The days of the long, grueling interview process are over—or at least they should be for businesses that intend to attract top talent in this tight hiring market.
Technology and tech-enabled companies across asset classes are highly capitalized and under mandate to grow. That used to be enough to attract candidates. But that well-funded growth advantage has been erased thanks to a new reality: many businesses are riding the wave of COVID-era investment, and they’re all trying to hire from the same small talent pool.
“I spoke to a chief revenue officer with a cybersecurity background the other day and he’s actively looking at 20 opportunities,” said Austin Krissoff, partner and lead for True’s Cybersecurity Practice. “Everyone has more opportunities than they can manage and they don’t have time or interest to go through an interview process the traditional way.”
Executives not only have multiple jobs in front of them, many also have numerous offers.
Candidates are using those offers as leverage, sometimes even backing out of signed contracts. Recruiters are seeing frequent attrition from healthy and well-capitalized businesses, and more candidates are casually rejecting roles than ever before. The trend spans the globe to tech hubs in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
“It is such a candidate’s market right now that they can experience opportunity fatigue,” said Siv Sivanesan, former GM, True International. “If they’ve just had 30 positions pitched to them, why will they care about yours, the 31st? When the market is hot, you can’t take for granted that talent will want to engage.”
Seasoned CFO recruiter Rhoda Longhenry compares the high demand for talent to the seller’s market we’re seeing in real estate—homes and CFOs are “selling” sites unseen, getting inspections waived and going for way over asking prices.
It’s competitive and the stakes are high. With capital flooding the market, the availability of talent will be a key determinant of whether a company can answer its mandate to scale.
So what are the besieged candidates to do? And what can businesses do to stand out? Our experts offer advice for both candidates and companies.
companies: the long interview process is dead
Companies can no longer march candidates through a multi-phased process while dangling an offer as the prize for completion. Executives simply don’t have time. Instead, organize a set of meetings in consultation with the candidate as a discovery process. Increase efficiency by combining interviews to allow the candidate to meet multiple people at once. Finally, end the process with a candidate presentation only if it’s critical. If it’s not, skip it.
candidates: have your recruiter set interview expectations
A good recruiter will show you multiple opportunities. These days, however, there are just too many for you to earnestly consider. Think about how much time you can devote to hiring processes and communicate that to your recruiter. Setting those expectations up front will reinforce efficiencies throughout the process.
companies: move quickly & with purpose
Consensus-based hiring is out. Needing unanimity lengthens time-to-hire as everyone gets bogged down in details and managing feedback. Instead, designate two or three people to finalize the role’s core criteria, tighten the feedback loop and serve as an internal committee. The goal is to be laser-targeted externally and tightly-aligned internally to create momentum that outpaces the candidate’s ability to gain leverage with other offers.
candidates: take your time
The sheer amount of opportunities for executives can make it hard to narrow down the options. Candidates will benefit from doing the homework, taking their time and being selective. Most people know that it's easier to look for a job when you have a job. But the opposite may apply for senior executives who can instead - if possible - treat their job hunt as a full time role itself. This counter-intuitive approach will give you the time to conduct proper diligence on all the available opportunities.
companies: sell, then evaluate
Interviewers need to sell candidates from the first conversation in the same way they may have pitched an investor. This can be uncomfortable for CEOs who expect executives to be auditioning for a role at their company, particularly if they recently raised capital from a tier-one investment firm. Evaluation of a candidate’s attributes should still happen, but only once they are genuinely interested in joining the business. Formal interview questions are occurring more often at the end of the process, not the beginning.
candidates: be prepared and stand out
The onus is on the business to impress you, but putting in the effort to wow a company will pay off more now. Recruiters are getting the feedback ‘we’re not sure how passionate the candidate is about the company’ or ‘they didn’t seem like they’d done their research.’ That’s because candidates are fielding so many great opportunities they don’t have time to prepare for every company. Bottom line: if it's a role you want, do the research.
companies: build relationships to make your role stand out
When opportunities are everywhere for candidates, building connections is critical. Form collaborative, working relationships early on to empower candidates and make them emotionally and intellectually invested in the role and your company.
candidates: don’t burn bridges
With all this newfound power, it may be tempting to verbally accept a role in order to shop offers. Don’t. Of course there are instances where you can’t put all your cards on the table, but there are ways to navigate those interactions without being misleading. Be transparent if you are interviewing for multiple roles. It’s important to remember that it’s a small world. The company you burned today could be a business partner that says ‘no thanks’ tomorrow.
companies: be willing to pay more
Consider ‘time to value’ and the opportunity cost to the business of not hiring the executive you want in hopes something ‘better’ will come along. Back to the house hunting analogy, how many times has it been the first house you wanted to buy, but didn’t because you thought it was too early and expensive to pull the trigger? Accept the reality that you don't have time to overthink and you’re more likely to win if you increase the offer.
candidates: communicate compensation expectations
True’s data from Thrive shows mid-size company comp is on the fastest rise, but the big companies still provide the biggest salary packages. Armed with this knowledge, you can negotiate better compensation, but the best advice for today is—be transparent. Make sure you’re clear up front about your salary expectations and where you can flex. This will protect your time and ensure early alignment throughout the process.
companies: go to them, if you can
With access to talent without geographic restrictions, companies can hire anywhere. This also means executives are fielding lucrative offers from everywhere. When executives are interviewing for multiple opportunities simultaneously over video calls, it’s important to remember that personal connection still matters. In-person meetings build authentic relationships, help determine how a candidate might add to company culture and can serve as a differentiator. If it’s safe to do, and it’s your finalist, go to them. True had a client in Israel who flew to San Francisco on a day’s notice to meet a candidate. That’s the kind of extraordinary effort it takes to hire top talent right now.
candidates: don’t move—or go to an office—unless you want to
Executives have the leverage. Don’t settle for a location change or a role that requires you to come in five days a week if that’s not what you want. Travel for an interview only if it’s important to you. And know that as remote hires continue to rise, Thrive data shows you can get a salary bump just for being local.
companies: prioritize the must-have skills
Write a tight position description that targets the most critical needs of your company. Try not to be all-encompassing and waste time looking for a candidate that checks every box. Instead, focus on someone that adds skills missing from the existing team or answers a specific need or goal for the company.
candidates: it’s a good time to stretch
Because of the competition, the tried-and-tested executive that companies would traditionally like to hire is less likely to be available. That means there are more opportunities for a less-experienced executive to step up into a more senior role and take on bigger challenges. However, you really have to prove that you have the chops to do that and “de-risk” it as much as you can for the company. Have a conversation with your recruiter and ask, ‘what are the gaps in my experience and how do I address those with the business looking to hire?’
companies: make sure the search is inclusive
Candidates, and society, are holding companies accountable to their goals of increasing gender, racial and other forms of diversity at leadership levels. Follow through by casting as wide a net as possible. Don’t try to mold people into roles and contexts that match your experience. Think broader and be intentional. By partnering with professional organizations or mission-driven platforms, such as AboveBoard, you’ll ensure your company’s opportunities are visible to underrepresented talent.
candidates: take advantage of transparency
Historically, opportunities have circulated within the same homogeneous networks. That tide is shifting as companies are actively seeking to broaden representation at the top—in part—by revealing available roles to more and more talent. This transparency is a new phenomenon that empowers you to shop around for your next leadership role. Join membership communities to increase your chances of being discovered and to gain control over your next career move. This candidate's market for hiring will work in your favor.
companies: have backup choices ready
Hiring teams must be prepared to move to a second or third choice quickly and not take a rejected offer personally. In fact, they should play the long game and keep communication lines open with those who reject their offer. The relationship may resurface down the road.
candidates: choices are a good thing
Opportunity fatigue is real. While it can feel overwhelming to decide which role to select among a sea of options, consider yourself fortunate. It’s the perfect time to think about what makes you happy and fulfilled in your job. Define what you’re looking for, then only consider opportunities that meet your criteria. It will help cut through the noise.