Talent War: Rules of Engagement

What does four percent unemployment mean for businesses today? In short, it means the nation is in an all-out war for great talent.

The latest jobs report showed an unexpected (and whopping) 209,000 jobs were created in July which followed June’s also surprisingly high number of 231,000. Currently at 4.3 percent unemployment, a recent report on CNBC Goldman projects that next year the U.S. unemployment rate will drop to an amazing 3.8 percent, matching the lowest number set in 1999.

Hicks Professional Group has been in business for 38 years and we, too, are experiencing the tightest talent market since 1999. Working actively in the market every day to help our clients staff permanent and contract positions gives us a ground level insight to see what is working (and what isn’t) when it comes to being able to attract, vet and hire the right people.

Succeeding in today’s talent war is a complex topic involving many internal business decisions from the top down. There are many actions that need to take place to adjust to this current and coming market — here are three that we feel are the most essential:

1) Use early engagement to draw the candidate into the hiring process:
The mindset of the hiring team should be to “vet candidates in, not vet them out.” The companies winning the talent war now know they must engage voice- to-voice right away to sell their company and attract great candidates. Showing genuine interest during the interview process engages, excites and motivates the candidate at a pivotal time in their decision-making process. Asking candidates to take extensive skills tests, personality assessments, and lengthy applications prior to a conversation often end in limited to no response from the candidate.
Of course we not suggesting passing up a thorough vetting process, but the bottom line is great candidates will no longer jump through hoops to prove they should be interviewed. Too many competitors going after the same candidate are making it very easy and attractive for them to engage elsewhere.

2) Shorten and streamline the interview process:
The days of a candidate sitting around for two weeks after an initial email for HR to align manager’s schedules for an eight person panel interview followed by two more face-to-face interviews at the company over three weeks to meet people who they won’t report to or work with are long gone. Companies winning the talent war know how many opportunities are out there for candidates and know time kills all deals.
If you make the decision you are going to hire, reduce the number of people who need to sign off on the hire and get their commitment to place interviewing as a top priority. A streamlined interview process with decisive decisions and offers made quickly with constant clear communication with the candidate will put you a step ahead of your competition. Simply put, great candidates won’t wait around because they don’t have to.

3) Get comfortable paying more:

Wage inflation is real and here to stay. Hourly rates and yearly salaries for new hires are rising for the first time in two decades — it is important to understand this and react to it or you will be left standing on the sideline when you offer a candidate a job. If you make the decision to fill an open role, make the decision to pay what the market is dictating as fair market value. Market value is difficult, because no matter how much data you gather, ultimately what your competitors are paying for the candidates you want to hire is their market value. Most candidates interested in making a job change have multiple opportunities. If those opportunities are offering higher salaries than what you want to pay you have a choice — don’t fill the role or pay what your competition is paying.

The notion that companies can find a great candidate in this market for less than market value is simply not true and trying to do this at the offer time will cause you and your team members wasted effort, time, money and hurt your company’s image. We are seeing that it is increasingly difficult for companies to separate themselves with things like culture, work from home, good benefits, car allowances, etc. Companies in a competitive space offer these as a base line. Therefore, it comes down to money.

Candidates with the right skills are getting called weekly from recruiters telling them what they will pay them to leave their current job. Add in social media, sites like www.payscale.com and the fact that there seems to be no secrets anymore and you have a labor pool that knows what their market value is. Before you open a job, know what you need to pay to get the right candidate and negotiate from there. If a candidate has three companies from which to choose that are a culture fit, offer growth potential, perks and good benefits, why wouldn’t they take the offer that pays the most?

There is no easy solution to our current and collective talent war that will continue for the foreseeable future. But these three actions –- engage candidates early, streamline the interview process and pay fair market value –- should be considered as your initial rules of engagement to build and/or enhance other actions you are taking to create your strategy to win the talent war. Your future success depends on it.

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