September 15, 2021

Four Strategies For Hiring When The Odds Are Against You

Written by R. Dalton Rice

Your organization has a critical position vacant. Necessary qualifications have been identified, and the need to hire the right talent for the right seat is addressed. You have maxed out compensation and benefits within the organization’s fiscal capacity. You have reached out to colleagues in the same and comparable industries with higher compensation packages, and they are also struggling in this labor market. And to further complicate this fiasco, the organization is at a pivotal moment; the vacant position is essential in rebuilding the finance department, a catch 22.

The odds are against the organization, and finding the employee “competitive edge” becomes more paramount. The rollercoaster of emotion you or the hiring manager will face is inevitable; however, regardless of the reaction, one reality still holds; a critical position must be filled with the right person.

Our organization needed realignment of key positions, one being the Finance Director, to join the executive team in cleaning up historical records to catch up to a moving present while focusing on strategic planning for the future. Identifying the need for talent was easy; however, the labor market and securing that talent proved a bit more challenging. Many factors were against us, with compensation being the greatest; we couldn’t compete and needed this position to paint the financial picture required to move the organization forward. The accounting expertise we needed went beyond my skill. So what’s next?

The team and I brainstormed and came up with four approaches to find the right person:

If, At First, You Don’t Succeed, Keep Trying.

Our initial search focused on those with governmental accounting. Candidates were selected from various accounting and finance departments from surrounding cities. The initial candidate turned down the offer. Another candidate had an offer on the table and required thirty days’ notice, we accommodated, and they backed out two days before they were supposed to start. We then posted the Finance Director to non-government finance professionals and an alternate position: Senior Accounting Manager. This approach expanded the talent pool.

Identify Immediate Needs and Innovate

Immediate priorities and objectives were determined for the position. Yes, a finance professional expected a lot, but the immediate need to get us through a decades-old plateau was bookkeeping. Dissolving the Finance Director position was strongly considered if the Senior Accounting Manager position was a better fit to tackle the immediate organizational needs. Governmental accounting experience can be achieved through coaching and professional development. This approach also set the foundation for retention and career advancement.

Hire for Character, Train for Skill, and Promote

Expanding the talent pool in a unique labor market brings out a broad spectrum of candidates, all with “tailored” resumes to try and fit a square peg in a round hole. There is some flexibility if you have an expert or professional who can coach and mentor in a technical area, such as accounting, that can professionally develop the candidate.

During the interview process, the panel had to identify and determine the balance between character and skill. Skill in this particular situation was bookkeeping and auditing. The goal was to professionally develop them and provide them opportunities to promote into the Finance Director position.

Character may be a driving factor in some positions, however, be sure to determine immediate technical skills if the role requires them and find a balance with other attributes. Do not get desperate and settle.

Culture, Quality of Life, and Leadership

Although overused, these buzzwords become a reality and a significant obstacle for hiring when the odds are against you. Culture and quality of life are perspectives to each individual. What is excellent for your team may be toxic to someone else and vice versa. Hiring talent is one thing but be sure your leaders are also held to that standard. The perspective of culture to a CEO will be different from each department or division’s sub-culture, but having a vision and values sets boundaries across the organization.

A great intangible benefit is quality of life, but how does an organization prove that during the hiring process? After all, all organizations have an excellent quality of life during the interview process, right…?

One option that we practice is to have the CEO, C-suite, or ranking member leave the room during the candidate’s questions. This allows the panel and candidate to speak more freely and get a more realistic observation of each other. Show authenticity and be honest; break through the honeymoon.

However, the more critical measure of the quality of life once hired is, bottom-line, in the words of Yvon Chouinard, “…hire people who are self-motivated and good at what they do, and then leave them alone.”

In Conclusion

Finding talent and hiring the right person requires constant innovation and forward-thinking. Like any business having a “competitive edge” will set you apart; it is not always money. Determine what tangibles and intangibles your organization can offer and make those an essential part of your organization from the CEO on down.

Identify the short and long-term needs of the role and develop a diagram or flow chart to determine if another position may fulfill short-term objectives and provide an opportunity for retention, career advancement, professional development, and promotion. Do not give up, and do not settle. If the talent is not in the initial role posted, find a parallel position; get creative.

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This article is also available on Medium.

About the author

R. Dalton Rice
City Manager at Morgan's Point Resort | More From the Author

Dalton is the chief executive for the City of Morgan’s Point Resort in Central Texas leading a diverse team of 36 spanning 3 enterprises that serve over 5,000 residents.

After a notable 5-year career as a Paramedic, he led performance improvement initiatives for a $20 million primary care and specialty physician group with 40 physicians and 135 employees.

Dalton’s passion for serving is highlighted through his 13-years in the United States Army as a Green Beret having served throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. He has a BS in Business Administration and Law and a MS focusing on change management and organizational development. He is active in multiple International and Local City Manager organizations focusing on mentoring and coaching, professional and personal development, and ethics in the workplace.

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