How to beat your competitors to top talent

You want the best talent, and so does everyone else!

Indeed, we’ve had an interesting few months at Truffle Towers.

Hiring staff has become a lot more complicated, competitive and cut-throat. Think of it like the ’90s student fave game show Supermarket Sweep (we loved Dale). Manic contestants grabbing items of any value off the shelves from a budget looking supermarket in 60 seconds. They obviously went for the high-value items first. The booze, CDs, DVDs…



So, why the 80s/90s analogy? Because we are back to the grab the high-value items as quickly as you can market.

It feels sad to compare people to products but in reality, this is what is being traded.

Which leads me into the high-value humans.  They currently stand as the following: UX, UI, Digital Designers, Social Media Specialists, Front End Developers etc. They’re being stuffed in that trolley, grab them while you can.

In the last month we’ve seen:

salary bidding wars where the candidate’s expectation almost doubled
freelance rates for clued-up social juniors rise to the equivalent of a senior candidate salary
strong candidates receiving up to 8 offers in a couple of days
high numbers of junior to middleweights opting for freelance due to a buoyant contract market with day rates at a peak
more people shedding ties and trying their hand at remote working
It’s like a recruitment Game of Thrones out there and only those who are quick to react, and in tune with the financial expectations of the market seem to be surviving.

We’ve spent a lot of time questioning it, but without question, Brexit is causing this change.

You see, there’s still much uncertainty with regards EU workers rights. Initial proposals suggesting employees with stable long-term positions will be looked upon more favourably than those working independently means there’s been a rush to secure the best EU talent. This alone has raised the financial bar.

We’re also seeing less global talent approaching the UK market, therefore, creating a more competitive ‘available’ market.

Beyond this, there has been a sea change.

These are our thoughts:

Middleweights are high-value items

We are in a constantly evolving digital market where the digital natives provide amazing insight and inherent value, everyone wants them, just with a few years under their belt in a professional environment.

This has produced a very narrow basket of a much sought after middleweight market, those with 2-5 years experience. This is precisely the talent that wants the flexibility of remote working and the pay cheque of freelance.

Is your social presence damaging your hiring?

The companies that are capturing the top talent are the ones that are well versed on their USPs (will sell themselves in interviews), partner their employees in their career goals and have a reputation for an excellent workplace culture.

Having a top name in the industry is no longer enough, any negative reviews on social or sites like Glassdoor might be discovered and can be enough to tip the balance in another company’s favour.

When recruiting in a competitive market, a strong social profile is key. Everything from your tone of voice to the handling of negative feedback is on show. No company is infallible; encouraging your staff to be your company’s social advocates is a great start. Making sure all your channels are flooded with engaging, informative and relevant original content that is reflective of your brand is also key.

Beanbags and a pool table are not a benefit

The days of attracting talent because you have a games room with table football and a free bar are over.

First and foremost people look for challenging and folio worthy work as well as recognition, opportunities, a nurturing and collaborative environment, training, and a company that supports the ambitions of its employees inside and outside of work.

If you’re stumbling at the offer stage then we would really recommend looking at your benefits package. Along with private healthcare, the ones that tend to get the most positive reactions are those that show investment in personal development such as training courses, inspiration trips and mentoring opportunities.

No.1 benefit: Flexible working for everyone

We have a very personal interest in this. For anyone who has read our blogs before our company is made up of 4 parents with 10 kids between us; all of us take the primary parent role and guess what, one of us is a guy!

Flexible working isn’t just invaluable to parents it’s a major investment in staff happiness, health and therefore retention. It offers a whole company an even playing field regardless of their life choices, which in turn fosters an overall feeling of unity.

Offering flexible working hours and a good number of flexible WFH days that are considerate of doctors appointments (no one wants to take a half day holiday to attend to their health, it’s counterproductive, holiday = health), the need to attend school plays, sports day, college graduations, yoga or anything that brings balance back to their work and home life.

Interviews are not interrogations

The days of 5 + rounds of formal interviews are dead!

The danger is, by the time you have planned round 3, these guys are employed.  What’s more, very few people, if any, can show their true colours in a setting which seems false and overly formal.

That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be a structure to the interview but like any meeting you should share the format and expectations in advance, this will enable you both to have a productive conversation.

You may be a company that has a policy of testing in interviews (whether that be skills or psychometric), surprising people with this detail on the day does not necessarily show how they cope under pressure; your interview can be peppered with questions that will draw out this information from real work-life scenarios. It is a major turn off to most candidates.

No one in that meeting holds more power. If you conduct interviews believing that because you hold a vacancy you have the upper hand, you’re very wrong. You’re also just an employee of a brand. A brand that you were also once attracted to work for.

So, in the end, a competitive market requires a shrewd and canny response, it’s time to react quickly, be ultra competitive and bring out your best game face.