Managing the Risk of Competing Offers

When you are out to hire the best talent there are several issues. One is that most of them are working – which means you – or your recruiting-firm partner – will have to headhunt. The second, is that you’re unlikely to be the only one speaking with the them. The following ideas are meant to assist in mitigating the risks of competing offers. Counter-offers are also very real possibility–given that the candidate’s current company will have a strong desire to keep them – but we’ll save those for another day.

Ask Them Where Else They Are Interviewing…Repeatedly

One of the most important things you can do as a hiring manager, HR manager or internal or external recruiter is to ask if the candidate is currently considering or interviewing for other opportunities. This should be done after every step in the process from the phone interview through the last interview and during each conversation with the candidate until they sign the offer. The challenge for hiring authorities associated with a particular company is that the candidate may not tell you. Even if they don’t tell you after you ask the question for the first time, they may eventually either drop hints that they are being considered elsewhere or let you know what other opportunities they are pursuing. One of the benefits of working with a recruiting firm is that, as a third party, the candidate is willing to be open about what is REALLY transpiring in their job search.

Forsaking All Others

When you get married, the deal is that you commit to one person, “forsaking all others”. Just as some people in a marriage have a difficult time doing this, so too do your candidates. There is always the allure of what the other “opportunity” might be like. “Will they offer me more money?” “Maybe the other role will better?” “Is this really the best decision?”

Most companies take candidates through a multi-stage process – investing a lot of time and money–and have no idea where they stand. They ignorantly assume that they are the only suitor. They make an offer and are shocked when they are turned down.

Before making a candidate an offer, you want to be sure that they are going to accept it. Dare I say, this is where a good recruiter will earn their fee? What I do, and recommend that you do, is take the candidate through the offer one step at a time.

Begin by getting their agreement about what they’ve said they want and what you are offering. For example, “You said that you are looking for $90,000 per year. Is that correct?” They will likely say “Yes”. “You said you wanted four weeks vacation, is that still the case?” “Yes”. This is a page taken from the world of closing the sale. The more often they say “Yes”, the more psychologically committed people feel to saying “yes” to the final question which is, “Will you accept this offer?” The next step is to run through the offer. “If I could offer you $90,000 per year to start with four weeks vacation in the role of IT Manager, would you accept?”

Their response will be telling. If they immediately say “yes” without hesitation and sound excited then you likely have yourself a new hire. If there is any hesitation, if they don’t sound that excited or say they have to think about it or give you an outright “no” then you will know that they have either received a counter-offer from their existing employer or they are close to receiving or have received another offer from someone else.

No matter how well the interview process has gone or how enthusiastic a candidate is about your opportunity or company, don’t assume that they aren’t talking to other companies. If they aren’t, it’s a bonus. If they are, then staying on top of where they are interviewing, how things are progressing and whether they will accept your offer can both help shape your offer and secure the candidate.

Don’t Tempt Fate with Your Resume: A Cautionary Tale of Poor Spelling, Assumptions and a Lucky Break

A number of months ago I spoke with the head of marketing for a local company. He was hiring for a role that required a great deal of writing. A candidate had submitted a resume with a typo in the first line and he automatically made a number of assumptions that were not in the candidate’s favour.

Poor Spelling & Negative Assumptions

The most important assumption, and one which most of us would make, was this…”If he doesn’t proofread his resume (or have it proofread by somebody else) for an important job that demands impeccable written and other communication then he will be equally “careless”, “sloppy”, “unprofessional” when it comes to the company’s marketing copy.

A Lucky Break

Thankfully for him, the HR person was persistent and insisted that the person was a very high-calibre candidate worthy of an interview. Based on this, the hiring manager interviewed the candidate and confirmed that the candidate was indeed a rock star.

Now, rather than mention the error as a key reason for not hiring him, the manager began trying to rationalize the error and explain why it probably happened. Interestingly, neither the assumption that the candidate was unworthy — based on one piece of evidence — nor the subsequent rationalization are factual. We can say that she definitely made a typing mistake, however, we can’t say why.

In the end then it really comes down to a feeling. At first, the hiring manager was negatively disposed to the candidate then became positively disposed. At some point, the manager’s first instinct may be born out in a typo or other error or it may be that the person goes on to a long and successful career with that organization.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that people make assumptions about everything that you do and look for reasons to either like your resume or throw your resume out. If you don’t have a kindly HR person in your corner who can defend your capabilities you had better make sure your resume is written well with the job description and accuracy in mind.

The Trials & Tribulations of Summer Hiring (or Job Hunting)

The Dog Days of Summer

For both recruiters and candidates I would say that summer in North America is the most difficult time to be conducting a job search – and particularly to be actively considered for a job. The reason is probably fairly obvious. While Christmas, Easter and Spring Break have short windows of time during which people can be away, “summer” holidays can be very broadly defined. For some people in an organization, they might begin taking 1-2 weeks off  as early as May or June while others might not go away until August or September and of course any time in between.

The challenge lies in the fact that most hiring of IT positions is not done exclusively by one person. I have seen organizations who have one-step process when, for example, it is a short-term contract position that is in high demand or in rare cases a permanent role that is desperately required. These scenarios, particularly in the Vancouver marketplace, are exceedingly rare. In most cases, hiring is a three, four or five step process? Along with those steps comes the requirement to meet a variety of different people in the organization and on the specific team that is being hired for.

A Long Process Gets Longer

The hiring process is long enough already when people are in town. However, even the typical 6-8 week hiring process can drag well into three months and beyond when people are away and out of town. This is frustrating for candidates and can lead them to either turn down the role or engender bad feelings about the organization after they are told they didn’t get the job. Imagine that the candidate then goes on to tell all who will listen about his negative experience. This can result in a PR nightmare and deter qualified candidates from applying for roles well into the future. You don’t want that.

Some Solutions For Clients & Candidates

There are several ways that the above scenario can be avoided. An organization that is hiring can ensure that the candidate is kept apprised of any delays. The simple courtesy of communicating with the candidate can keep them onside and happy. A candidate that is involved in a protracted interview process can also take on communicating and asking questions about where things stand, what the steps are and when the organization intends to make a final decision. A professional recruiting firm will often play this role and act as a kind of project manager to ensure that things run smoothly for the benefit of both the candidate and the client.

The Bottom Line

Summer, and really anytime, can be challenging when it comes to hiring people if the process isn’t managed properly. Both the organization and the candidate need to do their parts to ensure that decisions are made in a timely manner, that people who need to be involved are available and that next steps and any delays are quickly communicated. This will ensure that, even during the summer, companies find productive employees and candidates get great new jobs.

Trends in Talent Management and Recruiting 2012

by Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 5, 2011, 5:03 am ET

It’s always better to be prepared than surprised

By definition, being strategic requires that you look forward–identifying trends, opportunities, and threats. With the December lull looming, now is a great time to plan for the future. I’ve listed the “top 10 talent management trends” I foresee that require your attention.

But you should certainly do your own thinking. I recommend that you start by examining this past year…

2011 Was The Year of Social Media

2011 was a tough year for many in talent management, but despite compressed budgets, organizations continued to hire and develop talent. One factor that seemed to invade nearly every high-level functional discussion was social media. It’s clear that Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter will play a dominate role in recruiting and development best practices in years to come.

Not surprisingly, 2011 saw no fewer than 40 new vendors emerge to help organizations use social media to attract referrals. We also started to see early stage tools to use social media in talent assessment (pre/post hire) as well as applicant/candidate/employee experience management. New tools brought much enhanced visibility into talent issues, but most talent-management metrics continue not to resonate with key leaders outside of the HR function.

2012 Will Be “The Year of the Mobile Platform”

By the end of next year, even the skeptics will have to admit that the mobile platform will have become the dominant communications and interaction platform by early-adopting best-practice organizations. The capabilities afforded users of smartphones and tablet devices grows immensely day by day. Long before unified inboxes existed for the desktop, smart device users could see all incoming e-mail, social messaging, text messaging, and voice and video messaging in a single place.

Tablets will become the virtual classroom, and an emerging class of tools will let employees manage almost every aspect of their professional life digitally. During the next year, talent management leaders need to invest heavily supporting execution of talent management initiatives across mobile.

The Additional Top Nine!

Intense hiring competition will return in selected areasglobal economic issues will persist for years to come, but the global war for talent will continue spiking in key regions an industries. While growth has slowed somewhat in China, Australia and Southeast Asia — including India — continue to see dramatic demand for skilled talent. In the U.S. and Europe, demand is still largely limited to certain industries where skills shortages have been an issue for years.

In high tech inclusive of medical technologies, 2012 will see a significant escalation in the war for top talent. As innovators and game changers step out of established tech firms like Facebook, Apple, Google, Twitter, and Zynga, a whole new breed to tech startups will be born each vying for the best of the best. While recruiting will move forward at a breathtaking pace, so too will “rapid” leadership development.

Retention issues will increase dramatically — almost every survey shows that despite high engagement scores, more than a majority of employees are willing to quit their current job as soon as a better opportunity comes along. I am predicting that turnover rates in high-demand occupations will increase by 25% during the next year and because most corporate retention programs have been so severely degraded, retention could turn out to be the highest-economic-impact area in all of talent management.

Rather than the traditional “one-size-fits-all” retention strategy, a targeted personalized approach will be required if you expect to have a reasonable chance to retain your top talent.

Social media increases its impact by becoming more data-driven — most firms jumped on the social media bandwagon, but unfortunately the trial-and-error approach used by most has produced only mediocre results. Adapting social media tools from the business coupled with strong analytics will allow a more focused approach that harnesses and directs the effort of all employees on social media. Talent leaders will increasingly see the value of a combination of internal and external social media approaches for managing and developing talent.

Remote work changes everything in talent management — the continued growth of technology, social media, and easy communications now makes it possible for most knowledge work and team activities to occur remotely. Allowing top talent to work “wherever they want to work” improves retention and makes recruiting dramatically easier.

Unfortunately, even though it is now possible for as much as 50% of a firm’s jobs to be done remotely, manager and HR resistance has limited the trend. Fortunately, managers and talent management leaders have begun to realize that teamwork, learning, development, recruiting, and best-practice sharing can now successfully be accomplished using remote methods. Firms like IBM and Cisco have led the way in reducing and eliminating barriers to remote work.

The need for speed shifts the balance between development and recruiting — historically, best practice within corporations has been to build and develop primarily from within. However, as the speed of change in business continues to increase and the number of firms that copy the “Apple model” (where firm is continually crossing industry boundaries) increases, talent managers will need to rethink the “develop internally first” approach.

In many cases, recruiting becomes a more viable option because there simply isn’t time for current employees to develop completely new skills. As a result, the trend will be to continually shift the balance toward recruiting for immediate needs and the use of contingent labor for short-duration opportunities and problems.

Employee referrals are coupled with social media — the employee referral program in many organizations is operated in isolation as are the organizations’ social media efforts, but talent managers are beginning to realize that the real strength of social media is relationship-building by your employees.

With proper coordination, employee relationships can easily be turned into employee referrals. This realization will lead to a shift away from recruiters and toward relying on employees to build social media contacts and relationships. The net result will be that as many as 60% of all hires will come from the combined efforts. The strength of these relationships will lead to better assessment and the highest-quality hires from employee referrals.

Employer branding returns — Employer branding and building talent communities are the only long-term strategies in recruiting. True branding is rarely practiced (hint: it’s not recruitment marketing) especially in the cash-strapped function of today, but years of layoffs, cuts in compensation, and generally bad press for business in general may force firms to invest in true branding. The increased use of social media and frequent visits to employee criticism sites (like, make not managing employer brand perception a risky proposition. While corporations will never control their employer brand, they can monitor and influence in a direction that isn’t catastrophic to recruiting and retention.

The candidate experience is finally getting the attention it deserves — Organizations have never treated candidates as well as they did their customers, but the high jobless rate has allowed corporations to essentially abuse some applicants. As competition for talent increases and as more applicants visit employer criticism sites like, talent leaders will be forced to modify their approach.

At the very least, firms will more closely monitor candidate experience metrics as they realize that treating applicants poorly can not only drive away other high-quality applicants but it can also lose them sales and customers.

Forward-looking metrics begin to dominate — Almost all current talent management and recruiting metrics are backward looking, in that they tell you what happened in the past. Other business functions like supply chain, production, and finance have long championed the use of “forward-looking” or predictive metrics and the time is finally coming when talent management leaders will shift their metrics emphasis. Forward-looking metrics can not only improve decision-making but they can also help to prevent or mitigate future talent problems.

Other Things to Keep Your Eye On…

In addition to the major trends highlighted above, there are 12 additional “hot” topics to keep your eye on:

Risk identification — almost every other business function has already adopted a risk management strategy. So the time is coming when talent management will be forced to adopt a similar strategy and set of metrics. This program will not only cover HR legal issues but also the economic “risk” associated with weak hiring, the absence of developed leaders, and the cost of turnover of key talent.

Prioritization — continued budget and resource pressure will force talent management leaders to prioritize their services, business units, key jobs, and high-value managers/employees.

Integration — there will be increasing pressure for talent management functions to more closely integrate and work seamlessly.

Expedited leadership development — as more baby-boom leaders and managers actually begin to retire, there will be increased pressure for expedited leadership development — specifically solutions that develop talent remotely using social media tools and within months rather than years.

Competitive analysis — the increasingly competitive business world has forced almost every function to be more externally focused. Although HR has a long history of being internally focused and not being “highly competitive,” there is increasing pressure to become more business-like and to adopt an “us-versus-them” perspective. That means conducting competitive analysis and making sure that every key talent management function produces superior results to those at competitors.

Contingent workers — as continuous business volatility becomes the “new normal,” the increased use and the improved management of contingent workers will become essential for agility and flexibility.

Unionization — there is a reasonable chance that actions by the NLRB will increase union power and make it easier for unions to gain acceptance at private employers.

Recruiting at industry events — as industry events return to popularity, recruiting at them will again become an effective tool for recruiting top and diverse talent.

Location software — talent managers will begin to realize that software that allows you to check-in and see who is within close geographic proximity has great value and many still unidentified uses.

Hire before they do — most firms will restrict their hiring until the turnaround actually begins. However, your firm must have a talent pool or pipeline developed, so that you can hire immediately and capture the top talent right before your competitors realize the downturn is over.

Assessment continues to improve — vendors, software, and tools continue to improve in this area that will become increasingly important.

Increase your revenue impact — increased economic pressures will continue the trend of forcing all functions (including talent management) to convert their functional results into business impacts in dollars. Talent management will face increasing pressure to directly demonstrate how their hiring, retention, development, etc. is focused, so that it directly increases and maximizes corporate revenues.

Final Thoughts

A recent survey of CEOs rates talent management as the No. 1 area where CEOs expect dramatic change during the next year. Given this increased attention, it’s even more critical that talent management and recruiting leaders set aside time to conduct a SWOT assessment (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to identify where they are and where they need to be.

The “new” talent management leader must be more strategic, more proactive, and more business-like, and that means getting your entire staff to begin thinking about and planning for the game-changing events, trends, and opportunities that will occur during the next year. It’s time to realize the “but-we-are-overwhelmed-and-too-busy” excuse for not forecasting and planning is wearing thin.

Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2012 and Beyond

Predictions Show IT Budgets Are Moving Out of the Control of IT Departments

STAMFORD, Conn., December 1, 2011

Gartner, Inc. has revealed its top predictions for IT organizations and users for 2012 and beyond. Analysts said that the predictions herald changes in control for IT organizations as budgets, technologies and costs become more fluid and distributed.

This year’s selection process included evaluating several criteria that define a top prediction. The issues examined included relevance, impact and audience appeal. A list of this year’s predicts reports is available on the Gartner Predicts website at

Gartner’s top predictions for 2012 and beyond showcase the trends and events that will change the nature of business today and in years to come. Selected from across Gartner’s research areas as the most compelling and critical predictions, the trends and topics they address underline the reduction of control that IT has over the forces that affect it.

“The continued trends toward consumerization and cloud computing highlight the movement of certain former IT responsibilities into the hands of others,” said Daryl Plummer, managing vice president and Gartner fellow. “As users take more control of the devices they will use, business managers are taking more control of the budgets IT organizations have watched shift over the last few years. As the world of IT moves forward, CIOs are finding that they must coordinate their activities in a much wider scope than they once controlled. While this might be a difficult prospect for IT departments, they must now adapt or be swept aside.”

Gartner analysts said that going into 2012 there is an increase in the amount of information available to organizations, but it’s a challenge for them to understand it. Given the shifts in control of systems that IT organizations are facing, the loss of ability to guarantee consistency and effectiveness of data will leave many struggling to prevent their organizations from missing key opportunities or from using questionable information for strategic decisions. No regulatory help is on the near horizon, leaving each business to decide for itself how to handle the introduction of big data.

“Any organization which wishes to accelerate in 2012 must establish in itself a significant discipline of coordinating distributed activities,” Mr. Plummer said. “They must establish relationship management as a key skill and train their people accordingly. The reason for this is that the lack of control can only be combated through coordinative activities. The IT organization of the future must coordinate those who have the money, those who deliver the services, those who secure the data, and those consumers who demand to set their own pace for use of IT.”

Gartner’s top predictions for 2012 include:

By 2015, low-cost cloud services will cannibalize up to 15 percent of top outsourcing players’ revenue. Industrialized low-cost IT services (ILCS) is an emerging market force that will alter the common perceptions of pricing and value of IT services. In the next three to five years, this new model will reset the value proposition of IT. Low-cost cloud services will cause the cannibalization of current and potential outsourcing revenue. Similar to what happened with the adoption of offshore delivery, it will be incumbent upon vendors to invest in and adopt a new cloud-based, industrialized services strategy either directly or indirectly, internally or externally. The projected $1 trillion IT services market is at the beginning of a phase of further disruption, similar to the one the low-cost airlines have brought in the transportation industry.

In 2013, the investment bubble will burst for consumer social networks, and for enterprise social software companies in 2014. Vendors in the consumer social network space are competing with each other at a rate and pace that are unusually aggressive, even in the technology market. The net result is a large crop of vendors with overlapping features competing for a finite audience. In the enterprise market, many small independent social networking vendors are struggling to reach critical mass at a time when market consolidation is starting, and megavendors, such as Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Google and VMware, have made substantial efforts to penetrate the enterprise social networking market. While substantial excitement will be raised by private firms going public, valuations of smaller independent vendors will diminish as recognition sets in that the opportunities for market differentiation and fast growth has eroded.

By 2016, at least 50 percent of enterprise email users will rely primarily on a browser, tablet or mobile client instead of a desktop client. While the rise in popularity of mobile devices and the growing comfort with browser use for enterprise applications preordains a richer mix of email clients and access mechanisms, the pace of change over the next four years will be breathtaking. Email system vendors are also likely to build mobile clients for a diverse set of devices for the same reason. Market opportunities for mobile device management platform vendors will soar. Increased pressure will be on those suppliers to accommodate an increasing portfolio of collaboration services, including instant messaging, Web conferencing, social networking and shared workspaces.

By 2015, mobile application development projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4-to-1. Smartphones and tablets represent more than 90 percent of the new net growth in device adoption for the coming four years, and increasing application platform capability across all classes of mobile phones is spurring a new frontier of innovation, particularly where mobile capabilities can be integrated with location, presence and social information to enhance the usefulness. Innovation is moving to the edge for mobile devices; whereas, in 2011, Gartner estimates that app development projects targeting PCs to be on par with mobile development. Future adoption will triple from 4Q10 to 1Q14, and will result in the vast majority of client-side applications being mobile only or mobile first for these devices.

By 2016, 40 percent of enterprises will make proof of independent security testing a precondition for using any type of cloud service. While enterprises are evaluating the potential cloud benefits in terms of management simplicity, economies of scale and workforce optimization, it is equally critical that they carefully evaluate cloud services for their ability to resist security threats and attacks. Inspectors’ certifications will eventually become a viable alternative or complement to third-party testing. This means that instead of requesting that a third-party security vendor conduct testing on the enterprise’s behalf, the enterprise will be satisfied by a cloud provider’s certificate stating that a reputable third-party security vendor has already tested its applications.

At year-end 2016, more than 50 percent of Global 1000 companies will have stored customer-sensitive data in the public cloud. With the current global economy facing financial pressure, organizations are compelled to reduce operational costs and streamline their efficiency. Responding to this imperative, it is estimated that more than 20 percent of organizations have already begun to selectively store their customer-sensitive data in a hybrid architecture that is a combined deployment of their on-premises solution with a private and/or public cloud provider in 2011.

By 2015, 35 percent of enterprise IT expenditures for most organizations will be managed outside the IT department’s budget. Next generation digital enterprises are being driven by a new wave of business managers and individual employees who no longer need technology to be contextualized for them by an IT department. These people are demanding control over the IT expenditure required to evolve the organization within the confines of their roles and responsibilities. CIOs will see some of their current budget simply reallocated to other areas of the business. In other cases, IT projects will be redefined as business projects with line-of-business managers in control.

By 2014, 20 percent of Asia-sourced finished goods and assemblies consumed in the U.S. will shift to the Americas. Political, environmental, economic and supply chain risks are causing many companies serving the U.S. market to shift sources of supply from Asia to the Americas, including Latin America, Canada and the U.S. Except in cases where there is a unique manufacturing process or product intellectual property, most products are candidates to be relocated. Escalating oil prices globally and rising wages in many offshore markets, plus the hidden costs associated with offshore outsourcing, erode the cost savings that didn’t account for critical supply chain factors, such as inventory carrying costs, lead times, demand variability and product quality.

Through 2016, the financial impact of cybercrime will grow 10 percent per year, due to the continuing discovery of new vulnerabilities. As IT delivery methods meet the demand for the use of cloud services and employee-owned devices, new software vulnerabilities will be introduced, and innovative attack paths will be developed by financially motivated attackers. The combination of new vulnerabilities and more targeted attacks will lead to continued growth in bottom-line financial impact because of successful cyber attacks.

By 2015, the prices for 80 percent of cloud services will include a global energy surcharge. While cloud operators can make strategic decisions about locations, tax subsidies are no long-term answer to managing costs, and investments in renewable-energy sources remain costly. Some cloud data center operators already include an energy surcharge in their pricing package, and Gartner analysts believe this trend will rapidly escalate to include the majority of operators — driven by competitive pressures and a “me too” approach. Business and IT leaders and procurement specialists must expect to see energy costs isolated and included as a variable element in future cloud service contracts.

Through 2015, more than 85 percent of Fortune 500 organizations will fail to effectively exploit big data for competitive advantage. Current trends in smart devices and growing Internet connectivity are creating significant increases in the volume of data available, but the complexity, variety and velocity with which it is delivered combine to amplify the problem substantially beyond the simple issues of volume implied by the popular term “big data.” Collecting and analyzing the data is not enough — it must be presented in a timely fashion so that decisions are made as a direct consequence that have a material impact on the productivity, profitability or efficiency of the organization. Most organizations are ill prepared to address both the technical and management challenges posed by big data; as a direct result, few will be able to effectively exploit this trend for competitive advantage.

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