CXO

Winning the war for talent

We're in a sellers market for technology talent. Here's how to succeed in attracting new people to your organization.

From local burger joints to Fortune 500 conglomerates, everyone seems to have a "Help Wanted" sign in their real or virtual windows. Billboards even advertise open positions and extoll an organization's benefits. You might even feel like an early casualty in this emerging war for talent, diligently posting job openings that once attracted dozens of qualified candidates, which now result in nary a response.

So, how do you cope in this battle for talent, especially if you're not a Google, Facebook, or other large company with seemingly unlimited funds and endless benefits? See four steps below.

Step 1: Go from job postings to product offerings

In darker economic times, a company could create a borderline-unreasonable list of required qualifications (30 years of experience with mobile app development on iOS and a minimum of four post-doctoral degrees, anyone?), and watch the applications roll in. Now that potential candidate is largely in the driver's seat, these types of postings are largely ignored.

Rather than writing job postings that read like a list of ransom demands, think of the job like a product that you're selling to a potential customer. What makes your job unique in a sea of similar offerings? How will you word the posting so that the potential customer's interest is piqued? What features will you highlight?

SEE: IT jobs 2018: Hiring priorities, growth areas, and strategies to fill open roles (Tech Pro Research)

The exact same position can be "sold" in a dramatically different fashion depending on how you craft your posting. If your job posting reads like the list of rules at airport security, you'll lose potential candidates right out of the gate.

Step 2: Put some thought into the recruiting process

When the job market is down it's easy to channel your inner Caesar, sitting stone-faced while an endless stream of candidates is paraded in front of you, giving the rare "thumbs up" intermixed with dozens of "thumbs down" that end up feeding the candidate to the metaphorical lions of the job market. These days, however, the candidate is likely interviewing you just as much as you're interviewing them. If your recruiting process comes across as disorganized, and the candidate feels like an inconvenience rather than a potential valuable addition to the team, he or she is unlikely to accept your offer or even continue the recruiting process.

It costs almost nothing to have a well-considered process, and to communicate with the candidate and make them feel welcome as they proceed. This is especially true if you're competing against larger, richer companies. Your ability to provide a warm, personalized, and attentive recruiting process could differentiate you from the big guys who make candidates feel like they're being run through an assembly line. Something as simple as a warm welcome when a candidate arrives at an interview can make all the difference to someone who is deciding where to invest several of their working years.

Step 3: Use your existing staff

Your existing staff is a hugely valuable resource in times of a hot job market. They already know your company intimately and, by virtue of them staying around, likely have an overall positive feeling about your company and its prospects. Not only might they be able to fill some of your staffing needs, but they also likely know people that would make a good fit.

SEE: Hiring kit: User experience specialist (Tech Pro Research)

It's nothing new to suggest an employee referral program, but most are afterthoughts where referral emails or web forms fall into a black hole, never to be heard from again. Recognize and reciprocate your employees' efforts to help staff open positions by immediately following up with the employee and the potential candidate and keeping the employee in the loop as the recruiting process progresses. Make the referral experience awesome a couple of times and word will quickly spread, and you'll have a zero-cost pipeline of well-vetted candidates.

Step 4: Tailor your benefits

It's easy to get discouraged in the war for talent when you don't have a near-unlimited budget, and you see rapidly escalating salary offers that you're unable to match. However, we've all seen the studies that money isn't everything to potential employees, so consider flexible benefit programs in lieu of trying to match salaries.

How do you develop these tailored benefit programs? Ask potential candidates what interests them. Some might want a flexible working arrangement, while others are attracted to promise of a rotational program in a foreign office. Some might like a summer month off and even be willing to trade salary for the perk. Sometimes something as simple as emphasizing the benefits of your physical location (access to nature, proximity to public transit, etc.) can provide an edge.

While the battle for talent might seem daunting, a thoughtful and slightly unconventional approach can help you win more battles than you lose, even against larger opponents.

Also see

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Image: fizkes, Getty Images/iStockphoto

About Patrick Gray

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

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