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It turns out great talent is not always next door

December 3, 2009 3 comments

Recruiting, attracting, and retaining great talent continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing a software executive.

It’s truly a privilege to work with great people.   They are the reason why in a competitive market one software product can be easily seen as one that sells itself – with assistance from a terrific sales team, of course.

But even great people can leave the organization for many reasons, creating a continuous need to recruit and retain.

While growing several world-class engineering organizations, I learned several truths about recruiting great talent:

– The way one recruits says a lot about how one retains

– Never stop recruiting, despite no openings being available;  it takes at least 3 months to find someone exceptional

– Forget gold; treat every candidate like platinum;  make the decision not to extend the offer so incredibly graceful that the candidate will still recommend his / her friends (“I feel bad about not getting the offer, but my friend who is looking for work will feel right at home in this fantastic company”)

– Make the recruiting process very rigorous (yet very respectful);  candidates may feel exhausted but the right ones will respect it (“I want to be a part of this great team”)

– 100 good resumes will typically yield 4-7 great candidates;  to have the luxury of 100 good resumes, the talent sourcing process needs to be flexible and sufficiently broad

That’s where the final truth could not be more appropriate.

– Great talent is not always next door

Many companies are very reluctant to consider candidates that live outside the immediate geography.  In fact, many companies simply ignore resumes from out-of-town candidates and clearly state ‘local candidates preferred’ policy.

I was very fortunate to find exceptional software engineers (with help from equally exceptional recruiters) who wanted to relocate to a specific city due to personal reasons, for example moving closer to parents who could help with child care needs.   In multiple instances, a reasonable sign on bonus to cover basic moving expenses served as a very inexpensive method to attract an exceptional person to the team.   Sadly, a standard recruiting process would normally ignore these candidates.

My recruiting team worked very hard.  It was not easy to find these candidates but the outcome produced a candidate who was both eager to contribute and appreciated the investment made by the organization to attract and retain him / her.

Great talent does not live next door.   Never settle and keep searching.  Geography should never be a barrier to finding and attracting great talent.