Four tips to shorten your recruiting cycle and close top talent in a tight market

By Don Kennedy, Managing Partner

It’s a scenario facing many fast-growing organizations as I put these thoughts to paper. It’s Q4, and people are scrambling to “run through the tape” and finish 2018 strong. Further, 2019 projections and strategic plans are due to senior executives and Board Members, and those commitments rely largely on having the people and talent in place to execute. In what is an incredibly competitive talent market, companies are staring at a long list of critical open positions, many of them requiring a level of seniority and/or technical abilities that are very hard to come by, especially at this time of the year, when those very people are working through the exact same dynamics I described earlier. To complicate matters, internal HR and talent organizations are more often than not overworked, understaffed, and faced with the daunting task of finding talent across a complex matrix of roles, responsibilities, and varying seniority levels across all departments….at once. It can be thankless, and everyone should live a week in their shoes at one time or another to appreciate the task at hand.

I’ve lived through the Q4 talent scenario above many times over as an operator, and now observe it from the other side of the fence leading an Executive Search practice. If not managed correctly, a frenetic business pace combined with a very tight talent market has a high potential to put those 2019 commitments at high risk. However, don’t despair! The following tips will no doubt help you navigate through these choppy waters.

Embrace Outside Resources…but be VERY particular!

Shocker…a guy who runs a search practice thinks companies should work with outside recruiters. As someone who has been called on by more bad recruiters than I can remember throughout my career, I’m fully aware why skepticism exists when looking at the costs and perceived associated ROI with using outside recruiting resources. That being said, a strong partner that truly understands your business and industry, is accountability driven, and looks at the candidate market with a high level of scrutiny can be invaluable, and ultimately a bargain from a cost perspective. Anyone can throw a pile of resumes at you and hope something sticks. Good talent partners, however, more than pay for themselves many times over. Push recruiters on what they bring to the table. Get references. Role play (I’m not kidding) how they plan to position your company and opportunities in the market.  

Prioritize and define clear deadlines…with DATES!

Not all roles are equally important, and “ASAP” is not a real measurement to fill a critical role.  Further, it’s easy to question the urgency of a given position if there is an open-ended timeframe to get it filled. This time of year provides the perfect environment to map strategic hiring against the impact on 2019 plans and commitments. What are the risks to those commitments if you don’t have “Key Position X” filled by 12/31. Is the 2019 Product Roadmap at risk if a key Engineering role is not filled in 60 days? If you’re an internal recruiting organization, don’t fall prey to prioritizing hiring based on who yells the loudest, and if you are working with an outside resource, be transparent about prioritization, and to the extent that you can, share the committed impact that a particular role is expected to have on the business. When combined with clear cut deadlines, this makes for a compelling search scenario, and will drive urgency.

Sell your story with clear cut differentiators and metrics

Just because it’s a tight market, it doesn’t mean that the best and brightest aren’t open to a conversation to learn more about a particular role or company. That being said, a tight market means the window of opportunity is shortened. Whether you are recruiting a senior leader through your internal organization, or working with an outside firm, you need to be buttoned up on your story, value prop, and key points of differentiation about your company and the strategic importance of a given role. Don’t go through the motions and assume that because you work for a “name company” that people already know what you do and are going to beg you to work there. Conversely, if you work for a company that isn’t yet a well known entity, don’t sell yourself short as you go after top talent. Be confident, use specific data and metrics to tell your story, and talk about the impact this role can have on your company and market at large.

Run a tight process

The impact that a tight internal interview process can have on landing exceptional candidates cannot be understated. An organized, detailed, and timely process allows organizations to make the most educated and efficient decisions. It also delivers a powerful message to prospective candidates. We care. Conversely, loose processes with ambiguous levels of feedback without clear cut objectives for EVERY step or conversation along the way not only turns candidates off, but results in incredibly protracted timelines in getting people on board. Going back to the idea of prioritization and setting deadlines, everyone in the recruiting process needs to buy in and have a clear deliverable that they own, and are accountable to, for every step. If you are working with an outside firm, ask about their process. What is the level of transparency and accountability they bring to the table, and what do you need from them to make your internal process that much tighter? Remember, in a tight market, the best candidates will have options, and the process they experience really gives them a window into how the company operates on a day to day basis. I guarantee those companies with the tightest and most buttoned up processes land the best people in a timely manner more often than not. Drawn out processes with limited feedback and/or clear cut next steps are a killer.

I’m here to help…..

To throw in a personal plug, whether you are a client of GM Ryan’s or not, please let me know how I can help. As an operator, I’ve been in your shoes. There were times where I excelled in the bullets above, and there were times like now (Q4 and a tight market) where we I got loose and didn’t execute a talent plan to my best ability as I got tunnel vision on getting through the end of the year. Seeing the world from the executive search side of things gives me a ton of actionable insights into the talent landscape, and the best practices to drive results that can make an immediate impact this quarter, and set the stage to exceed those 2019 strategic commitments, so don’t suffer silently!

Here’s to sprinting through the tape in 2018!

Onward.

DK