The Who-What-Where-Why-How of Vying for Talent

Every few years or so, it happens. Someone declares a “War for Talent,” battle lines are drawn, and then candidate poaching begins. While some of this is a little sensationalist, it’s also very true. Any company who wants to attract the best and brightest, and also the best personality and culture fit, must set themselves apart. Since there are many companies all vying for the same types of candidates, the landscape can get cluttered.

So let’s talk about who, what, where, why and how:

Who: If you are a marketer, engineering manager, sales executive, recruiter, ceo, or owner, you need to examine your brand, products, services, culture, and future direction. If they are not as good as the company down the street, then something needs to change.

What: Sure, your company may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that doesn’t mean you can rest on those laurels:

  • Your company could be the latest exciting entry within the industry, but what makes it different from the competitors who have been doing the same thing successfully?
  • Your company thinks it can revolutionize the automotive industry with its robotics hardware. Are they different enough to get the attention of the candidates who you are trying to attract?
  • Your company may have been founded by two Stanford grads planning to change the world with their innovative ideas. It sounds a little harsh for me to say, but so what? There are a ton of up-and-coming companies in every industry that are trying to make their mark on the world.

Where: There are certain types of candidates that every company needs. Recruiters are going after the same candidates. So if everyone is panning for gold in the same river, you have to find another river. This means finding out where your types of candidates hang out at. Once you have a new pool of candidates, then you have to craft a message that says something other than “We got jobs, come work for us!”

Why: Not only do companies need to have a good brand, culture, message, marketing, service, product, and outreach, but they need to maintain it. They need to adapt with the times. If you, as a company, are sitting around a table congratulating yourselves and take your foot off the gas pedal, it can be hard to get back that momentum. The last thing you want is to spend all that time and energy getting employees hired only to have them leave you for your competitors.

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How: You may work for the largest company in the world, or a 50-person startup; either way, you need to put these steps into action:

  1. Re-evaluate your company image, brand, and/or culture. This may seem like an obvious task, but remember that the outside world may perceive you differently than the way you perceive yourselves. It may be the harshest thing in the world to ask someone to criticize you, but you can only improve from there.
  2. Market and message this brand and image. This has to come out in your job postings and social media pages. This one is major. Not only do you have to do this right, but you have to keep doing it! The world changes, people change, and the public’s tastes change. You might have brainstormed a brilliant landing page and set of job postings last year, but as a singer once said: “What have you done for me lately?” Change up the messaging and who you are marketing to.
  3. Keep the talent happy. Employee feedback and internal company surveys can be a good thing when controlled. Obviously you don’t want a complete uprising on your hands, but collaboration between your managers and employees can sometimes produce great results. There is no one person who has all the ideas. You can sometimes see things in a better light by getting employees’ input. Combine this with at least a market value salary and a direction they believe in and you have a winning combo.
  4. Find the best talent. Know where your best candidates are. Know what to do when you “run out” of candidates, because there are always more hiding out there. Know what they do and what they are looking for in their next job. When you pick up the phone, you should already have the conversation, objections, and outcome planned in your head.

Even companies that do all the right things can sometimes lose the war for talent. But by not doing the things that I’ve shared, you are not helping your chances of success. You may not have an unlimited budget to do everything with the best production, technology, and marketing. And you may not have complete buy-in from your managers and directors. So choose carefully. During the war for talent, you have to learn when to fight your battles.


Some of the Related Conference Sessions at the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego:

  • Transforming Your Employer Brand in the Face of Extreme Challenges,
    Wednesday, April 23, 3 p.m.
  • Recruiting Across Multiple Brands or Businesses: Implications for Your Recruiting Department, Wednesday, April 23, 4:15 p.m.
  • Recruiting for Fit with Corporate Culture, Thursday, April 24, 3:15 p.m.

Mark Tortorici is a training, recruiting, and sourcing manager who has been providing expert-level training for sourcers and recruiters since 1997. He is also the founder of Transform Talent Acquisition, which specializes in training for high technology computer concepts, advanced active & passive sourcing techniques, and full life-cycle recruitment process. He has created and delivered robust training programs for companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Ebay.