July 28, 2015 Jeremy McNeil

A Candidate’s Market – It’s a love/hate kind of thing

I get the same question day after day, “Aren’t you guys loving this Candidate’s Market?” Ha!  If you’re up for working twice as hard for half the results, then I think a hot staffing market is the perfect combination.  It prompted me to start thinking whether a candidate market is really such a great thing for everyone as I had previously believed.

During a candidate market, companies are typically doing very well (which is a great thing), and unemployment is typically low (which is also a great thing).  How could this be bad?  Well, let’s take it one step further.  If companies are doing well, what do they require?  More talent to meet the increased demand!  As the war for talent increases, the natural play for a company is to start treating their employees better – which makes it harder for them to want to leave and explore the unknown, which nets fewer people ready to leave their current jobs.

As a staffing professional, I find that this is typically when companies are more than ready to sign up for our services.  On the surface, this sounds like a great opportunity for a staffing firm; I’ve been calling you for 2 years trying to help with your staffing needs and now you’re ready to let me prove our value.  Well, enter the conundrum that the staffing industry faces.  We are sales professional, sourcers, and negotiators; not magicians.

This is probably the most daunting scenario that I engage in, as I know that my reputation and the reputation of my firm is on the line with each job order I choose to work.  While the job opportunity is qualified and the hiring manager is motivated, the shortage of talent is real.  Even when we are successful, it typically takes twice as much work & time, and it’s rare that everything lines up perfectly.   While it’s difficult for us as the staffing firm, it’s really a scenario where everybody stands to potentially lose.  Companies are missing opportunities to advance, candidates are missing opportunities to explore what could be best-case scenario career opportunities, and everyone is waiting for the opportunity to snatch the next candidate who had a bad day at the office!

All hope is not lost.  Here’s 3 things you can do to help yourself when helps not easy to come by:

  1. Invest in the person, not the skill: A great market is an optimal time to train and invest in up-and-coming talent.  Sure, it will take longer for the employee to make an impact, but think of the long term value that employee can have towards your business, not to mention how loyal they’ll be for taking a chance on them.  Added bonus – you’ll probably save a little budget on their salary.  However, I wouldn’t recommend under paying even when you can – that has a tendency to result in someone else luring your employee away once their trained up and ready to make a contribution.
  2. Contract out the really hard to find jobs: A hot market is only temporary, but the opportunity cost for not pursuing a business opportunity could be a costly mistake. Don’t let your job stay open 180 days waiting on that “perfect” person.  Even if you only hire permanent employees and don’t like the thought of using a contractor, considering this avenue might be a great option to get the project started whether it’s laying out the architecture, helping with a migration, or coming in for temporary relief.  Once the heavy lifting is done, it’s much easier to find a mid-level employee to come in and handle the day-to-day as you’ll be able to attract that person with the opportunity to increase their responsibilities and their skillset.
  3. Consider your salary bands: I understand that budgets are a real thing and you’ve been able to get employees at a certain salary range for the last 5 years. However, just as you are seeing market opportunities like you haven’t seen in the last 5 years, you may have to adjust to the market to ensure you don’t miss out.  I’m never an advocate of “buying” talent, but I am a fan of paying market value.  If you’re worried about paying a new employee more than what your current team makes, perhaps the wise move is to hire the new employee at market rate and give their peers a market adjustment to ensure they’re not your next poached employee.  Yes, it will change your P&L and the cost of doing business might increase, but if you can service more clients, wont you potentially be able to provide more products or services to narrow the gap and then some?  As a fairly frugal person myself, My CEO is constantly reminding me to do what’s best for the business – “don’t be a penny wise and a pound foolish.”

So maybe a great staffing market isn’t the worst thing in the world and there are almost always creative options to help you capitalize on these rare opportunities, but sometimes it involves thinking around the traditional and pioneering tactics that the market demands.

About the Author

Jeremy McNeil After several years as a top performer in the IT staffing industry, Jeremy joined iStaff in January of 2010 and organically grew his responsibilities to encompass strategy at all levels of the organization. His successful track record in the Atlanta Staffing Market and dedication to Integrity has helped him build strong relationships with influential organizations in Georgia and around the country. He is an active member of 12Stone Church leading small groups, biblical based leadership round-tables, and plays drums in the Worship Band. He spends the majority of his free time with his wife and two children. He has a BA in Marketing from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN.

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