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Don’t Lose the Talent War – Fix Your Hiring Process

miss the mark22018 saw one of the most hectic labor markets in decades. The economy is at full employment, and labor demand is sky high. The war for talent is in full swing. Some companies are losing this war however; and here are the two main areas where they go wrong:

Broken Hiring Process  – the #1 reason we see clients lose candidates to other employers is a slow or convoluted interview process. Job seekers in this market have multiple options. The company who makes the best hire is very often the company who moves the candidate through the interview process the most quickly and efficiently. This doesn’t mean you have to rush hires, but go into each hiring process with a plan. I suggest that clients:

  1. Identify who will conduct interviews in advance. Don’t have candidates interview with people for no reason. Pick the key decision makers, or the primary people that this position will interact with, and limit the interview panel to those people. Also, have an idea of who should meet with them, in what order, in how many rounds. If you cause delays or add unnecessary steps, you’ll lose candidates.
  2. Give up on the idea of interviewing or comparing multiple candidates multiple candidates against each other. When interviewing candidates for a high demand position, be prepared to offer the job to the first qualified candidate you meet. In a perfect world, you could meet multiple candidates, compare them side by side, and pick the best one. That is NOT a reality in this job market. Know what you are looking for in advance. Decide on “must have” and “nice to have” qualities. When you meet someone you like, hire them! Waiting to see other candidates is not going to guarantee a better hire. It will however guarantee that you’ll lose good candidates.

Make Good Offers – I’ve had several clients lose candidates in 2018 by starting with low-ball offers. Recent changes in Massachusetts and New York have disallowed employers and recruiters from asking applicants their current compensation. This has made offer negotiations a bit of a guessing game at times. Some succumb to the urge to start by offering a low compensation package, with the idea that they can negotiate up if necessary. This is a mistake. For one thing, candidates are generally insulted or put off by low offers. Second, more astute companies who understand candidate supply and demand are making strong offers to start, in order to show candidates that they really want them. I advise that clients lead with a strong offer. It’s always smart to have some wiggle room if needed, but starting too low can leave a company in a hole that is too big to dig out from. A few ways to make sure your offer is competitive:

  1. If working with a headhunter, talk to them about the offer. The recruiter will hopefully know the candidate, and has already talked about their compensation expectations. Recruiters will also know what the market value is for candidates. Get the recruiter’s advice on what the candidate is worth and what they are looking for.
  2. Compare the prospect against the person they are replacing, or peer level rolls internally. If you are hiring someone to replace Employee Y, use their current salary to benchmark an offer. Is the candidate as good or better than the incumbent? Make the offer reflect how they stack up against known comparisons.

Hiring is a huge challenge for companies right now. Streamlining the process and making competitive offers can go a long way to ensure you staff up with the best possible talent in 2019!

By |December 17th, 2018|Job Offers, job search, recruiting strategy|0 Comments

Unintended Consequences of Salary Disclosure Laws – Why They Are Bad News For Applicants, Recruiters, and Employers

Salary-negotiation-job-interview

To address pay equity issues, New York City has joined 20+ other jurisdictions in implementing legislation aimed at prohibiting employers from obtaining salary history from applicants during the hiring process. On April 5, the New York City Council passed legislation outlawing salary history inquiries. The law takes effect on October 31, 2017. Once enacted, the new legislation will impose significant changes on the hiring process. The New York City law makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to inquire about a prospective applicant’s salary history during all stages of the employment process. In addition, the bill would make it an unlawful discriminatory practice to rely on a job applicant’s salary history in determining the applicant’s salary, benefits or compensation.

While this law does have the noble intention of narrowing the wage gap between men and women, there are also some potential unintended consequences. These unintended consequences are particularly likely to happen to high wage, high skill workers, recruiters, and their employers. At best, this law will complicate the hiring process. At worse, it may adversely impact those it seeks to protect.

I write this from an executive recruiter perspective. In my 20 years of experience, the market sets predictable compensation levels for high demand talent, and there is rarely a huge degree of difference between what “Company A” and “Company B” pays. In the normal course of business, executive recruiters collect salary history for potential applicants. There are rarely instances where a potential applicant falls too far outside established salary norms. Obtaining this information up front helps the recruiter and potential employer benchmark the candidate, as well as manage expectations about a future offer.

By outlawing salary history inquiries, it becomes nearly impossible to advise candidates and clients on what is realistic or reasonable regarding candidate compensation. Employers will be put in a position where their offers will be a shot in the dark, versus the current system where salary and expectations are handled up front. This could lead to a lot of wasted interview time and effort by all parties because compensation is not aligned.

Job applicants are also potentially opening themselves up to earning less money due to the “back end” style of salary negotiation. Without having recent salary information on a potential applicant, it is very likely that companies will begin the negotiation process by making as low an offer as possible. Employers will have no incentive to make strong offers up front, as they risk paying more than they otherwise could. Candidates in turn are going to have to begin a negotiation process by fielding “low ball” offers, and will likely have contentious back-and-forth compensation discussions. Beginning a negotiation from the bottom of a range and working up is the exact opposite of how salary negotiations are currently handled. Under the current system, if an employer knows a candidate is currently earning $X, their initial offer is typically some increase above that current level. A good headhunter, or astute job seeker, can then determine if the offer is fair, or negotiate if the offer is not in line with market factors. If the starting point begins at the lowest possible number and works slowly up to what is minimally acceptable, strong talent risks leaving money on the table. In turn, employers will run a greater risk of losing good employees to companies with more aggressive offer practices.

The risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding also increases dramatically due to this law. People hear what they want to hear. If employers and executive recruiters are now put in a position where they will tell an applicant the salary range of the position up front, the candidate will likely fixate on the top of the range, while the employer is very likely to be focused on the bottom. Thus, when it comes time to negotiate the offer, the applicant and employer will likely be working from two very different starting points.

It’s important to note that our opinion comes from a very specific section of the employment market – low supply, high demand / high wage talent. There is strong evidence for serious wage gap problems in many sectors of the economy, and this law may very well improve those conditions in certain employment sectors. That said, as with any change, there are often unintended consequences.

By |October 5th, 2017|interview, Job Offers, job search|0 Comments

How To Evaluate a Job Offer

The good news – the job market is great and the demand for talented people is on the rise. The bad news – more job options don’t necessarily mean that people make good decisions.

I see a lot of candidates juggling multiple offers right now. Having competing job offers does sound like a great problem to have, but more options don’t always lead to great decisions. In this market, I feel it’s very important to have a game plan on how you will evaluate opportunities. I recommend job seekers consider three things:

  1. Determine what you want and why are looking BEFORE you start — when I interview a potential job seeker, I have a detailed conversation about what they like, and don’t like about their current role. I want to uncover the “what’s missing” aspects of their current job, as well what they really enjoy. Second, I have an equally detailed conversation about what they want in their next job. I figure this out before I ever tell them about a potential job opportunity. If you are looking for a job on your own, write down on paper the pros and cons of your current job, as well as what you’d like to do in your next job. This is a great list to refer back to when you start meeting with potential employers.
  2. Evaluate potential growth — when considering a job offer, it’s important to look at the growth potential you will have over the next 3+ years. Obviously, it’s impossible to predict the future, but during the interview process you should try to uncover the potential career path and learning/development opportunities you will get. Ask yourself how much you believe in the potential of the company. Compare competing job offers to your current job and make your best guesses as to where you might be in a few years with each opportunity.
  3. Don’t get hung up on money –money is important, but it should rarely, if ever, be a primary motivating factor when looking for a job. If the job offer is going to provide you with a growth and development path that is solid, and it addresses the reasons you were looking for a new job in the first place, you should take the job. A few thousand dollars is not going to change your lifestyle drastically in the near term, but a better opportunity and career path can add up to big future potential earnings. For more about the financial realities of job offers, click here.
By |January 18th, 2016|Job Offers|0 Comments

Realities of an Offer

realities of an offerThe realities of an offer are important to consider when negotiating compensation. In an blog post from February this year, I discussed what a “good” job offer is in this competitive market. In short, a 5-10% bump in total compensation would be considered a strong offer. A link to that article is here.

In this post, I wanted to look at some realities of an offer and why a 5-10% increase is the market norm. The offer stage can be a highly emotional part of the search process. It’s important to remember that on both sides of the negotiation, this is a business decision. Money is important, and negotiating is part of the process, but remember these realities of an offer when approaching the negotiating table:

  1. Friends sort of lie – do not listen to friends or colleagues about their salary. Friends provide some of some of the most unreliable data available. First, people have egos and they tend to fudge the numbers. Second, even if your friend is completely honest about a huge job offer they got, one example does not represent the market as a whole.
  2. You aren’t underpaid – most job seekers I talk to feel they are underpaid. In reality, very few people are underpaid. If you are a top performer with good skills, you are much more likely to be on the upper end of the pay scale for your experience and skills. The economic law of supply and demand sets a pretty standard pay scale for a given skill, years of experience, credentials, etc.
  3. Titles don’t matter – don’t get hung up on titles. I was quoted in a Fortune magazine article the other day about this (link to Fortune article here). In short, titles aren’t universally defined. One firm’s Director is another’s Manager. The responsibilities of the job, how you will develop professionally, and what you are being paid is all that really matters.
  4. Evaluate money last – I always talk about job search motivations at length with a candidate – well before we look at an actual opportunity. Money is important, but it should almost never be a primary motivating factor when changing jobs. A reasonable offer that accomplishes many of the career goals and objectives you were seeking is a great job offer. Even if you receive a lateral offer, why would you not take a job that offered more responsibility, more growth, learning opportunities, etc.?

 

By |January 18th, 2016|Job Offers, job search|0 Comments

A Good Job Offer

Money_Scales_Balance_crop380wI get a lot of questions from potential job seekers about what type of job offer to expect when they make a move. “What is a good job offer?”, “What is the current market rate for my skills and experience?”, “What will company X pay me?”

The short answer is, your offer will reflect what you  are worth. And right now, for professional positions that require college degrees or greater, relevant experience, etc., that is just about a 5-10% increase in base compensation.

Do some people get more? Sure! Is it rare? YES! The reason for this “standard” level of increase is twofold:

First, supply and demand sets the price. Think back to Economics 101 in college. If demand is high and supply is low, price goes up. If supply suddenly increases relative to demand, price decreases. A given skill set and experience level comes with a pretty narrowly definable price point. Employers don’t wildly overpay for a skill set because they don’t need to. Conversely, they don’t underpay, otherwise people would leave for better pay elsewhere. Thus, the market has essentially set the rate for your skills and experience.

Second, that the average annual increase when you stay at the same employer is close to 2-3% annually, outside employers don’t need to create more of a financial incentive to attract talent. A 5-10% increase is actually quite generous when compared to what you can expect if you stay with your current employer!

Many people are surprised to hear this information. There is a common belief that a good job offer wildly increases your pay. It’s important to keep money in perspective. It really should not be a primary motivating factor when changing jobs! Making a career move should be motivated by better long term prospects, exposure to new skills and experiences, expanding your responsibility, etc. Money will always come to those who work hard and smart! Don’t let short term dollars cloud long term thinking!

By |January 18th, 2016|Job Offers|0 Comments

How To Negotiate a Job Offer

handshake_1Ah… that magic moment when it’s time talk turkey and negotiate a job offer. Many job seekers are nervous, clueless, or both about how to negotiate a job offer. In order to negotiate the best possible deal, here are some tips:

  1. Don’t Discuss Salary Expectations Up Front – in initial interviews, if asked about what you are expecting to make say nothing specific! Don’t give a range, a big number, a little number, etc. Simply say, “I’m currently earning X, and for me this move is more about the opportunity. I’d assume that if you make me an offer it would be competitive.” At the end of the interview process, the onus is on the employer to make an offer. The general rule of how to negotiate is that he who speaks first loses. By telling them what you want, you are essentially negotiating against yourself.
  2. Assume The Initial Offer Is Negotiable – it’s very likely that there is room to negotiate the initial offer. Before doing this, you should carefully compare all aspects of the offer to your current compensation. You should also do research on the job market at your level and within your field. To negotiate properly, you need to consider factors like commuting costs, employee benefits, etc. Try to determine how the offer compares to your current compensation, and the overall market for your skills and experience before attempting to negotiate.
  3. Negotiate For More? – if you are very excited about going to work for the new employer, and the offer is strong as-is, just accept it! However, if the offer is weak compared to your current compensation, or weak compared to a well researched market analysis, don’t be afraid to negotiate and ask for more. At this point, you probably have some idea as to what it will take for you to accept the job. If the offer is significantly below your expectations, you may want to be more aggressive in how you negotiate. Conversely, if the offer is pretty solid, you may still ask for more, but be careful of how hard you push for more.
  4. EVERYTHING is negotiable! Keep in mind that you can negotiate more than just your salary . Bonus, vacation time, stock options, etc. are all potentially negotiable. Let’s say you ask for a higher salary and the employer says “no”. You might go back and negotiate an extra week of vacation. Alternatively, you may ask them to grant you an early performance review whereby you’ll have a chance to prove yourself at the job for 3-6 months and then get a compensation increase if they are satisfied with your performance.
By |January 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments