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How To Recruit In An Employers Market

It seemed like yesterday when our team sat together around our boardroom table talking excitedly about the Toronto tech community. Those morning meetings were filled with stories about the discussions we were having with Founders and CEOs about their plans to scale their companies.

Venture capital. Growth. Series A. Scaling. Innovation. Net New. Disruption. This was the language of that time. 

Given recent events unfolding globally and locally, resulting in companies making difficult decisions to downsize, we’ve quickly realized our new reality.  We have officially turned the corner and are now in an EMPLOYERS MARKET. Welcome. 

For many young tech leaders who have only ever worked during prosperous times or as one of our clients recently described “a time of peace”, this is an exceptionally unsettling time.  

Burn Rate, Downsizing. Reorg. Profit over Growth. Pivot. Reset. This is the language of today.

What we have all been reminded of as the list of shutdowns and downsizings continue to grow,  leading and managing a company through “war times” requires a different leadership approach. This NY Times article published in October provided us with a glimpse of how Bay area companies had already begun moving away from being growth focused, to instead focusing on profitability.

Leading a company through an economic downturn is not unfamiliar to me. Our Toronto search firm has been working with Founders and CEOs for over 25 years, helping them recruit the talent they require whether during prosperous times of peace when budgets are high and headcount are many, or in the less stable times which we are now facing again. 

We have come to realize that when economies change, one fact remains the same: 

People make a company and determine a company’s survival. 

Key strategic hires will still need to be made. Opportunities to topgrade talent will be attractive to business leaders. New and unexpected opportunities will be realized and teams will need to be recruited to champion them. 

To assist your firm navigate through your current or future critical hires, here are 4 ideas to help you recruit that talent in an EMPLOYERS MARKET:

 

1. BE READY TO EXECUTE 

While it may be true that there are more ‘eager to interview’ candidates available during an employers market, the top performing candidates will continue to be valued by employers, whether they are employed or have been affected by a downsizing. After all:

 

Sales professionals with a track record of exceeding quota will continue to be high value hires. 

Product Managers who have monetized an idea and launched products that customers want to buy will continue to be sought after by start up Founders. 

Customer Success leaders who have developed processes that increase renewals, reduce churn and turn users into raving fans will always be valuable to a SaaS vendor.

 

Being ready to execute during an employers market means that you are ready to engage in your hiring processes knowing that there will be increased competition for the best candidates or for those with hard to find skills.  Being ready to execute can be summarized by doing these 3 things:

 

Have your requirements ready
Job Descriptions are a holistic picture of what a role will be responsible for. They can easily get bloated with baseline requirements, like “great communication skills,” or “able to work well with a team.” These are the kinds of things that you can screen for in the interview process. Instead, begin by listing the specific requirements and past experience you consider important in the candidate you want to hire. Most likely this will be a very short list of bullet points—this list will give your recruiter a very targeted profile to seek out, and in doing so, save you time from meeting candidates whose skills and experience don’t meet the requirements for these current business conditions.

Have your interview process ready
Before you begin the search, plan your interview process. How many rounds of interviews will you do, and who will they be with? Then, ask yourself why you decided on that many steps, and why those people need to be involved—are there extra steps that can be eliminated? How does each step and person involved  work toward qualifying and confirming that the candidate has the experience you need? Create efficiencies and remove redundancies wherever possible.

Be ready to sell
What is the story your new hire will become part of? What problem does your software solve, and how does it add value to your customers? What is it about the role that will inspire someone to say “no thank you” to a competing opportunity and come to work for your organization? Get excited about communicating this to candidates.

 

It’s important to never lose sight that the ultimate goal of your recruitment efforts is to secure the talent you require to grow the business. Being ready to execute is the first step to recruiting in an employers market!

 

2. DON’T BE QUICK TO DISMISS AN UNEMPLOYED CANDIDATE

As a business owner of a Toronto recruitment firm and having navigated through 2 economic downturns: the dot com bust of 2002 and the financial crisis of 2008, a lesson we learned as companies began to downsize is this: downsizing is done in waves with the first group often including the group whose absence will have the least impact on the business. 

This group may include “the extras”. Those are the hires made for special projects that are not part of the core business, or extra resources such as overlay team members. Another group often  impacted by a downsizing include those who have not achieved their KPIs or sales quotas, or they may include supportive operational staff and even internal recruiters.

Another lesson we learned is this: it’s important to take a closer look at candidates who are unemployed before dismissing someone assuming they are unemployed for performance reasons.

The reason why it’s important to take a closer look at unemployed candidates, is because not all candidates are downsized for performance reasons.  Business conditions which lead to a downsizing vary company to company.  

Another reason a top performer may be on the market during an economic downturn is they chose to accept a package that would otherwise not have been available to them. We often see this with candidates who have been employed with global, publicly traded companies who need to show the market they are taking steps to cut costs dramatically.  An exit package can be an attractive nest egg for long term employees who have invested a significant amount of their career building a business.

When hiring during an employer’s market,  don’t lose sight of your goal. Your goal is to secure the talent or hard to find skills which you’ve identified you need most to grow your business. Ensuring that you have the pool of the most qualified candidates to choose from will help you make the best hiring decision you can make.

 

3. BE OPPORTUNISTIC

During a candidate’s market when the market for talent is tight, it is a widely accepted practice for recruiters to encourage candidates to be open to engaging in “exploratory coffee meetings” to learn about a company and “ease into” an interview cycle.

During an employer’s market, we encourage employers to do the same by being open to meeting talent who their search partners believe could be a high value hire in the future.  Our 25 years of experience has taught us that in previous economic downturns, successful leaders do not assume the team who they hired during prosperous times will be the one they need to get through more economically challenging times. 

In addition to being opportunistic about talent, being opportunistic about partnerships with firms who can be a resource to you is also to the benefit of a Founder, CEO and business leader.

I spend my days speaking with leaders at some of the most innovative software companies in North America.  Personally, I’m happiest when I’m acting as a consultative partner for our clients, providing insight and feedback, helping them get to the heart of their business challenges, and introducing them to the talent that drives them forward.  It’s rewarding and challenging work that’s built on a foundation of trust.

 

4. PARTNER WITH AN EXPERT

Another way an employer can ensure they hire the top talent in an employers market, is to partner with an expert.

Many hiring leaders feel that they should be able to attract the talent they need on their own, and often that is true when companies are in the stage of “scaling” their teams. During that stage of a business, many employers evaluate recruiting firms based on cost,  due to the volume of hires required.

However,  in an employers market, when hires are fewer and the search requirements narrow to very specific skills, the type of recruitment partner a hiring leader needs to choose also changes.

When hiring leaders engage a recruiting firm who deals in volume, those leaders often get flooded with unqualified resumes, and we’ve been told that it costs them more in time and money than it would have to do it themselves—and many leaders get frustrated.

I recommend that business leaders look for a recruitment partner who will add value by executing highly customized searches for the requirements they need for their business to ensure long term success.

Partnering with a recruitment firm who invests time to understand your business requirements, creates a targeted search strategy, and has the ability and search skills to execute swiftly to achieve the desired outcome will be one of the most significant partnerships you will have in an economic downtown and  employers market.

If you are ready to engage in a discussion about your business goals and the talent you need during these market conditions, I encourage you to reach out to book a call with us to learn more about the work we’ve done and how we’ve helped other tech companies like yours with their critical hires.

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