The people you want likely aren’t looking; but you can find themQ. I am the VP of IT for a $50 million public technology company. We’ve been searching for an Oracle Applications Manager for six months with no success. We’ve placed ads, offered referral bonuses and sponsored job fairs. We’ve interviewed multiple candidates from a wide variety of resources, but no winners. We’ve exhausted ourselves and are thinking about lowering our standards just to fill the position. What are we doing wrong?

A. My first response is any position that goes unfilled over 90 days is probably unrealistic. Most companies don’t take the time to analyze their requirements before they commence the search. Most hiring managers develop a job description based off a set of technical and functional requirements from the previous incumbent.

It is imperative to get all key decision makers to agree (sign off) to the requirements and expectations for the position.

They need to ask: “What problems are you trying to solve?” Create a scorecard based off a best-fit profile. No candidate should be selected for an interview unless they score above 80 percent.  The mistake that too many hiring managers make is expecting candidates to have it all, combining two or three roles into one. Is this realistic? No.

There is an epidemic going on in the U.S.: employee abuse and employee burnout. People who are fortunate to have jobs are being asked to wear several hats, work long hours including evenings and weekends without being compensated. I’m not sure this is legal not to mention the built-up resentment. And you become a target to your competition, giving them the upper hand to lure away your best talent, promising interesting and challenging projects, attractive compensation packages and the dream work-life balance.

What will you attract from ads and job fairs? Most people who apply from job ads and attend job fairs are either unhappy job seekers or the unemployed. People who are happily employed do not apply for jobs or attend fairs. Why? Because they are busy. They don’t have the time to be searching for jobs, filling out long boring applications, preparing their resume to fit the job, customizing cover letters and doing time-consuming phone screens and interviews.

They are not going to be attending job fairs. Why would they? They are happily employed. How do you attract happy, healthy, employed talent to your organization? You need to have an attractive offer.

Ask yourself the following questions before you commence a search for any position from receptionist to c-level:

What would motivate someone to leave their present company to work for your organization (product innovation, career or promotional opportunities, earning potential, technical challenge)?

Why is the position open? Did you lose the person to the competition or did someone make a poor hiring decision?

How have you been successful attracting talent to your company in the past or are you just filling positions?

What is the job function, what problems are you trying to solve? (Describe a “typical” day in terms of priorities, responsibilities, most pressing concerns.)

What are the expected short- and long-term goals?

What are your reasons for rejecting the candidates that were selected for interviews? Are they valid and are your requirements realistic?

What were the reasons that the selected candidates rejected your offer?

Who is the competition? Make a list of five companies that are likely to produce desirable candidates for this position. Hire an expert recruiter to contact them directly to discuss your opportunity. Recruiting is sales.

Are you offering a competitive compensation package that meets or exceeds the industry standard?

If you don’t have clear answers to these questions you will not be successful filling any position. It’s not just about filling positions, it’s about making great hiring decisions, selecting the best person for the job based off of the company’s needs today (short-term goals) and for the future (long-term goals).

How can you attract the talent to your organization? Be prepared to offer a market-competitive package that offers everything from an attractive base salary, bonus programs based on productivity and profitability, stock options (if applicable), benefits to employees and family, PTO, education and training, career development, mentoring and flexible work schedules.

The bottom line is it’s all about being productive.

The North Bay has a poor reputation for offering compensation packages that are 20 percent to 30 percent below the greater Bay Area. Why? Is the cost of living cheaper here? No. The mentality of the North Bay employer is, “We can attract the talent to this area because of the dream: to live and work in the North Bay.”

Does this mean that we should take advantage of the fact that because they live here that they would be willing to take less? Wake up. North Bay companies will continue to lose the talent to the South Bay and other areas because of this mentality. Be a leader and a competitive player, and the talent will naturally be attracted to you and your organization. The goal is to be so attractive that the talent is knocking on your door.

Good luck.


Jennifer Laxton is a senior partner and executive coach with Executive Search Associates in Santa Rosa www.esa.com. ESA is an executive search and consulting company. You can reach her at 707-217-4535 or jklaxton@esa.com.