Recruiter at computer showing top executive candidates to management team

What to do when All of the Top-Quality Candidates are Currently Employed

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You know just what you want in a candidate for a crucial position at your company. Not only do you need someone who can perform the duties of the position, fulfilling hard-skill requirements, but also someone who is motivated, a self-starter. You want someone interested in learning, doing more, moving up, and contributing to the overall success of the company. Well-developed communication and leadership skills couldn’t hurt, either. Obviously, you also want a team player, someone personable who will fit right in with your existing team.

Incredibly, this type of well-rounded candidate isn’t the mythical unicorn you might expect. There are probably dozens of candidates that would fit the bill, even for top-level positions. The real problem is finding such highly qualified candidates that aren’t already gainfully employed, especially during a time of low unemployment.

More professionals than ever are earning college degrees and entering the workforce with the expectation of learning on the job, gaining valuable skills and experience, and climbing the ladder to earn better titles and compensation. However, you either have to nab these desirable workers straight out of school and spend the time and money developing their talents, grooming them for greater responsibility, and retaining them, or you have to figure out how to tempt them away from their current jobs.

Both can be difficult in the current job market. Unemployment rates in the U.S. have been declining in recent years, coming out of the recession, and recently hit historic lows. In July of 2017, the unemployment rate was at 4.3%. It dropped to 3.8% by May of 2018, marking the lowest rate since April of 2000. In June 2018 it rose slightly to 4.0%, but the overall trend of low unemployment across America is so far holding steady.

This can make it incredibly difficult to attract top talent, and worse, it can mean that your preferred candidates are already working for competitors. What can you do when the top contenders for a position are currently employed and ostensibly unavailable? With the right recruitment strategy and help from a qualified recruiting partner, you can still come out on top.

Recruiter at computer showing top executive candidates to management team

Identifying Top Talent

Right now we’re in a seller’s market, so to speak. As of January this year, there were an estimated 6 million jobs available at U.S. companies, matched against incredibly low unemployment rates. This gives top candidates with the right education, skills, and experience the leverage to pit potential employers against each other in order to negotiate the greatest possible benefits.

This leaves you in the unfavorable position of having to offer more money, greater benefits, increased opportunities for advancement, a desirable corporate culture, and other incentives to compel top candidates to accept your offer. Still, it might not be enough if your favored candidate has myriad offers to choose from. Plus, you may have to make same-day offers to desirable candidates without fully vetting them, just to remain competitive.

A better strategy may be to consider an alternative to candidates actively seeking jobs. By looking at potential candidates that are already employed, you can gain the time you need to properly vet them, including tracking past and current job performance, to a degree. You also take your time courting them to see if they are interested in the prospect of alternate employment opportunities.

The beauty of this strategy is multifold. Candidates that are interested in new opportunities but not actively seeking work are more likely to be forthcoming about both their talents and their desires, giving you the chance to gain a foothold to woo them, but also to understand exactly what you’re getting for your money.

In addition, those who aren’t in need of a job may be enticed by incentives other than money, such as opportunities for leadership, creativity, autonomy, and so on. This could make them a real asset to your company while reducing the potential cost of hiring.

The Poaching Conundrum

The biggest problem with this approach to hiring top talent is that there are ethical concerns related to poaching from competitors. Even if you’re attempting to gain the best advantages for your company, you’re simultaneously harming competitors by stealing away their talent. Both you and the employee could earn a negative reputation in the long run, despite the initial advantage.

Recruiter playing chessMaking the wrong move could cause problems down the line, potentially putting the kibosh on profitable partnerships if other companies find your recruiting tactics questionable, just for example. In addition, competitors may declare open season and turn the tables by attempting to poach your top talent.

What’s the ethical solution? There are a couple of strategies you might pursue. If you find talent that you think would be a good fit for your company and fill a needed role, you might inquire as to whether any current employees are personally or professionally connected to that person. An employee referral system is generally considered an ethical way to present job opportunities to those employed by competitors, but it requires existing connections, and if you interfere too much, it can still be ethically problematic.

A more reliable and productive solution is to work with a recruiting partner that makes it their job to connect companies and professionals that are a perfect fit. In this way, you can avoid courting competitor employees directly, eliminating an ethical conundrum. You can deliver your requirements, your goals, and your offer to a recruiting partner, who can then approach potential candidates and negotiate on your behalf.

Partnering with a Qualified Recruiter

An executive search firm not only offers you an ethical way to find and obtain top talent, but also the best opportunity to retain hires. When you find the perfect fit for your company, and you’re able to offer the proper enticement, the result will be a lasting union that profits both parties moving forward. Further, you’ll maintain your good reputation in the process.

Finding and hiring top candidates the traditional way isn’t always easy, especially in a market with low unemployment rates. However, with the assistance of a qualified recruiting partner, you have a chance to increase the scope of your search to include candidates that are already employed and potentially interested in the opportunities you have to offer.

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choosing the best applicants

Leveraging Recruiters To Partner With Your Internal Recruiting Team In Busier Times

Companies decide it’s time for new hires based on various factors including expansion into different services or products, retirees who leave gaps in key roles, a need to be more competitive and/or attempts to inspire current employees to be more productive.

Many organizations turn to their HR hiring staff to spearhead the efforts. Since this staff typically knows which current employees are eligible to fill the new positions, they often start in-house in their recruitment efforts. They have often known prospective candidates since their initial hire and have defined opinions about their assets and shortcomings based on observation and performance reviews. If no current employees are qualified, they expand their search outside the company.

External recruiters have access to a brand new pool of appropriate candidates with assets and accomplishments typically assimilated through working for industry competitors. Working in tandem with internal recruiters, they can analyze what’s missing, what’s desired, and how to hire the best candidates. The advantages to external recruiters working hand-in-hand with a company’s HR department or hiring manager are significant, and most companies find the related expense money well spent.

choosing the best applicants

Strength In Numbers

Whether your company has 20 or 200 employees, in-house recruiters are not limited to promoting within that group. Posting open positions on reputable job boards is effective, especially if targeting specific candidate groups is an option. External recruiters also have a list of potential contenders at their disposal but they have the advantage of already knowing their specific qualifications through weeks or months of vetting. Logic dictates that choosing the best applicants from three groups will produce more qualified prospects than a limited group. Current employees can certainly be considered in the hiring and promotion process but fresh contenders often bring unique perspectives and talents unavailable in-house.

Competitor Knowledge

External recruiting provides access to employees of your competitors. While internal hiring staffs can’t ethically or practically poach star employees from the competition, external recruiters thrive on analyzing and cherry-picking up and coming employees from all companies they have ties with. If your company manufactures and sells whatchamacallits, an external recruiter normally knows who your competition is and how their top hires are keeping them one-step ahead of you.

Infectious Motivation

Once word gets out that your company is using an external recruiter along with their own HR staff to fill positions, the motivation that sweeps through the ranks is palpable. Nothing inspires increased productivity and free-flowing creative juices like the prospect of a new person coming on board with great ideas and boundless energy. In fact, a study by Incentius, a leading business data analysis firm, found that while internal hires get more promotions during their first two years on the job, external hires get more promotions during their third and fourth years on the job, proving that the flames of external hires burn brighter over time.

Productive Diversity

Diversity is vital in today’s workplaces. Besides being a fundamental part of fair work protocols, the practice increases global respect and understanding and brings fresh viewpoints to the floor. External recruiters have instant access to candidates from all cultures, ages, and demographics, some of which they already have professional relationships with. This contributes to a clearer vision and understanding of the world’s changing needs and how to fill them for increased profits and expanded knowledge.

Fresher Skills

Promoting from within frequently stifles creative growth. Employees who are promoted internally often rely on old skills rather than developing new and more efficient and productive ones. External recruiters specialize in discovering new talents and approach your competition’s most qualified employees. This often increases your profits and lets new hires showcase their aptitude in a fresh environment with higher wages and better growth potential.

Bright New Ideas

Much like long-term personal relationships, long-term employees regularly fall into ruts that prevent professional growth and quash new concepts and ideas. External executive recruiters are generally already aware of candidates that bring fresh perspectives to the table, often from more than one former employer. These ideas inspire those around them to come up with innovative points of view and promote original thoughts among their peers. Rehashing stale ideas creates a pool of unfulfilled and frustrated workers that eventually decrease the bottom line of profits, a factor that new employees from competitors rebuff with “what if” thought processes.


Diminished Politics

When company promotions come from within, there are always whispers of favoritism and unfair practices as well as stories of currying favor with higher-ups by acting in a flattering or submissive manner. New employees drafted from the outside by external recruiters or a company’s existing HR department can’t possibly incur such wrath, so the petty atmosphere of hiring and recruitment gossip is squelched before its inception.

Growth and Inspiration

Not only are all employees individually inspired by new people with original thoughts, the stimulation traditionally spreads throughout the company, often accompanied by verifiable growths in profit. Uplifted spirits spawn hope and inspire people to produce beyond expectations. When everyone excels in their positions, company earnings typically rise. There is much less chance of this happening if all promotions are made from within, which often results in feelings of inadequacy and ultimately lower performance by those who are overlooked. On the contrary, bringing enthusiastic employees from other companies into the fold doesn’t tend to ruffle the feathers of existing employees as drastically as internal promotions.

Competitive Spirit

Nothing inspires productivity, excellence, and creativity like competition. From grade school through college, rivalry has proven to win the unwinnable, date the undateable, and reach unimaginable heights in scholastic, sports and social contests. When new, unknown players are brought into the game, adrenaline starts pumping and suddenly formerly average employees conjure up performances that surprise and impress.

External recruiters are akin to professional counselors. Personal conflicts often last for decades when friends and family members are the only people asked for help in developing and implementing solutions. When an outsider steps in, they can often clearly identify the problem in a short amount of time and offer several viable solutions no one else ever considered. Hiring an external recruiter who can work in harmony with your internal hiring staff typically reaps substantial rewards in less time than you ever imagined.

There’s a better way to recruit, let us show you how.

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