Talk about a changing landscape! Rewind to 2001/2002 when there were limited new jobs and an oversupply of talent. An employers’ market where slow selection processes and restricted remuneration levels did little to hamper the choice of short-listed candidates. Fast forward five years where jobs’ growth has risen to a peak, the market has upended and an employee market prevails. Yes, the tables have turned, which means employers are more focused than ever on retaining their employees. Employees (as a general rule) are happy and reaping the benefits of a buoyant economy and challenging roles, while resources and growth show no sign of abating. With a supreme talent shortage, strong short lists are precious and we need to work in partnership with employers to ensure the preferred candidate accepts the role.

It is an interesting conundrum, with employment at record levels and clients continuing to have high expectations for quality and experience within an acceptable and budgeted salary range. While salaries are on the rise with this high demand/low supply scenario, the primary motivators continue to be job challenge, career opportunities and other benefits, rather than purely a financial increment. It is now essential to place more emphasis in attracting and wooing those short-listed candidates for the role to ensure they accept the position, rather than either staying put or accepting another role.

So the search begins…

The scenario: a newly created marketing role has emerged due to growth in the business.

The process:

Step 1: Go to market with an advertising and search strategy (either independently or through a well-regarded specialist search consultancy).

Step 2: A quality short list of four. Delighted with the result considering tight market conditions and feel confident that all four people could undertake the role.

Step 3: Multiple interviews of short list of four people including presentations over a three- to four-week period.

Offer stage:

  • Preferred candidate: great offer, but candidate decides it’s not the right time to make a move and stays put. May have been counter-offered as companies work hard today to hold onto the talent within their business.
  • Candidate No 2: offered role, but candidate takes another role. It’s a competitive market; the other organisation moved more quickly, had a more compelling proposition and provided the right salary and conditions.
  • Candidate No 3: candidate withdraws (either takes another role or decides the process is being drawn out and they are no longer interested or other factors prevail such as partner transferred overseas, pregnancy, personal interests to set up own business).
  • Candidate No 4: client unsure if this person is quite the right fit.

End result: back to square one. Time, energy and dollars all wasted and the search continues.

Avoiding the traps…

Sound familiar? This is an extreme example, but certainly highlights a trend in the marketplace today. So how do we combat this situation?

It is important to understand the motivators for your short-listed candidates. Explore why they are thinking about a move. Have you approached them or have they approached you? What are their salary expectations? What are their career goals and work/life balance requirements? You need to invest the time to understand each individual to be able to provide a compelling offer that comprises a mix of career, job challenge and financial benefits.

Ensure you have a realistic understanding of the experience that can be gained for the salary band you are offering. It is a tough market to recruit in and it is critical to consider at the outset the areas in which you are prepared to compromise to secure a quality recruit. Within marketing this is essential within the $50,000 to $140,000 bracket and may require you to recruit competencies versus industry or specific specialisation. Perhaps consider a broader skill set rather than a specialist skill set in some instances.

Keep the process moving. Long time delays (even a week) particularly in the $50,000 to $100,000 category will invariably lead to losing short-listed candidates.

Provide quality and regular feedback to the interviewed candidates to ensure their buy-in to the process and that they feel motivated and driven to continue the process.

Keep the search going. While you have a strong short list of four people, the market is extremely dynamic; short lists are disappearing quickly, we are close to full employment (certainly within the marketing and communications area) and it is essential to have the ability to supplement the short list to ensure you are not back to square one when the candidates do not accept the offer. If you are working with a consultancy, it is critical to have an open and constant dialogue to work in partnership to get the candidates over the line, but to also keep working behind the scenes in identifying other candidates.

Choice is the order of the day for star candidates, and organisations that will have an edge in recruitment are those that can work quickly and effectively in identifying, selecting and motivating people to join them.

It also highlights the importance of rewarding and investing time in your current employees to ensure they are fully engaged in their work and are recognised for their performance. The time and cost relating to churn with the loss of a productive, effective and quality employee is significant and worth the investment of ensuring that person remains within the organisation. Some churn within business is healthy, but ensure your key performers are supported and motivated.