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The Opportune Times
July 2010 / Edition #6

With summer in full swing, both the weather and the talent market have heated up. As more recruitment opportunities arise, both our clients and candidates are reevaluating their prospects. Nonetheless, the recession has left a lasting impression on the recruiting process. In this edition of the Changing Marketplace series, we explore some of these developments and the unforeseen impact they can have on recruitment decisions.

Changing Lanes: Check your Blind Spots

Many candidates view their search process as an intellectual challenge and an opportunity to showcase the skills they have developed throughout their career. It can be an exciting and ultimately rewarding journey of self-reflection; however, we are now finding candidates often progress far into a search only to realize they have not fully considered all the implications a change in career can have. Leaving behind relationships, handling a potential counter offer, and dealing with a sometimes lengthy recruitment process are all issues candidates face when considering a new position.

These same issues are often overlooked by employers: few of us consider factors unrelated to the role that may impact a candidate's decision. By understanding and preempting the following challenges, new employers can help smooth the process and minimize the risk of losing outstanding candidates.

Relationships

We spend more of our waking hours at work than at home. As a result, most of us develop strong bonds with our colleagues, who may become friends, mentors, or even romantic interests. The strength of these relationships can make leaving a position difficult. Many feel obligated to their employer for training them, while others feel their leaving may be viewed as abandonment by their colleagues. The excitement of getting an offer can be quickly overshadowed by feelings of guilt and fear associated with departure. These emotions are natural, but can be tough to handle alone.

Potential employers often overlook the importance of these working relationships, and the impact they can have on a candidate's decision-making process. The worst thing to do is to ignore or downplay these concerns. Left alone, these issues could simmer, and potentially affect the productivity and happiness of a new hire. We recommend our clients to engage the question of relationships early, and actively. Introduce final round candidates to the whole team, even before a decision on their candidacy is made. This not only allows you to see how candidates interact with future co-workers, but it gives the candidates a chance to envision themselves within the company, and start building the next set of relationships. Creating optimism and excitement about someone's future in your organization is the most effective way to deal with any lingering hesitations about moving on.

Counter Offer

The past few years of market stagnation have left many individuals working in roles that they may have planned to have advanced beyond by now. As a result, some individuals have become indispensable to their companies, who are understandably reluctant to let them move on. As these individuals receive offers from competitors and companies in other fields, their current employers may present counter-offers in an effort to retain the people and skill sets that have become integral to their business.

For many candidates, receiving a counter offer is flattering and serves to confirm their value to an organization; however, flattery alone should not be enough to keep qualified individuals within organizations.

Candidates must put aside the charm of receiving a counter offer and instead focus on the offer itself. Ask yourself: "Is my current employer offering me the challenge and mobility I am looking for? What are the long-term benefits of this offer?" Having a succinct understanding of what you are looking for and why you are moving on is essential to an effective transition. Candidates who have done their due diligence on their new employer and are confident it is a good fit should feel empowered that they are making the right decision for themselves and their future.

From our clients' perspective, effectively defusing the prospect of a counter offer is essential for employers to secure the talent they want. We have found that the organizations best at achieving this do so by providing a wealth of information about their business operations to potential candidates, and spell out the long-term place of that person in the organization. As the business grows, where can they expect to find themselves, and what responsibilities (and rewards) will those new roles entail? By positively positioning their organization from the get go, our clients empower candidates to come aboard with full confidence in the business, the team, and their role within it.

The Recruitment Timeframe

Many employers and candidates have emerged from the recession looking to implement an immediate change in their organizations and careers. Companies which played it safe during the credit crunch are now eager to bring on key talent in order to regain a competitive stance, and many rush to fill those posts. Understandably, individuals who have either been out of work, or held back from advancement by the economic circumstances, are similarly looking to get into a new position as soon as possible.

In our experience, the worst thing both parties can do is rush. Matching talent and opportunity takes time. Everyone involved is weighing multiple variables, and we have found that this can translate into a lengthy recruitment process even when both sides are committed to moving forward. Candidates need to be strategic and exercise patience when undertaking career moves. It is not all about the now, but about how what you do now will lead you to where you ultimately wish to be. Allowing employers the time to ensure you are the right fit for their team goes far to create a supportive environment for you within the company.

But keep in mind that there is a fine line between taking time, and squandering opportunities by dithering. As the recruitment marketplace heats up, the arena is increasingly competitive. Recruitment searches that are drawn out too long can result in the best talent being scooped up by competitors. Understanding your timelines and the state of the market are essential variables in creating a game plan for success. Set your goals, set your timeframe, and stick to it to ensure your organization gets the talent it needs.

Recruit with Clarity

In recruiting, nothing should be taken for granted. Even the best matched candidates and companies can miss each other, if either party fails to deal with the issues of work relationships, counter offers and recruitment time periods. Addressing these issues early and honestly sets defined expectations about the recruitment process for both clients and candidates. Developing and maintaining a clear understanding of what you are looking for, and why making a change is necessary at the present, is the first and most important step in any talent search.

Ask the expert
Speaking with both our clients and candidates, we gained relevant insight about the issues they take into consideration before signing on the dotted line. Below are some highlights of these conversations.
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Client:

What factors do you think may affect a candidates' decision outside the job offer itself?

There are various factors outside the position itself that affect a candidate's decision to accept a position or not. Location and hours of work are two major factors that can affect both the employers' and the candidate's decision to move forward with an offer of employment. Certain factors (if they live too far away, or are unwilling to set themselves to the company's hours of work) can be deal breakers. No matter how strong our interest, we are not inclined to finalize a deal with a candidate when there could be substantial problems in the future.

How do you deal with these factors?

My strategy in dealing with factors that may affect the candidates' decision is to listen to each concern and try to understand the depth and seriousness of the concern. Some concerns can be addressed, and we try our best to compensate for these. Better to know and address now than find out later.

What do you consider when making an offer?

When making an offer I always try to put myself in the individual's shoes. We are very interested in the candidate starting their career with us on a positive note, and with a feeling of fairness over their negotiations and initial compensation package. I consider factors like vacation, termination packages, and waiving the group benefits waiting period, and work hard to put together a fair offer that recognizes and balances the needs of the candidate with those of the company.

Candidate:

What hadn't you thought about when making your decision?

I think that I basically covered all the details and negotiated issues before signing. One thing I should have asked about before was how my group would interact with other groups within the company. For example in my current firm, we have an open concept in the way the office is set up - all the various groups sit next to each other; before I always had an office or a bullpen. I've had friends who move to open concept offices say that at first it takes getting used to, but often becomes an asset to information sharing. It's a small thing, but I hadn't thought of asking about it.

Did your current employer take any steps to keep you?

Yes, they asked me why I was leaving and for every point that I mentioned they said they could fix it- the stressors, the structures - they even offered me more money. I actually left feeling confused about why I was leaving even though I had been so certain going into the discussion. In the end I realized that I had brought up all my concerns three months earlier and nothing had been done. It was only when I announced I was leaving that promises were being made.

What was the reaction of your colleagues to your leaving?

On one hand they were sad that I was leaving. But overall they were happy for me. I was choosing to make a change to improve my quality of life and they understood and supported that.

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