Having an Efficient Recruiting Process in Place Makes the Difference between Attracting Star Talent or Losing Them to the Next OfferDuring Peak Hiring Season

Having an efficient recruiting process in place is key to acquire top talent in today’s environment.  Even some of the most desirable companies to work for lose coveted candidates to competing offers because their recruiting process is slow and cumbersome. 

Here are a few suggestions for employers who are actively recruiting for star talent in this competitive market: 

  • Involve the stakeholders. Make sure HR and hiring managers are aligned and responsive.  We’re seeing senior executives involved with recruiting top talent throughout the interview, offer and on boarding process.  It sends the message that the stakeholders are invested in the candidate’s successwhen key execs areinvolved with recruiting them. 

  • Have a clearly defined compensation budget in place.  When your comp package is out of line with your job requirements, the result can be  a long and frustrating search.  In a fluid market where everyone is vying for top talent it’s important to know how your package impacts your talent acquisition strategy.

  • Have an efficient process for candidate feedback. From the first resume review to post interview feedback, timely communication is key.  We’ve recently seen a company wait three weeks to extend an offer to a top candidate due to internal red tape.  By the time they were ready, a competitor had already moved and the candidate accepted their offer.

  • Be prepared to discuss the long-term career opportunity with the candidate.  Technology pros are drawn to opportunities to get their hands on the latest technology,to work in blended teams and to gain exposure within the organization for their contributions.  Team leaders need to be able to lay out a career path for the candidate, as well as clearly articulate opportunities that allow them to  advance their skill sets.

Recruiting strategies have come a long way from promoting casual Fridays and the ability to bring your dog to work as incentives to join a company.  Today, the corporate culture is defined by career advancement and professional development opportunities. With peak hiring season upon us, it’s a good time for companies to streamline their recruiting processes and actively compete to acquire game changing talent.



Building Teams from Disparate Corporate Cultures

We are working with more and more clients today that are recruiting talent from outside of their industry in an effort to gain competitive advantage. For example, I recently placed a talented developer from Silicon Valley with experience creating compelling and user-friendly interfaces at a Wall Street firm that is working to bolster their trading systems.  This required the hiring manager to put a strategy in place that supported hiring and professionally developing an “out of industry” candidate.

In doing the search it was clear that these candidates were used to a totally different kind of work environment and corporate culture. Their workplace was less structured or more informal.The organizational hierarchyand size disparity associated with our client presentedchallenges and the new hire needed toadaptto the industry and more formal work culture. 

Fortunately, our client has been extremely successful in blending teams comprised of talent from varied industries, and they have actually reduced attrition and retained top talent in the process. The hiring manager often says that although the team is important, engagement with the ‘C’ suite can be the critical component.

Here are some suggestions from successful hiring managers for making team building of members with disparate backgrounds look easy.

  • Look outside of your industry for corporate culture best practices.   This may mean that an organization has to be flexible in terms of dress code, hours and telecommuting. 
  • Create mentoring programs for cross industry hires.  Lack of domain experience is frequently cited as a challenge to candidates changing industries.  Mentoring programs can help new hires learn the ropes and help foster an inclusive culture.
  • Allow new team members to visit clients and observe their workflow and how products, systems and technologies are used. This firsthand interaction accelerates the learning curve and gives hands-on domain experience.
  • Allow members of different teams to work together on projects that solve a bigger business problem.  When individuals from different teams collaborate to solve a shared problem it creates a ‘win/win’ for the team and company.  The company gains a highly focused solutions team that solves a pressing problem and the members create bonds across business silos.

Building teams from disparate cultures generally means change for an organization. When these challenges are faced head on with a plan and leadership buy-in, the result is a stronger, more nimble organization that is better positioned to attract talent and leverage best of breed technologies from outside their industry.

When interviewing becomes sleuthing

I recently had dinner with two friends who were involved in a job search and both related similar experiences of being called for “exploratory” interviews.  A firm would typically conduct an exploratory interview with a candidate to determine if there might be the opportunity for a future position.

Both of my friends spent the majority of the interview being asked targeted  questions about one previous employer.  Both left the interview scratching their heads and wondering “what was that all about?”

Exploratory interviews are a common and effective way to identify potential candidates for growth opportunities but lately I’ve heard from candidates who felt the interviewers had motives other than talent acquisition.

I’m not suggesting this is a corporate practice.  Rather, a hiring manager sees an opportunity to gain information about a competitor.  Here are some ways to handle this awkward interview.

  1. Before agreeing to interview review the job description thoroughly and ask the recruiter or HR manager about the role.  If a job description isn’t available request a few bullet points that outline the role, team and high level responsibilities.
  2. If possible, get a list of the interviewers you’re scheduled to meet with.  Interviewers will typically be managers or peers.  If an interviewer from outside the team is on the roster ask the recruiter if they can find out what their role is in the interview process.
  3. Although it’s exploratory, prepare for the interview by researching the firm and giving thought to where you might add value to the organization.  
  4. Be careful not to say anything negative, engage in heresay or speculate about your current or previous employer.  It’s a small community and word spreads.  You may have left the firm but you’ll still need a reference at some point.

If asked questions about projects gone wrong or sensitive issues relating to your employer defer to your NDA or separation agreement if you have one. Other perfectly acceptable responses are: “I wasn’t involved in that project,” or “I’m sorry that I don’t have more to add but that was before I joined the company”.   Casually bring the conversation back to their current challenges and future initiatives. Tell the interviewer what you found compelling about the firm and why you’re interested in pursuing an opportunity with them.    Although it’s a tough interview it’s important to give a positive impression and leave the interviewer thinking about potential opportunities for you with the firm.


Does Being ‘Hands On’ Really Matter?

This is the question I spend more time discussing with job candidates than any other. 

In the past, a move to senior management generally meant not being hands on any longer.  There was often a clear line between “managers” and “individual contributors.”  As tech teams have matured and roles have consolidated those lines have blurred and technical managers are often hands on.

Today many senior technical roles require strong hands-on skills.  Most senior roles with small companies require a strong technologist, and more large firms are following suit.  As a senior tech manager with a global investment bank said to me recently,  “The net result of the technical decisions we make is aconsumer experience that either delights or disappoints.  As a leader I need to be able to make those decisions based on my own experience and input from my team.”

Since I spend a lot of time speaking with people who are unhappy in their jobs,I’ll add to that philosophy. People want to work in an engaging culture where they learn and grow professionally.  The ability to learn from experienced superiors who have dealt with similar challenges and who have hands-on experience is invaluable.

Finally, retaining your hands-on skills will increase your marketability if you’re out of work.  The number of positions for hands-on talentis greater than those without.  So, whether you’re in senior management or an individual contributor, make sure to keep current with your industry and technology.  Relevance in an evolving industry is key to employability.

Will it get you out of bed in the morning?

I consider myself lucky to know some incredibly successful people from diverse professional backgrounds.  Whether they’re "C" level executives or professional athletes, I’ve noticed similar traits among the uber successful.  One is passion and engagement in their work in a way that makes it seem effortless. Work is a natural expression of who they are as people.

In a perfect world everyone could reach this professional "Holy Grail".  Is it realistic to expect people to be happy when they go to work?  Should we expect to be passionate about what we do for a living?  I think so.

I can usually tell how excited a candidate is about a job when they leave the interview because they’re anxious for feedback.  When asking the candidate what interested him or her most about the job, I usually hear that it’s the people, culture, and chance to work with high caliber colleagues that’s exciting.  Compensation is rarely mentioned.

I encourage everyone in the interview process to ask themselves why the job they’re interviewing for is right for them.   Think it through carefully and discuss it with your family and trusted advisors.  Accepting a full time job with the hope that it turns out well is generally a gamble not worth taking.  Ask the questions, make sure you have all the information you need and make a decision based on all the data points.  Finally, do it because it gets you out of bed in the morning.

Why you should never accept a counteroffer

A few years ago I was working with a senior hiring manager to recruit several executive level candidates.  During the process, one candidate was given a counter offer from their employer, a global investment bank, and he decided to stay.  Although assurances were made that his role would expand and change, it never did and he ultimately left six months later.  This is a typical scenario and why accepting a counter offer from your current employer puts you at a distinct career disadvantage.  Here’s why: 

  1.  You’re considered disloyal by the organization and not a part of the team.   Companies want passionate and engaged employees.
  2. You’re pitting two companies (and their management teams) against each other in a bidding war.  The person who loses won’t soon forget and may be the hiring manager for a future role.
  3. Remember all those times you gave excuses for being out of the office so you could take interviews?  They will.  And they won’t trust you the next time you’re out.
  4. Accept a counter offer and you’re considered a “paycheck player.” Mercenaries are bad for morale and ultimately undermine the organization. 
  5. Your days are numbered.  The job isn’t fulfilling, it’s time to move on and you’ve shown your hand.  Your employer knows they probably can’t make or keep you happy in the long run. You should understand that they may have countered as a quick stop gap to prevent an immediate loss of intellectual capital but that ultimately they will be looking for your replacement in their own time.

Refusing a counter offer doesn’t have to be awkward as long as you’re prepared for the conversation.  Politely thank your boss and let him/her know that while you appreciate their offer you’re excited about the new opportunity and have decided that moving on is the right decision.  Tell them how much you’ve learned and developed professionally working for the firm and with the team.

Industries tend to be tightly networked and you never know when your paths may cross again.

Employee/employer must have shared optimism for the future.

Several years ago, a recruiter mentioned to me in an offhand way that he couldn’t think of too many more life-altering decisions that a person could make than where they chose to work.  He went on to say that the decision to join a company creates a partnership between the employee and employer that requires commitment and a shared optimism for the future.   I’ve never forgotten that conversation or underestimated the importance of candidates making the right decision when evaluating employment opportunities.  Although the actual offer of employment lies with the company, it’s up to the candidate to make the right choice for the right reasons.  Evaluating specifics of the employment package including salary, benefits, work/life balance and specific roles and responsibilities are typically the focus.  Candidates often choose positions based on compensation, but when they decide to leave a company, it’s frequently due to weak corporate culture and internal politics. 

We recommend candidates prepare one or two well thought-out interview questions about corporate culture, training and development initiatives, and employee success stories.   These are appropriate for the HR interview and will help to give a broader and critical perspective to the candidate making an important decision. 

Here are a few suggestions.  I hope they help you to choose the opportunity that fits you best.

  1. Please describe your corporate culture to me. 
  2. Please tell me a bit about your employee training and career development programs.
  3. What impact do you think your corporate culture has on employees?
  4. Can you tell me about some employee successes? 
  5. What do you think are the qualities that make an employee successful at your firm?



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April 2014

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