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The not-so-secret professional transfer season

What to keep in mind if you're hiring/looking

Happy 2017! Many professionals are ringing in the New Year with a new company and a new role – if we were top-notch athletes like pro footballers surely this time of year through the tail end of February would be deemed as one of our transfer periods. Starting a new role in a new year is wonderfully symbolic but also acknowledges some important practicalities: when companies know they’ll have budget for new hires, when bonuses are awarded, and perhaps most importantly people take time off with their loved ones around the holidays to re-evaluate what’s personally important to them. Several of our clients are currently in team ramp-up mode and interviewing for a variety of roles in multiple global regions, from junior to executive levels. We’ve spotted a few distinct patterns out in the market when it comes to talent that seem to be amplified going into 2017 and are worth highlighting. These are:

1)    Never underestimate the effect a single poor peer hire, a reorg, or an immediate change in the reporting line has on top performers. Highly talented, accomplished people place great value on their immediate day-to-day interactions and, let’s face it, they always have other options. If a top performer leaves take the time to do a proper exit interview and understand what made them go and what types of changes would have made them want to stay. This is the most valuable, unfiltered feedback you’re likely to get so don’t treat it as a formality. Replacing a top performer is costly so try to minimize departures due to a hastily imposed commission cap or denying a modest base salary increase to someone whose departure will cost you easily upwards of $150k.

2)   Always ask for ‘silent’ references. We’re all connected and someone in your network is bound to have worked or interacted with the candidate you’re interviewing. Reach out to those folks discreetly and ask for their unfiltered, general opinion. This is especially important the more senior the role as you want to ensure you’re weeding out those who had the good luck to fail upwards vs those who can truly make a difference. If you’re a startup or scale-up, it’s also an area where your advisers and board can make quite a big difference; but you shouldn’t ignore this type of reference checking even if you’re part of a large multinational. It cuts both ways: as a candidate you’ll want to hear first-hand about company culture, what working there day-to-day is like, and if there’s support for professional development. It may be tempting to skip this step especially if you’re really keen on a person or a company, and you feel pressed to make a decision quickly; but don’t: a quick conversation can save you from a poor fit.

3)    Don’t set your job descriptions in stone. Evaluate your job ad text as you begin to interview and tailor quickly if you’re not getting through to the right types of candidates. Hiring is a two-way street and the impact of candidate feedback is frequently and easily overlooked by those doing the hiring. Have you been too conservative and internal-focused in how you’ve framed the role’s title? Is the language of your job posting turning away potential candidates? Are you communicating well why someone should interview with your company? And finally, what type of impression are your recruiters leaving on prospects?

In our experience this is the best time of the year to try to punch above your weight and go for people (or companies) who may at first glance seem out of your league. Whether you’re looking for a new role or hiring for one, enjoy and make the best of transfer season.

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