Weíve all seen them! Theyíre all over the internet and in the back of magazines such as Advertising Age and Brandweek! What are we talking about? Weíre talking about companies looking to hire marketing talent and having unreasonable expectations in their search. You know the ones...
Internet start-up looking for ten years of consumer package goods and minimum 5-7 years of internet experience to fill the role of Director of Business Development. Competitive compensation program (read: lateral, at best) and full (read: bare-bones) benefits program for ideal candidate.

Or, this one...

Consumer package goods company looking for Brand Manager with 7-10 years of experience to fill Senior Product Manager position. Salary competitive (lateral)!

Times have indeed changed. No longer is there a fountain of marketing talent in which every company can go to be replenished . Virtually every company is hiring fewer marketing people, not more. If an organization traditionally hires its marketers from campus, its hiring fewer people than they did a few years ago. What is most interesting about this shortage of talent is that the demand for marketing talent has never been greater. Potential candidates arenít merely getting the calls from other CPG companies, but from a plethora of other companies and industries. Many of these companies are ones consumer marketers have never even heard of! No question that many of these assignments represent considerably higher risk to the individual, but the bait is the promise of a more significant up-side. Promises are not certainty and many who ventured into the dot com world are already beginning to make their way back to positions with more solid footing. The promise of a big payoff becomes nothing more than a bitter memory. Still, the allure of that one run at the brass ring is one thing many people canít resist because, after all, some people have indeed succeeded!

One interesting sidebar in this topsy-turvey recruiting climate has been the failure of many hiring companies to fully recognize and deal with the changing conditions of todayís marketplace. Many companies, still looking to hire in the same fashion as they did ten years ago, are finding that they are losing candidates to other companies and that it takes a longer period to fill positions. Many companies have taken to playing a form of "musical recruiters" in the belief that the problem exists with the chosen recruiter, the seller, not with that which they are selling. Both internal and external recruiters are facing the same age old problem: You may be able to lead a horse to water and perhaps even get the animal to get his head down to water level, but it still remains for the horse to want to drink.

Despite this, there are some companies who have been able to adapt to this changing marketplace and have had great success in recruiting marketing talent. So what have they done differently? Is the "product" theyíre selling a better product? Or is it something else...

Just like people, companies develop tendencies or habits in the way they do business. These habits help to create the culture, the corporate personality. No where is this more evident than in the area of recruiting. Once a company has success recruiting and hiring talent, it has a tendency to keep hiring similar talent from the same resources. In sports, its called "going back to the well". Take for an example the football team that keeps running the same play. If it works early on, the quarterback keeps calling it. Soon however, the other team adjusts and everyone, including fans in the seats, know itís coming. Coaches will tell you that the key to success is always in "mixing up" the plays and recruiting needs to be handled the same way.

So here are some keys to consider in hiring:

  1. BE Creative! Donít get locked into hiring out of a select group of targeted companies. These companies are probably the same ones that everyone else in your industry has targeted so your call may be the tenth or twelfth recruiting call the individual has received THIS WEEK! If youíre not the top dog in your industry(and that label changes very quickly today), the one everyone is dying to work for with an opening that moves the individual dramatically ahead, then you may have a problem attracting candidates.
  2. Evaluate Skillsets! An excellent exercise is to take the open position and break it down based on what the new hire will actually be doing and put it into pie-chart form. As you look at the completed pie chart, focus on the two or three largest segments. Ask yourself where else can you get these skills other than where youíve traditionally looked. The assumption is that the larger segments are critical for the individual to succeed and the rest, while nice to have, arenít as essential.
  3. The Best Available Athlete! Many years ago, while working on a search, we had a client say that she only wanted to see candidates from her category. When we reminded her that if we had used that criteria in bringing her to the company, she would never have been interviewed. As the discussion progressed, we tried to impress on her that the most people can change categories and not have any real problems making the switch. "Look at yourself!", we said to which she said something that many people hiring think, but usually never actually say. "But that was me!", she said.
  4. Provide Incentives! Odds are, your ideal candidate is gainfully employed and, to some degree, doing well at their current company so ask yourself this simple question: If my targeted candidate is doing well where they are and receiving all the right strokes, why would they be interested in my job? You would be surprised how many times we ask that question and find the hiring company hasnít really considered it from that perspective. If the hiring company canít answer that question, it will be even harder for candidates to see the incentive. Unfortunately, many companies are trying to recruit candidates into positions that the candidates views as lateral propositions with incentives that are basically what the individual already has.
  5. Interview in the box, near the box and outside the box! Approach the process with an attitude of finding why this candidate may be right, not simply why theyíre wrong.
  6. Move the process along! Nothing kills a search faster than a slow moving process. Your slow moving and drawn out process is trying to compete with companies that are more reactive and able to reach a decision quicker. Given this, youíll always come out on the wrong end of the stick.
  7. Bags Packed and Ready to Go! Many candidates, despite the effort of the recruiter, still need to be sold. Establish someone within your organization to be the key point guard and have them ready and willing to travel to meet candidates should they need a bit of prodding. Sure, itís best if the candidate visits you first, but this should be the next best alternative.
  8. Sell, Sell, Sell!! Every candidate should leave your interview saying, "I would love to get an offer on that job!", even if you have no continuing interest. Anything less is unacceptable. The reason is simple. Candidates talk to each other and if candidate "A" has a bad experience, her/she tells candidate "B" who tells candidate "C" and so forth. Over the course of a search, companies sometimes poison the well without ever really knowing it.
  9. Wishing and Hoping! Many times, companies donít look logically and reasonably at why a candidate would or would not have an interest in their assignment. Instead, they think what they are offering is somehow markedly different from what the candidate currently has. They deal in a squishy world of "more entrepreneurial", "less bureaucratic" or "able to make decisions". The hiring company usually overstates these characteristics and the candidate always minimizes them. If these kinds of traits are indeed key differences, give specific examples. Donít wish and hope that the candidate will see these differences, paint them a picture.
  10. Do Store Checks! If a company puts a product out on the shelf and it doesnít move, what do you do? You re-evaluate how itís being marketed (pricing, positioning, packaging etc.) in order to get the line jumpstarted. In hiring, your recruiter is merely your sales force; they can only sell what you give them. Assuming they are making the calls, when searches bog down it is usually what is being sold, not who is selling it. Donít be afraid to be more expansive in your search.
  11. Be Human! People respond to people so be yourself. Simple things like warmth and friendliness go a long way in reeling in the right candidate. The more you can do to get the process out of a good resume talking to a good job description and more into an atmosphere of two flesh and blood human beings sitting and talking, the more successful you will be.

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