It’s Not a War for Talent. It’s More Like

The problem with thinking about the current talent market as a war, is that it implies all the wrong tactics. Shock and awe, superior fire power and blitzkrieg tactics won’t win this game.

Instead, the right tactics are far more in line with those used on online dating websites.

First, make no mistake, job seekers are checking out your profile and thinking about whether they would even consider a relationship with you. And the bar is high. When I say your profile, I mean a lot of things, but mainly 1) anything that comes up in Google search, and 2) anything on social media. So: and reviews, your LinkedIn company page (as well as your individual profile, if you are a leader, hiring manager or recruiter), Twitter, Facebook, etc. But mainly your website.

That’s scary. But most employers don’t fully appreciate how or why. Simply, most websites weren’t designed with job seekers in mind. At best, they were an afterthought, and a Careers page was later tacked onto the site. So, problem #1, the rest of your website is indifferent to this critical audience. Problem #2, your Careers page probably isn’t very good. I go into detail here, but suffice it to say that most Career pages suffer from the same problematic thinking as the phrase “talent acquisition,” which seems to imply that your biggest challenge is the logistics of processing the huge supply of candidates who want to date you. I mean work for you.

The second big lesson we can learn from online dating sites is the importance of a good come on. If you have ever been on either end of a pick up, you can appreciate this. Before I dive into this one though, it only reinforces the importance of your profile (website and all other online content). If it’s not good, even the slickest pick up will fail. A candidate will have already decided they don’t want to get to know you better by the time you reach out to them, or they will do their homework before they decide whether to respond. It’s sad, really — top talent will never get to realize what a great employer you are, because of what they see online.

(This is the staggering cost of missed hires, a concept we unforgivably don’t think about.)

Back to the pickup and the bad tactics we use when we employ our talent acquisition mindset and reach out to candidates. A few examples of bad candidate pickups and subsequent interactions:

  • No warm up. Immediately asking for a date. (“Hello. Are you interested in this specific opportunity?”)
  • No WIFM — what’s in it for me, i.e., the candidate. (“We’re looking for a SQL programmer with 3-5 years of experience and some Oracle knowledge. You also have to be athletic and enjoy long walks on the beach.”)
  • Ego without substance. “We’re a great place to work.” Really? How about some specific examples? How about creating transparency and letting me draw my own conclusions? (Here are some ideas.)
  • Poor follow through. “I’ll give you a call tomorrow to tell you more.” Then no call.
  • Tactlessness. “I’m dating several other candidates right now. I hope to make a decision by the end of next week.”

The recruiting game has changed. The demographics behind the concept coined as “the war for talent” are very real, and they are exacerbated by skills gaps and other challenges. Courting and landing top talent has become far more challenging. And while it may not be a war, if your business wants to survive and flourish, this should be your #1 priority!

by George Blomgren

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