5 Secrets To Competing Successfully for Top Talent

The job market is extremely tight right now. The latest unemployment rate per the Department of Labor is 4.9% nationally. The U.S. unemployment rate peaked at 9.9% in the spring of 2010. The millions of people that were laid off or terminated have since found work. Employers who went through the painful process of letting go of high quality talent have not forgotten what it feels like. They are holding on to top talent more tightly than ever.

But these figures are somewhat misleading. 4.9% is the total unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for unskilled workers or those with high school diplomas only is closer to 10%. Unemployment for those with college degrees is between 2-2.5%. Unemployment for highly skilled positions like engineers, degreed accountants, and technology professionals is closer to 1-1.5%.

So what does it all mean? How can you position your company to compete successfully for the human capital you need?

1) You must have an effective selection system in place. The pool of highly skilled candidates actively seeking work is very small and more tainted that ever. The percentage of top performers as a part of the current active talent pool is also smaller than ever. The percentage of active job seekers with attitude problems, spotty job histories, and lifestyle choices that prevents top performance is higher than ever.

You must up your game when it comes to talent identification and selection. The following list has always mattered. But it matters more than ever now with the labor shortage that exists. It is getting harder to tell the true performers from the pretenders. I encourage you to do the following —

-Write crystal clear job descriptions to review and evaluate all candidates by them

– Create a scorecard that weights the job requirements and allow you to score candidate interviews

– Assess all candidates with a valid, easy to interpret, job appropriate assessment. I like the DISC assessment, but there are many others.

– Get some interview training or hire a recruiter. It’s important to learn how to ask effective follow up questions to elicit more truthful response from candidates.

– Keep your standards high. Don’t hire candidates who are late for interviews and have unimpressive answers. Don’t hire the first candidate that looks good to you. Be patient and interview 3 or 4 more. Either your first impulse will be correct or you will find a much more suitable candidate.

– Always check 3 references from bosses. If they can’t provide names and cell phone numbers pass on them. The inability to provide them means they know what the reference will say and want to prevent it or they did not build the necessary trust with a manager required to secure a positive reference.

2) Evaluate the quality of your management team. Countless research on employee engagement shows the quality of the employee’s first line supervisor is the single greatest predictor of performance, retention, and morale. Send you managers to leadership training. Get them some coaching skills. Your managers who have no interest in learning and growing should be replaced. Conduct an exit interview with every employee that leaves.

3) Evaluate your brand and how you communicate it on social media. When I have my initial screening conversation with a candidate they always ask for the name of the employer. I direct them to the web address and I expect them to research the company’s website, LinkedIn page, and Facebook page. What kind of impression will your social media make on a highly qualified candidate? Compare your social media presence to that of your competitors. Whose makes the better first impression? Whose brand is more appealing?

4) Does your office and its furnishings require a face lift? A shabby outdated office belies the message that you are innovative and creative. Worn and dirty carpet contradicts a message that you are successful and enjoying dramatic growth. Our home tells a lot about who we are and what is important to us. And so does our office. It your office sending the message that you want?

5) My last suggestion is a personal one. I am asking you to evaluate yourself and how you lead. The quality of the followers rarely exceeds that of the leader. When was the last time you invested in yourself? Are you a learning and growing leader? If not how do you expect to attract, motivate, and retain talent that is passionate about personal and professional development? Be the example of the excellence you wish to see in others.

Take action on these 5 suggestions and you will compete successfully for the talent you need.

Michael Duke is the Founder and CEO of Michael Duke and Associates, Inc. and NEWSCHOOL Recruiting. He works with organizations who want their managers to lead with purpose and build high performing t#ceams. His services include leadership training and consulting, recruiting and retention consulting, culture building and improvement as well as team building. He is the author of two books. Lead Like a Coach; Leadership Lessons from Legendary Coaches and Coach to the Goal; Ten Truths to Transform Your Team into Winners. Find and follow Michael here: michaelduke.com and newschoolrecruiting.com