War for Talent is Real and Requires Innovation to Succeed

on 06 | 22 | 2012

At the inaugural Talent42 conference last week, one thing was clear: the war for technical talent in today’s competitive market is real, requiring organizations to look at different ways to acquire great people.

“The event brought together an excellent mix of technical recruiters and hiring managers, for both big brands and startups, to address a range of issues on sourcing and hiring the best talent,” said Riviera Partners’ Founder and Managing partner Michael A. Morell, who served as a panelist at the event. “This provided a nice cross-section of various perspectives on the dynamics of talent acquisition.”

A Defined Process
Listening to the industry experts, it was clear that talent acquisition must be a defined process, versus an ad-hoc activity. Having a recruiting team that knows exactly what they’re looking for and a disciplined process for the tools they use can make all the difference in the world, according to Michael.“Everyone in the organization needs to understand the role and importance of this process, and it has to be endorsed at all levels of the business,” he said. “This will enable hiring managers to make the right decisions in filtering and selecting the best candidates.”

Finding Smart People
There also was quite a bit of discussion around finding intrinsically smart people with the aptitude and skill to help move a business forward. “The traditional way of making hiring decisions based primarily on education or work experience doesn’t always yield the results you’re looking for,” Michael said. “You need to look deeper into a person’s abilities and personality by engaging multiple people in the interview process, even bringing candidates in to demonstrate their technical capacity and programming capabilities as part of the evaluation.”

Cultural Fit
As important as anything else, new hires must fit a company’s culture in order to succeed and thrive. This requires the hiring organization to define and declare its culture. “Facebook, for example, makes it very clear to candidates that new employees are expected to contribute to the company on Day One,” Michael said. “Your culture needs to be explicit and weaved throughout the recruiting process. It’s really about building your brand, getting people excited to work for your company, and selling that opportunity.”

Specifically, Michael participated in a session titled “How to Compete for Talent in Silicon Valley,” where he was joined by executives from Zynga and Ooyala during a session titled “How to Compete for Talent in Silicon Valley.” The panelists addressed several audience questions and topics, including:

The Need for Interview Training—Google recently conducted a study where it provided an interview team with 10 anonymous resumes of current employees deemed “top performers” in the company. Surprisingly, the interview team ruled out half of the pool based on their resumes. “This just shows that sometimes optics don’t yield the best results,” Michael said. “Anyone involved in the interview process needs to know how to evaluate candidates, which may require training throughout your organization.”

Making it Personal—In today’s highly sophisticated, technology-driven environment, there are a myriad of tools being used to recruit candidates. In fact, many recruiters are leveraging online mechanisms, including social media, to identify and connect with desired talent. While trying to figure out the best tools to use, it’s important not to forget about the personal connection. “Some people think you can simply recruit through Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like,” Michael said. “While there may be some success stories doing it that way, I believe we need to still incorporate the ‘old school’ of recruiting, where you pick up the phone, have a conversation, and really develop a personal relationship with candidates.” Furthermore, the best candidates are typically busy doing their work, so direct communication is often the best way to connect.

Closing the Deal—There’s a misconception that “closing” is a period of time at the end of the recruiting process. “In reality, closing starts at the initial contact and continues throughout the ‘selling’ process until you’ve convinced a candidate they should join your company,” Michael said. “Every touch point throughout the recruiting process is an opportunity to reach that successful outcome.” It’s also important to realize you’re not going to “close” everyone, so it’s essential to build a robust pipeline of candidates leveraging multiple sources, from colleges, to external recruiting firms, to internal recruiters.

“As the first such conference, I thought Talent42 was an excellent opportunity for attendees to gain unique perspectives on the many issues we face in talent acquisition,” Michael said. “It was particularly invaluable for smaller companies and startups who are trying to compete with the ‘big boys’ and have to win on more than cash and equity. This conference shed light on the many different ways you can successfully win the war for talent—through a defined, yet personal, recruiting process supported across the organization.”