The War for Talent

Published:02/11/2014 | Posted by StevenDouglas

Listen to Matt Shore’s Interview

Matt Shore is President of StevenDouglas, one of the nation’s leading boutique search and project-based professional services firms, which has been a recognized leader in identifying and providing access to top talent for corporate clients since 1984. Voted by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in America in 2012 and 2013, StevenDouglas services emerging and middle-market to Fortune 500 companies, as well as private equity firms, throughout the United States and is headquartered in South Florida.

When Matt first entered the recruiting industry 18 years ago, he walked into his role at a time of economic recovery following a recession in the early 90s. Years of high unemployment had saturated the market with candidates, and as a result, companies didn’t have to work too hard to fill positions and retain employees. They became complacent and overconfident in their hiring process. However, as unemployment began to turn around, companies who had become comfortable during the recession were now forced to come up with interesting new ways to attract top candidates and retain existing talent. Job offers came with creative compensation solutions, including large incentives, stock options and other perks. That cycle repeated itself again after the dot com bubble burst in the early 2000s, when companies again found themselves mid decade having to go above and beyond to attract the right people.

While some are still feeling the effects of our most recent recession, an important shift occurred in late 2012 towards a more candidate driven market, particularly for degreed professionals with 3-15 years of experience in finance, accounting, IT and sales roles. The dilemma is many companies have yet to realize that the rules have changed again and are struggling to attract and keep the best talent.

According to Matt, last year StevenDouglas experienced a dramatic increase in the amount of client offers that were turned down due to competing offers, accepted counter-offers and candidates just simply staying put because the offers were not strong enough. Reflecting the professional workforce StevenDouglas places, he compared last year to the late 90s when dot coms were exploding and the stock market was skyrocketing. For instance, right now attracting senior staff to middle management in the finance, accounting and IT fields is extremely competitive. Matt estimates that among those professionals in the South Florida market, only 1-2% are unemployed and those that are gainfully employed are being very selective and will not make a move without a meaningful reason to do so. The market has truly shifted back in their favor and companies would benefit from the guidelines below to help them attract, hire and retain top talent:

1) Take stock in your existing team – Evaluate their pay, benefits, stock awards if applicable, and make sure your company is competitive or you will begin to experience unwanted attrition. If you think you can’t afford to take this advice, think again. It’ll cost you more to replace your existing team.

2) When hiring, understand and calibrate the market – Compensation has shifted dramatically just in the last year, especially in finance, accounting, IT, sales and wealth management jobs. Make sure your compensation reflects what the market is paying and be realistic about what you need to pay. It’s important to recognize that a new hire may cost you more than you had expected.

3) Inspire candidates – Companies spend a lot of money trying to find talent by hiring internal recruiters or search firms, and placing ads, but they fail to inspire people when they come in for an interview. First impressions are critical. You may have the right role and the right compensation, but if candidates don’t have a positive experience throughout the interview process, you still may not be able to attract them. Make sure your recruiters understand the role they are recruiting for and don’t just screen candidates. They need to be able to sell the position, the company, the culture and the opportunity if you want to get access to the best employees out there.

4) Setup a proper interview process – Once in the door, candidates need to meet with the right people. Strategize with your team about who should be on the interview schedule and what their role is in the process. For instance, one interviewer can be assigned to vetting technical skills, one can determine soft skills, another should look for a cultural fit and your best “salesperson” needs to inspire the candidate. Often times, Matt has found, candidates who reject roles provide feedback that the interview process, and sometimes interviewers themselves, turned them off from pursuing the opportunity by their body language, subtle comments and general lack of enthusiasm for the company.

5) Be prepared to make a great offer – Great candidates expect great offers or least competitive offers. In a market with multiple opportunities and aggressive counter offers, presenting a mediocre offer may not impress the candidate enough to inspire a shift. Open communication is important and having the right expectations set up front will save everyone a lot of time.

6) Onboard like you care – Finally, don’t drop the ball in the last phase of hiring. Make sure the onboarding process at your company is also inspiring and you demonstrate how much you value your new hire. You have to follow through on what you sold about your company and the position. There is nothing worse than a new hire questioning their decision to join your company. Make them feel at home, give them the encouragement they need, and make sure you don’t throw them their new roles without giving them support.

As Matt looks towards the future within the professional market StevenDouglas services, this cycle and candidate driven market is expected to last and the war should continue on for another three to five years. In this talent minefield, he wants to make sure you and your company are ready for battle.

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