Strategic Hiring During Historic Levels of Candidate Availability

By: Ben White


It may be the understatement of the year to say that we’re in a very unusual time in history. We all went into 2020 with plans, forecasts and our intended hiring pretty well mapped out. But in the words of OutKast, “you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.”

It can be even more unusual when you find yourself zigging when just about everyone else seems to be zagging. By that I mean you are currently hiring while every other company you know of is trying to hold tight until this passes or is now having to furlough employees.

So how does this impact your hiring? Your gut probably tells you it is an advantage, especially given how tight the market has been for the last handful of years. However, in any candidate market it is important to keep several things top of mind to make sure you are making smart long-term decisions. Easier hiring doesn’t always equate to better hiring. When it comes to something as critical to the performance of your organization as talent, it’s imperative to ensure you are making the best possible decisions.

Remember Your Culture

One of the easiest mistakes to make when there is an influx of previously unavailable talent is to, in a rush to acquire this talent, forget to focus on culture. The rarer a skill set, the easier it is to compromise on things you previously thought to be non-negotiables. That is the wrong move.

A well-established culture has lasting impacts on an organization, that really isn’t a novel idea today. The best leaders strive to keep this in mind in their everyday decision making. So while it may be exciting to have access to talent you may not have had otherwise, it is extremely important that you keep the culture you have established top of mind. Don’t skip evaluating the alignment culturally just because you are blown away by the skills this person may have. The cohesiveness of the teams you have built are too valuable to jeopardize.

The Common Misconception

There is a common belief among hiring managers that all the best candidates are employed and anyone unemployed has ended up that way for an unfavorable reason. Well, sometimes that reason is a global pandemic that has very little to do with that employee’s contributions. Now don’t get me wrong, there is still a ton of value in the pursuit and acquisition of passive candidates. You can rest assured that companies who are being forced to part with a percentage of their workforce are holding onto their top performers. However, assuming that anyone let go during this extremely challenging time doesn’t have anything to offer your organization can be a pretty big error.

In some industries, like travel and hospitality for example, such a high number of employees are being displaced that organizations are forced to part ways with good performers. The same can be said of a variety of other industries. So, while I will never downplay the benefits of targeting primarily passive candidates for a variety of strong reasons, I would avoid sweeping assumptions about performance if a candidate has been laid off recently. Instead, I would advise you to look at their overall body of work, especially their history prior to COVID-19.

Don’t Take Advantage… Great Candidates Become Flight Risks

Using the suddenly available surplus of talent to level up your organization from a performance perspective is a great move. However, some hiring managers may feel the temptation to try to save some money in the process by offering candidates who may be desperate to find a new gig quickly a lower than market salary.

Of course, we all know that although it may seem advantageous, it is very short-sighted and lacks integrity. I truly believe that whenever you lowball a person who is in a position where they feel they must accept, you are only trading a current problem for a future one.

Any time a candidate accepts an offer below market value, there is a significant chance they become a flight risk. Assuming a relatively soon recovery for our economy, you could very well be looking at a pretty imminent departure from your organization. Let’s say that the candidate’s previous employer bounces back and connects with some of their furloughed or laid off employees to offer them their roles back. How confident are you in your ability to retain your employee if you lowballed them? Probably not too confident. Lowballed candidates are always a risk. Why trade a current problem for a future one?

Now let’s take a step back and assume that for some reason they don’t end up leaving your organization as soon as the economy recovers, even though they were offered a significantly lower than market compensation. Your future problem may not be their departure from your organization, it may be their lack of motivation or even resentment of you as the employer.

Why? Candidates know what they are worth. They know what they have made in the past and have a very real sense of the value of their skillset. They talk to peers and can access substantial amounts of data online, so employees typically know when they are being underpaid.

If a candidate feels they have no other choice but to accept your low offer, they will likely feel that you have taken advantage of the situation, which is not something they will soon forget. The goal of recruiting and hiring is not just securing the right candidate, it is also about getting a motivated version of that candidate who is excited to contribute to the organization. If you lowball a candidate, there is a good chance you won’t end up getting that motivated candidate. A far better move would be to pay people what they are worth and end up with a highly talented candidate you may not have previously had access to who is grateful you were able to offer them stable employment in a time of uncertainty.

I would love to continue the conversation on how to engage, hire, and retain top talent in a time like this. Fill out the “Contact Us” form by clicking the button below and a member of our team will be in touch soon.

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