The war on talent is getting intense! A tactical manual for hiring managers and recruiters.

First off I hate applying war related terms to things that are not war.

But it seems that the broader industry is determined to do so, so I’ll indulge that and see if we can make some interesting connections between that kind of language and some insights that I can offer as someone who has been to war and is also one of the people that recruiters and hiring managers is presumably interested in understanding as a part of this “war for talent.”

I served for eight years as a ground intelligence officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, the bulk of which was involved in counterinsurgency warfare. In counterinsurgency warfare the most critical aspect to it is understanding the population and meeting their needs in a way better then the insurgents can. In the current “war for talent” the roles of the recruiter & the hiring manager are very much driven by their ability to understand and meet the needs of the talent they are looking to hire.

I flatter myself that I may be a member of this talent pool that recruiters and hiring managers are interested in hiring, both based on qualifications and recent interest and outreach from recruiters and sometimes hiring managers. I’m currently a product manager at a major tech company and product managers are, similar to ground intelligence officers, trained to deeply understand the needs and the pain points of their users and customers and build tech solutions to meet those in a sustainable way that people will pay for.

But what you want are some quick tips and tricks that will give you the edge in this war for talent: in understanding and meeting the needs of people you’re trying to hire. Especially those that you are proactively recruiting versus those that come to you applying on your jobs boards.

  1. It’s not about you, it’s about the talent. If you are contacting someone and asking them to consider a role with your company you need to be ready to quickly understand what their needs are and determine whether it’s realistic that you may be able to meet those needs.
  2. Don’t waste talents’ time. Odds are people you’re trying to recruit aren’t interested in a 30 minute get to know you call or free and open jam session. If they tell you that they’re not, you need to respect that and get to brass tacks if its what they want.
  3. It’s about the mission and the team. Basic human psychology is oriented on autonomy competence and relatedness. That means that people want ownership of outcomes they want to feel competent and capable in what they’re doing, for it to be on a mission worth doing, and to be doing so for a team that’s worth doing it with, and have good relationships with people in doing so. Find ways to speak to these needs.
  4. Mind on my money. If you were trying to recruit me and I ask you to disclose the range of salary and total compensation for the role, you need to do that. Not to equivocate or try to get me on a call or say we’ll handle it later. There will not be a later.
  5. Don’t make me jump through hoops. Or at least have a ramp to the hoops you want me to jump through. If you’re going to have multiple interviews, testing etc. be ready to share with the talent what it will take to get to an offer.
  6. If you encounter someone who is very clear and has done the above work for you and hands that to you in a concise email you have three choices.
    • A You can ghost them: which will reflect poorly on you and your company’s professionalism.
    • B You can provide partial answers and try to get them on the phone which may lead to continuing conversations or may have the same effect as option A.
    • C you can respect that this person has put care and thought in advance into what their needs are and communicated them to you clearly and answer as candidly as you can and see whether continued development is interesting or not. And if it is not, you can tell them so, and why, and wish them luck.
  7. If all of this goes well and you end up on a call with talent please do not ask them why they want to join your company or why they want to leave their current company. You just did a lot of work to get them on the phone with you – why would you ask them why they’re on the phone with you? Or if you really must do this, be transparent about why you’re asking even though youve already been in correspondence, what is it you’re trying to understand.
  8. Some people may still be willing to come into an office. People who are not will likely not be easy to convince. It’s likely a losing battle to try to do so.
  9. Don’t lie. Dishonesty or even the perception of it can be a deal killer not just for this hire but for any future. You can ruin your reputation, and that of your company. The written offer better match the verbal offer and if there’s ever any need for change or adjustment, over communicate and discuss clearly.

Of the above advice comes directly out of my own personal experience interacting with recruiters or hiring managers over the past year or two. I have a bad story related to each of these pieces of advice.

Are you more on the talent side than recruiter or Hiring Manager? Im happy to share a bit of help with you too:

Here is my standard reply to cold outreach by recruiters, feel free to use or remix it!

Thanks for contacting me!

Ahead of such conversations I find it really helpful to get a lot of background information exchanged proactively 🙂 

Could you please share a bit more with me on the topics of:

  1. How you noticed me as a candidate
  2. The mission and team both the macro-sense for 
    1. Company as a whole and
    1. For the team and role I’d be considered for
  3. Number of people I’d lead in the roles considered:
    1. Direct Reports
    1. By influence
  4. Whether this is a distributed role or if it would require appearing in an office
    1. If office appearance is required, where and how often
  5. Percent of travel availability expected
  6. Compensation range offered
    1. Salary
    1. Equity
    1. Bonuses
  7. Typical benefits packages extended
    1. Healthcare insurance plans, self and family
    1. 401k Match %
    1. Life, Long and short term Disability insurances, self and family

In return here’s a bit about me:

  1. “Tell me about yourself?” Sure, here on my blog
  2. May I see your resume? Yep! Most current is here as a google doc:  for frequent updates
  3. Is your LinkedIn page current? It is!
  4. Have you taken a personality test or 360 evaluation? Many! summaries in google doc
  5. Any videos? Yes!


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