meltdown that began a few years ago. We are finding that candidates, especially those who skew analytical, continue to be cautious, conservative in their desire to take on new roles. Some may be underwater on their mortgages; you can’t blame them for digging deep, trying to discover all they can about a company, shying away from ‘turn-arounds,’ or waiting until a funding round is about to close before jumping in.

Abundance of innovation: There’s a lot of cool stuff going on. Mobile devices and an improved internet, just to name two things, have spurred a reinvention of e-commerce, content acquisition, payment innovations, and more. For some, it’s like being a kid in a candy store—what you’re offering has to stand out, and be ‘sweeter’ than the competition.

Lotto mentality: I guess the Facebook IPO tempered some spirits but there are a lot of people, myself included, who would be pretty darn pleased with the market cap of Facebook. If people are going to work the hours required at a startup, often trading cash for equity, they may be in search of the next Instagram. The quality of the team, how recruiting and interviewing are handled, and the overall perception of the opportunity are absolutely paramount in a person’s decision to join a company.

Perfect candidates few and far between: There is zero appetite for ‘on the job training’ at most companies – which squeezes out new grads and puts a lot of demand on the top 25 percentile of performers. Some get no calls, others get 10 calls a month. Companies seem to be in search of similar talent. And that talent, by the way, is rarely looking. They are too busy doing double duty with their current employers so you have to be very clever in how you capture their attention.

Escalating Salaries: And all that demand, coupled with a revived stock market, is driving total comp up, way up in some cases. ‘Market value’ is often in excess of what current employees earn, and ‘Market’ may be too far off for some companies.

So how do you win?

Continue to hire the very best of the best. It’s a catch 22 but great talent attracts great talent. Try to figure out a way to be competitive on the total comp package. Stock and forms of phantom stock may be easier on cash flow than large salaries. Perks can be fairly inexpensive as well. To some extent, candidates may take fun over money but probably not to the extent you’d wish.

Work on marketing your opportunity. Everyone on the exec team should have an impressive Linkedin bio, for example. Think about what makes you great and spend some energy writing a great description of the role—candidates always tell us that they responded to our call because the role was so compelling.

Make time for candidates. You wouldn’t reschedule a VC meeting three times or leave your best customer in the lobby waiting for a half hour. Resist the urge to be transactional in your recruiting—spend time with candidates and WOW them on what you have to offer. Feeling really wanted is often a key way candidates end up at one company over another.

Use outside resources. If your need for great talent is critical and you and your team are buried in deadlines and funding circuits, bring in a team that can make your hunt a top priority. Yes, a shameless plug for ourselves, but we know the market, we know the hot talent, and we’re ready to go.

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