It is not uncommon for a professional firm to be in need of a senior applications engineer, or a chief corporate trainer, or a project manager—all difficult jobs to fill. A larger problem is that the national unemployment rate is 3.7%, and 3% in Nebraska. This means that of the entire workforce in question, employers are working with about 3% of the local population that isn’t already gainfully employed. And it’s a pretty sure bet that not all 3% are chief corporate trainers.
Smiling and dialing may get employers far in days of mass unemployment, but these days, recruiters need to be more strategic than ever. Linda Aughenbaugh, executive IT recruiter at Aureus Group, said now is the toughest time to find high quality talent in the 32 years she’s been working in the human resources industry. Offering the next best “opportunity” is not going to coerce a content employee to engage in the interview process with a potential employer—now, Aughenbaugh said, recruiters must be consultative and tailored to each potential candidate, and ensure that candidate fits for the potential employer.
Inside recruiters within a company also make significant efforts to attract talent in the tough market. The need for that headhunter/matchmaker comes into play the more niche a role is, said Judi Szatko, vice president of human resources at Team Software. Szatko thinks if the recruiter representing the company does not understand the value that company brings to a potential candidate, they cannot make a compelling case for why that already-employed person would want to consider a new role.
As a full-time headhunter, Aughenbaugh has the time to devote to what she calls “making a wedding” match between a prospective employer and a potential new hire. “It has to be a discussion with the potential recruit about what’s important to them in their next role; is it the day-to-day work itself that needs be different? Is it the compensation? Is it the company culture? If you don’t ask the right questions, you will not be successful in getting someone to move from their current position,” Aughenbaugh said.
To create a constant pipeline of talent, Szatko said companies must be engaged with new hires and keep in touch with them during their employment. Not only does this create strong employee relationships and lasting, tenured talent, but it also ensures those employees will refer their own network to Team Software.
Coupled with employee engagement, Szatko and other H.R. professionals go out into the community to engage and attract people; the company culture at Team Software is what Szatko said they really emphasize. They want visitors to enter the office and feel the buzz of team engagement that would make someone want to work there.
While these efforts are great for gaining talent, trusted agency partnerships are sometimes the only option for tough-to-fill roles—the more senior a role, or the more specific the requirements, the more likely it is that a company would partner with an agency to fill their role for them, Szatko said.
Aureus Group executive recruiter Mark Mueller said it’s not enough to simply reach out to a candidate and expect them to open up about their pain points in their current role. “The key is to develop a relationship with that candidate over time and figure out what’s important to them,” Mueller said. Recruiting executive talent is extremely challenging, but Mueller is confident in his relationship-first approach. When the candidate feels they can trust the recruiter with information about that latest project they didn’t get credit for, or for the next step in their career path that isn’t looking too clear at the moment, that is when a recruiter can determine what position and what company will work for the candidate, and if that candidate will be a good fit for that company.
One resounding lesson from Mueller and Aughenbaugh is that no candidate is the same, regardless of industry or role. There may be cultural changes in workplace attitudes, such as the demand Mueller has seen for flexible work environments. However, some candidates may not value that flexibility and may be more interested in their day-to-day duties in that role, or in prospective career advancement within the company.
“You can’t be an order filler in this job,” said Aughenbaugh, who cautions against viewing recruiting in a transactional way. Yes, the role is sales, she said, but it’s not good enough to place a candidate—headhunting requires figuring out what top three to five skills, languages, results needed, etc., are most important to their clients and to then present the company’s value proposition to that candidate. If there’s no match, the headhunters have to start over from scratch.
This often means being the mouthpiece of the marketplace to companies—working within the Midwest and understanding the Silicon Prairie talent we have access to, Mueller said. Companies often need to hear what their perfect candidate wants. When the company understands what the talent is willing to make a move for, that is when they can craft a compelling offer for a candidate that serves the needs of both client and candidate.
Regardless of whether that potential candidate is willing to move from an existing position, the relationship is crucial—maybe that person is not ready to leave their current role for something new, but they may know qualified talent who is willing. “Most people won’t be a perfect fit every time you reach out to them, but that’s why you develop the relationship first. If you put them first and help them realize, even though this opportunity isn’t right, I’ll call you on the next one,” Aughenbaugh said. “Now you’ve created a win-win relationship for the long-term.”
Headhunting may be more sales than it is workforce planning but insisting on viewing it as a service is what helps Aughenbaugh keep going during the tough weeks and long days. “We really are adding value to someone’s career and to what a client can’t find on their own,” Aughenbaugh said. “Sometimes before we pick up that phone, we don’t know how much we’re helping a candidate change their life.”
This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.