If the economy is so bad, why can't we recruit great people?

October 2011

This is a question we hear time and time again during times of economic uncertainty.  Why, if there are so many people looking for new roles (even though they might be currently employed), is it so difficult to attract the right candidates?  Below are some of our thoughts on this question.

The 80/20 rule 

Remember the saying that 20% of the people do 80% of the work?  That same dynamic holds true in recruiting top talent.  Most, if not every hiring organization is seeking that top 20% to make an impact in their firm. While the overall supply of talent may have increased, only 20% of that total supply is relevant for our purposes.

It's not a pool of candidates; it's a puddle 

Our clients retain us to recruit leaders with clearly-delineated experiences and skills.  In order to minimize risk, the closer one can come to addressing all aspects of the ideal candidate profile, the better.  This strategy, designed to minimize the risk of a hiring error, further lessens the potential pool of candidates.  Or as a client once drily commented, "It's not a pool of candidates; it's a puddle."  

Risk and Other High Demand Functions  

Speaking of risk, that is but one area of expertise currently in high demand.  Various aspects of risk expertise - enterprise risk, credit risk, market risk - are in demand by organizations in numerous market sectors.  

Within the area of human resources, compensation expertise is highly-valued in today's market.  

Operationally-oriented financial executives with appropriate designations and experiences continue to be in demand.

Those who can lead highly sophisticated quantitative analytics groups are also in short supply relative to demand.

In the commercial real estate sector, regardless of which organization owns a particular asset, it still needs to be successfully leased and managed - making the top 20% of those professionals in leasing and property management leadership roles hotly pursued. 

Cultural fit is paramount  

If one overlays the particular experiences and qualifications required that may be in high demand with the over-riding objective of finding a candidate who will be a good cultural fit with your organization, the 20% quickly becomes much smaller.

Candidate expectations

In order to make a move, candidates are looking for expanded challenges.  They'd like to learn something in their new role.  The hiring organization must understand this desire, and be prepared to consider a candidate who brings 75 - 80% of what is required to do the job today, but who has the potential to quickly learn the remaining 20-25%.  Unless a candidate is fearful of losing his current role, or is very unhappy with his present employer, there is usually a strong reluctance to make a lateral move. 

What does this all mean for the hiring organization?

Understand, first and foremost, the cultural issues specific to your company - do not compromise on those candidates  you sense will not fit from a cultural perspective.

Assess potential - does the candidate have the potential to quickly learn what he/she is initially lacking, and to be a long-term success with your company?  Professional assessments and in-depth references are critical to providing additional insight into the candidate's potential.

Understand and communicate why someone would want to move into this particular role with your organization. What are the benefits in the short, medium and long term for the candidate?

Keep in mind that objective candidates typically want to earn at least 10-15% more in annual income to consider a move.  If your organization can't offer this, are there other benefits to bridge the gap?  If not, might you consider recruiting a more junior person with big potential?  

Put yourself in the candidate's shoes - or better yet, those of her spouse or sibling.  Knowing what you know about the candidate's current role and the proposed role, would you advise her to make the move?  Why or why not? Anticipate concerns that candidates might have, and be prepared to address them.

Don't omit to discuss other benefits your organization offers to its employees that are attractive to its people. Examples include work/life balance, intellectual challenge, vacation/personal time off, employee share purchase plans or other long term incentive plans and retirement plans, future growth potential inside your organization, company reputation and social conscience.  There are numerous others.

Strive for a win/win solution - this hire should be the right decision for both the organization and the successful candidate.

Use us as a resource

Please feel free to call on us as a resource - whether it is for recruitment strategies, assessment tools or references.

We look forward to staying in touch.