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How to attract candidates from outside your industry

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

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“Please don’t target our competitors. We know everyone in our industry and it will be more of the same. We need some fresh thinking, new ideas, innovation!”

I wanted to touch on the other side of the article I posted this week about looking for positions in other industries. The same goes for hiring managers regarding their candidate slate. When attracting candidates it all comes down to understanding motivation.  I wrote this with a lens of attracting cross-industry talent, though many of these themes can be applied to hiring in general.

Before we get into specifics, it’s important that we set the right foundation and mindset.

  • Self-awareness: If you get a sense that candidates have a certain impression about your company, industry, or title/leveling, they do. Call it out and address it head on.

  • Lose your assumptions: Candidates may not be drawn to the same things you are. Approach this with an open mind.

  • Tell a story: Place the position in context versus simply describing the role, responsibilities and skills required. There’s likely a great reason why the role is open, or exciting plans you have for 2020 and beyond.

  • Ensure interview panel alignment: There is enough here for a whole post so I’ll leave this for next time. 

  • Tell then show: Whatever you’re pitching, ensure that these themes come through during the hiring process.

Now that the foundation is set, think about your position, look at the points below, and highlight the boxes you check. There’s your pitch.

In general, candidates are motivated by:

  • Autonomy

  • Impact

  • Innovation

  • Having a voice

  • A reporting line as direct to CEO as possible

  • Buy-in for change

Candidates are interested in companies that have:

  • Good people

  • Good culture

  • Customer-mindset

  • Growth

  • Mission

  • Diversity

I left the non-helpful word “good” up there for a reason. You’ll need to fill in your specifics. Every candidate wants to work with “good people” in a “good culture” but that’s highly subjective. Know your culture, what you stand for, and how to describe it in detail. What types of people are successful? What do you value?

Specific motivators: Here’s where the gold is. Clearly it all boils down to the specific person and their personal career goals and situation. That comes through over the course of the interview process as trust is built. In the beginning, though, it’s important to think about what motivates specific groups of people.

Here are a few position-specific examples from my experience:

  • CTO/CIO roles – business component (interface, ownership, revenue-driving)

  • Data roles – data vision is set up for success (example: data science has the proper foundation), or if not, that you have a realistic view on the type of data person you need today

  • Architecture / tech strategy roles – that there is an execution and delivery component

  • Security roles – the types of adversaries you face are complex and high profile

  • Product roles – P&L ownership/understanding, engineering dynamics, customer component

Compensation: Of course we can’t have an article about candidate motivation without talking about compensation. My two cents: it’s important, but only to a degree. If you’re targeting people at the right level, then they only press on compensation to alleviate risk in other areas. It’s up to us as hiring professionals to understand and uncover this.

As with my advice to candidates, the same goes to hiring managers and HR colleagues. Start with a high-level pitch and then fill in the details as necessary. Allow yourself to pivot. Practice. Having these bullets in your back pocket will come in handy.

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