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

October 7, 2020 Recruiterie

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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