Hire Like it’s 1999

It seems like every leader we've been speaking with, over the last 3 months, has been expressing some combination of disbelief, shock or frustration, at the current state of attracting and hiring talent.

For many young leaders, this market feels out of control and irrational. Everyone has heard about someone getting a base salary offer that was $30-40K more than what they were previously earning. Signing bonuses have made a return and the RSU plans of an elite group of tech leaders can make small privately held companies want to throw up their hands.

Crazy valuations, startups ‘disrupting’ a category, the reign of consumer experiences, talent shortages, and multi-offer showdowns - we’ve lived through this before. 

One of the benefits of being a tech recruitment firm in business for 20 years is experiencing a repetition of economic cycles. And over these last 20 years we've learned a thing or two.

The hiring struggles we've been hearing leaders share this year are familiar. During the dotcom era of 1999-2000, employers had virtually identical struggles:

  • Not enough talent for specific technical skills
  • A candidate's market
  • Salaries rising

How did leaders deal with it then? What are the lessons and takeaways that can be applied to us in 2021? We've boiled it down to these 4 takeaways:

Become agile in how you recruit and hire

Document your process then reimagine it. Ask yourself, how can we get this process down to 3 meetings or less? Having fewer steps will help to create a more streamlined process where in-demand candidates aren’t as likely to get lost to competing offers. 

Ways to shorten your process:

  • Be in a position of readiness before you begin 
  • Combine leaders and stakeholders into a single Zoom interview
  • Leverage company leaders and stakeholders as the decision-makers (forget the team fit interview with peers - leaders know the culture well enough to assess who will fit in)
  • Have your offer template ready and know who will execute on references

See how one B2B SaaS startup hired a VP Product in just 33 Days!

Listen to what the market is telling you about your money

If everyone you interview is giving you the same message about salary expectations, you better listen. Also, utilize and lean on your search partners for their insight into market conditions and current compensation packages. 

Most importantly, seek the best talent you can afford. Your time is valuable - investing time in search cycles chasing talent in countries you can't hire from (for tax reasons) or talent whose base is way above your max compensation is a waste of time. Even if these people seem ‘perfect’, they’re outside of your current reach and therefore not a match. Keep your eye on the prize, which in this market is the best talent you can afford.

Every candidate has a floor and every employer has a ceiling. The challenge during this economic period is the floors are moving up. Because of this, you must have internal compensation discussions before you begin the search. Know where you can be flexible and update your hiring toolkit. 

Could your firm benefit from SR&ED credits or provincial hiring subsidies like the Quebec e-Business subsidy? It’s time to be open-minded and get creative with compensation. Sometimes a candidate who seems to be fixated on getting to a specific compensation number can become flexible as their buy-in for the opportunity increases.

Hire for potential and invest in your people wherever possible 

Any hiring manager can say "get me a person from Shopify," hoping they will be the solution to a problem, but the leader who hires for potential and makes the investment in the development of their team earns loyalty and respect which are qualities that typically retain talent in a crazy market. 

Not all roles require experience doing the job. Go through the scope and mandate of the role; put a plan in place and decide which roles require similar experience and which roles don't. For those that don’t, hire the candidate with the most potential and double down on your investment in them. Driven employees love to be challenged and to grow so invest in their growth and offer them opportunities to continuously stretch themselves.  

Sell, sell, sell 

To land a candidate in this competitive market, you need to sell. Have your brand story, growth story, and product story ready. These stories help your candidates get excited and bought into the organization and role.

People are another big part of what makes candidates excited to go to work, so don’t forget to highlight the team your candidate will be inheriting as well as any big-name investors. Showcase how your senior leadership embodies the company values and how your product updates have delighted customers. 

It’s important to make sure your message is clear, drives excitement, and makes top talent want to come work for you. It’s also important to remember timing. During a 1 hour interview, 25% of your time should be spent selling these stories. 

The past has a way of repeating itself and so do these time-tested hiring strategies. Landing talent in a candidate’s market can seem like an uphill battle, but in actuality, it just requires a little more preparation and perseverance.

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