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How to Win Big Talent in Smaller Markets

Cornerstone Editors

A decent paying job at a cool up-and-coming company in sunny Los Angeles or a better-paying job at a corporation in the middle of Minnesota? For today’s worker the choice is simple: Job preference means more than just money -- it's about work/life balance -- and the bright lights of the big cities are often a strong pull. But that leaves a slew of companies outside of top metropolitan areas often struggling to attract top recruits. Business and opportunity may be booming, but the right candidates aren't biting.

Indeed, 64% of Midwest employers "occasionally find it hard to fill key positions," according to a survey by Right Management. Yet the Midwest has no lack of great opportunities or Fortune 500 companies -- Minnesota boasts 19 Fortune 500 brands, Ohio has 28, and Pennsylvania is home to 23. The Manpower 2012 Talent Shortage Survey found that the top reason for difficulty when filling jobs in the Americas is lack of available applicants or no applicants at all. Are they all really in New York or California?

The answer is no, and there are ways to attract great talent to less sough-after markets. Jeff Zisner, founder of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania-based executive talent search firm Right Recruiting, says that although a lot of 20-something candidates he sees tend to head New York over Pennsylvania, he has had success attracting talent by taking a more personal approach.

"We have had great success bringing people back home to our region once they’ve had kids and want to buy a home," says Zisner. "We get reverse transplants who want to come back all of the time for family and household reasons."

Beyond attracting talent by simply pulling at hometown heart-strings, Zisner says it is also important to find the right match for the area and job. A recruiter in Ohio shouldn't waste time on a candidate who is dead set on California or hates the snow. On the other hand, a recruiter may find someone who is more open to new opportunities and experiences, and should then highlight how that city and position would appeal to the candidate's personality and life goals.

"An employer needs a patience approach until the right person appears and they then must pounce once the target has become visible," Zisner says. "It is all about hard work. You need a lot of candidate pools and need to make the calls. Timing is the key."

Zisner offers dos and don’ts for recruiting big talent in smaller markets:

· Generate excitement in the initial phone screen. For the hiring company, the phone screen is critical. The candidate, who is often remote, needs to get a real sense of the job and company and have enough interest after the phone screen to want to schedule an on-site trip. Employers who don’t add pizzazz to the initial phone screen can find candidates turned-off early in the process rather than wanting to invest valuable time on a multiple-day interview trip.

· Highlight the cost of living. A $100,000 salary in California is less money than a $70,000 salary in Pennsylvania, after taxes and housing costs.

· Appeal to a candidate's personal interest and lifestyle choices. A 23-year-old wants entertainment and a social life. A 40-year-old with kids wants a home and good schools. Highlight how your city can fit different candidates' needs.

· Try to schedule an onsite during good weather. Oddly enough, weather is very important in relocations. A candidate only has a few days to get an impression of a region. A dreary day in March can have a negative impression, while a 70-degree day with daffodils blooming may be a selling point. You obviously can't control the weather, but good timing and luck can be a factor.

· Conduct a stellar interview. While this may seem rather obvious, it's essential. A horrible interview and recruitment experience can offset a lot of location and job positives, while a good interview experience can overcome location issues.

· Steer clear of disappointing offers. A candidate who expects "x" dollars and is offered much less is left feeling deflated, even if the job is appealing. Expectation management is important.

· Don't skimp on relocation offers. This can be a killer because a bad relocation package may actually mean it will cost your candidate money to move. Money out of pocket is a meaningful thing to a candidate.

· Don't drag things out. A long interview and decision-making process can be a turn-off to a potential employee. Bringing people back multiple times for interviews is a killer -- at some point, they throw their hands up at sloppy interview logistics.

Learn about how the Cornerstone Recruiting Cloud can be an integral part of your big or small market talent acquisition strategy.

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