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For at least the last two years, the real estate industry has been experiencing an extremely active and competitive hiring market with recruiters and job boards alike reporting steady volumes of new positions. This unprecedented demand for talent runs across all sectors and functions. Hiring markets tend to be particularly competitive in the first quarter because:
All of this can result in a kind of executive feeding frenzy. Whenever the markets are this hot, employers find that the best candidates are hard to attract and their existing stars are in danger of being wooed away. If your 2009 plans call for attracting scarce and in-demand executive talent, here are some tips to help you succeed.
Prepare a comprehensive position description. If you are clear about what you are seeking, the search will be more efficient and you will be able to act quickly when the time comes to make a move (see # 7).
Reach internal consensus on the position description. A candidate's enthusiasm for a position can quickly sour if people in the hiring organization appear to disagree or waver about the stature, responsibilities or accountability of the role.
Understand what you have to sell (warts and all) and build a compelling "story" for your company and the position. If you have a great company in a less-than-ideal location, recognize the premium you may need to offer to entice candidates (not to mention a possibly working spouse) to your organization. Depending on what you offer, versus the competition-more entrepreneurialism, greater stability, higher equity, better reputation, faster growth, better capitalization, unique culture, accelerated career advancement, exceptional colleagues-develop your search strategy to identify and reach the pool of candidates that will find your situation enticing.
Be honest about hard-and-fast position requirements from the get-go. If success in the position really requires that the candidate work at headquarters, either recruit locally/regionally, or be clear that relocation will be necessary. If the position requires 70% travel, say so. Be flexible about any job requirements you can (i.e. the ability to telecommute), but don't fudge on what candidates must be willing and able to do to thrive in the position or your company culture.
Explore every resource to talent. Post your position on the SelectLeaders Job Network. Your posting will automatically appear on 11 job sites powered by SelectLeaders that compiles position postings from 10 member real estate associations. Your position will be available to candidates clicking in from any of the member associations' websites, as well as the real estate industry at large. Visit SelectLeaders.com often enough to keep on top of market trends and spot position postings that might compete with yours. Create a targeted strategy for posting your position on other general and specialty boards.
Dedicate time to the search. If you will be the candidate's boss or a key colleague, make yourself available for interviews and critical meetings and for hands-on involvement in the close. If you don't make the time to meet a candidate, someone else will hire that individual before you have managed a first interview. The close is the beginning of your working relationship with the new hire; devote time to
Be decisive. This is no time to delay or 'window shop'. If you find a strong candidate who fits the bill, don't wait in the hopes of finding an even better person. Move quickly and aggressively to close with that individual. If you find the candidate attractive, you can bet that other potential employers will as well, too.
Understand, in detail, the candidate's current compensation package. Don't be blind-sided late in the deal by a revelation of a big slug of unvested equity or deferred compensation for which the candidate expects to be made whole.
Make a strong initial offer. Put aside your real estate negotiating instincts and refrain from making a "low ball" opening bid. Regardless of their deal making abilities, candidates generally dislike haggling about their own compensation packages. Low offers for in-demand professionals can be off-putting, or even insulting. When a qualified candidate is receiving or expecting competing offers from other suitors, you want your opening bid to reflect your sincere desire to attract the candidate. You need to get and keep the candidate's attention as details of the final offer are worked out.
Create a compensation package that responds to the candidate's real needs. Every compensation package includes a mix of components. Sometimes employers can attract their favored candidate by adjusting one component to accommodate the candidate's needs. Many a recruitment has been sealed by a little flexibility that did not substantially increase the total package.
Consider a signing bonus. A one-time bonus that does not permanently skew your compensation structures can be a compelling deal sweetener that does not haunt you forever.
Make sure the candidate understands the value of all components in the package you offer. If there is performance- or profitability-related compensation, be sure he/she understands the criteria and pay-out
"Recruit" the candidate's whole family. Many a search has collapsed at the last minute because of a failure to attend to a spouse's career, extended family or aging parent issues, children with special-needs, cost of living issues or housing, and even family lifestyle and recreational preferences. Particularly, if relocation is an issue, involve the candidate's spouse as early in the process as possible. Be generous about reimbursing as many trips as necessary to help the spouse and family become comfortable with their possible new town. Enlist your location's and company's best ambassadors to help put your best foot forward.
Expect the candidate's current employer to fight back. Aggressive counter-offers are common in hot markets. You, and your recruiter, if you have retained one, must prepare the candidate carefully for the resignation and a possibly high-pressure effort to dissuade him/her from leaving. Employee dissatisfaction is seldom only about compensation. You may need to remind the candidate of the career and personal attractions your position affords (that the current employer cannot match) so that he/she will be less susceptible when the current employer puts on the "full court press."
Get professional help. Especially in hot markets, when the availability window for a sought-after real estate pro may be painfully short, you need a well-organized, professional and aggressive recruiting program. In-house HR recruiting specialists, firms specializing in internet search or retained search professionals can save you time, help you reach those who are not actively looking and, most importantly, help you close successfully with the candidate of your choice.