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Talent Talk: Which Hiring Contest Do You Want to Compete In?

In today’s labor environment, hiring the best candidate is both a war and a race. The good news is that you only need to win one of those contests, and you get to choose which one.

Paul Sturgeon

August 28, 2023

2 Min Read
businessman playing tug of war
STEEX/iStock via Getty Images

Hiring the best people to help elevate your company, your department, and your own career has never been harder. Over the years the “war for talent” has become part of the workplace lexicon. I have written a few Talent Talks saying I am not a big fan of that phrase, my argument being it is more like a race than a war.

In today’s environment we are seeing an unprecedented demand for labor, combined with inflationary pressures that are driving compensation higher than historical increases. Those with elite talent and scarce skillsets are seeing disproportionally high increases, especially when making a job change. That segment of the labor market, also well entrenched in the lexicon as top talent, rock stars, and A-players, are seeing multiple opportunities with impressive compensation offers.

The debate is no longer whether it is more like a war or a race — today it is both. To close the deal with your successful candidate there are two potential contests. The good news is you only need to win one, and you get to choose which contest you want to compete in.

The first contest involves speed. There is an old humorous saying: “It may be that the race is not always to the swift, but that is the best way to bet." If a top candidate believes she may receive two or three offers, there is a big advantage to being the first, if it is a good and fair offer.

The company fear, and old school thinking, is that the candidate will shop the first offer to the other companies. This rarely happens. What is more likely is that the candidate will accept a quick, good offer. It affirms that the company wants them and can move decisively. Typically, they are not certain of other offers, nor what they will look like, and will withdraw their candidacy after accepting an offer.

My advice usually is to choose that contest and win it. If you wait and your candidate receives another offer, but they still prefer your company and position, now your only option is to win the bidding war. That is a ton of fun for the candidate, but not for the hiring company.


paul-sturgeon-150.jpgAbout the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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