Competing for Talent When the Competition is Tough

Not long ago, candidates competed with one another for jobs. Now employers compete against other employers for well-qualified candidates.

A case in point: Recently, we conducted a search for senior financial professionals for a client. After a three-month search, our client made highly competitive offers to two early-career, high-potential individuals. Only after these offers were made did we discover that both individuals were considering competing job offers from other companies. It shouldn’t have surprised us: it happens often.

In the end, what our client did to get these candidates to accept their offer was impressive.

First, they sought to understand the situation from the candidates’ perspective. Not once did they adopt a “take or leave it” attitude toward their job offer. Instead, they met face-to-face with each individual to develop a clear understanding of what each candidate valued.

Through these discussions, they uncovered each of the candidate’s motivations.

They found that compensation, while important, was not their primary factor when considering job offers. Although our client did increase the offers by a couple of thousand dollars in the end, acceptance of these offers was not based on money.

They also discovered that each individual’s key concern revolved around their career advancement, specifically how they would develop new skills and experiences that would boost their careers over time.

Our client could map a career path for the next three years with this knowledge. They spoke of new learning, added job responsibilities, training opportunities, and anticipated promotions. As both individuals were still early in their careers, this information was valuable to them in their decision-making.

Our client also discovered how important flexibility was to these individuals. They learned that working a hybrid model (working partly from home and partly from the office) was preferable and built a work schedule that accommodated both the company and the candidates.

The final thing our client did — which was very impressive — demonstrated that they really wanted the candidates to join their company. They displayed interest, sincerity, and enthusiasm toward the candidates. They even met with them after-hours, in coffee shops near the candidates’ homes, instead of having the candidate go to their offices. They did a series of small things that showed interest, and the candidates learned that this employer really wanted them.

In the end, it worked. Both candidates accepted and joined the company.

Strong candidates have many choices, and all employers must understand that the old rules no longer apply. To be effective at attraction and retention and be a workplace candidates want to join and stay, you have to compete against all these choices.