Use All Avenues To Win Talent Battle

Julie Shenkman
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The battle for top talent is being waged, and the ones who are innovative, tenacious, and realistic about how best to fight it will emerge victorious. In the ongoing struggle for quality candidates in a number of marketplaces – including technology, marketing, engineering, and even recruitment itself - companies are now finding that the battlefield is vast and rife with competition. What once was easy in a marketplace where supply greatly outweighed demand has now become a significant challenge and even threat to small and medium sized companies - companies hoping to grow with talented people who can get them to the next level. Recruiting has been forced back into the forefront in recent years, as the economy, job market, and company revenues have bounced back in a big way. During the early part of this decade with the dot-com bust, jobs were being lost at a record pace while companies looked to slim down just to stay alive. That is no longer the case, as companies looking to ramp up quickly to meet increasing demand are under more pressure than ever to hire quality candidates. As the economy continues to grow, so does the demand for qualified hires. So how can a small company looking to recruit that top talent to help them beat the competition get the job done, and done effectively in the face of major players? There isn’t one simple answer - companies now must stay flexible, be innovative, and use as many resources as possible to accomplish its recruiting goals. By using a few simple methods and keeping a few key points in mind, it’s possible to mine those hidden gems of potential talent into productive, long term employees. One trend that has emerged from the dot-com bubble bursting is the mass exodus of quality recruiters from the profession completely. What once was a lucrative business when the economy was booming suddenly became less and less attractive, leaving the number of good recruiters at a minimum. Many simply went into different careers, never to return. Now with a new emphasis on attaining top talent, good recruiting personnel is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Getting top recruiters can sometimes be as important as getting the talent to fill that high level marketing, IT, or software engineering position. When you find good recruiters to work internally, hanging onto them should be paramount. Encompassing them into any hiring program should also not be overlooked. To get talent you need talent. As an extension of this, companies should try to be as innovative as possible when implementing ideas about recruitment, and how best to get that right person in the building. This can range from an internal employee referral program to a company contest focusing on promoting its value proposition and benefits. Too often companies don’t lean on their own employees to help in the effort, when it’s one of the easiest ways to recruit. Get everyone involved, and do it in a different way when possible. Who better to sing the praises of the company and get people interested with an honest assessment of the culture and opportunities than the employees that are currently enjoying them? Make use of your employees, and they can become a powerful recruiting tool. There are also internal changes that can be made to make all the difference. As the country moves to online channels which make things easier with job boards, discussion forums and email, the personal connection of yesterday is lost. While job boards and email are powerful tools that can be utilized in recruiting, sometimes a well placed personal phone call can make the difference. Few things are as impersonal as a stock email, but a phone call gives that human touch and allows the message to be conveyed in a better way with tone, enthusiasm, and respect. High quality candidates will appreciate the efforts of a company willing to take the extra step in conveying its interest. To go one step further, small companies should always have its value proposition ready, and when applicable, explain the differences and benefits it has in regard to competitors. Having those statistics, benefits, and value adds is vital once that personal connection is made. Recruits must be meant to take your position, company, and interest seriously, so having background, facts, and messaging in place is vital. Another key component to highlight is doing your homework on candidates - and that goes beyond resume reading. All too often a candidate can look great on paper, but once in the interview process, lose his or her luster. One thing to keep in mind is that just because a candidate might not do as well in a first interview doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is a lost cause. In fact, a candidate might not have interviewed in a long time, having been employed and done great work at a previous job for an extended period. Giving the “yearbook” answer and saying the right things are not the only indicator of a qualified person. By doing your homework, checking background, and looking beyond the resume, informed choices can be made, and a more perfect fit placed. Sometimes the perfect interview isn’t always the perfect fit for your company. Finally, being tenacious and scrappy is a quality to be admired, especially in a small company that is looking to grow quickly. While the big companies might have the cache’ and name value, it’s the smaller companies that often offer the most opportunity for growth and career development. Being a part of something is important for young recruits, and small companies looking to hire the best talent should keep that David vs. Goliath mentality. Do whatever is necessary to separate yourself from the “bigger” competition. By being innovative, delivering the value proposition, using a personal touch, and thoroughly examining a candidate, smaller companies can land employees that turn it into a major player quickly. Austin Cooke is Vice President of Global Recruiting at VistaPrint (, a leading online supplier of high-quality graphic design services and customized printed products to small businesses and consumers.

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