It is interesting to listen when companies complain they have difficulty attracting candidates from out of state. With a little research, a consultant may easily determine why they are experiencing those problems.
Relocation of candidates requires an understanding of psychology, an understanding that recruitment is a sales process, and a recruitment process that does not interfere with those understandings.
One of my clients decided to transition an important IT organization from Washington, DC to Cedar Rapids, IA in the early 1990’s. I was tasked to develop the recruitment strategy; and developed these tips. As a result, we recruited 200 IT professionals for Cedar Rapids in 20 months (prior to the Internet as a widely used sourcing tool). Of those 200 IT professionals, we needed to relocate approximately 145 individuals and families from cities all over the United States. I like to think we could have done it more quickly today because sourcing is so much easier and more targeted. However, the other side of that sword is absorbing and effectively orienting those new employees, especially since we also needed to recruit Senior Managers and orient them.
Fortunately my client was very light on its feet and welcomed innovation. Otherwise, we would have failed. We changed parts of our strategy when they were not as effective as they once were – while keeping the strategies that continued to work. The strategy was developed so it fit within my client’s basic needs of personal interviews, reference checking (very valuable), background investigations, and drug testing. Otherwise we were able to change the process as needed.
The following tips will help your company succeed in attracting top talent that needs to be relocated.
1) Examine your current recruitment processes. If you put up roadblocks to top talent, you will have difficulty attracting them. For instance, do you require candidates to complete an application prior to a conversation to develop mutual interest (a la the 1960’s Personnel Department)? This practice is Clerk recruiting at its worst. Professional recruiters talk to candidates first and develop an interest prior to any applications.
2) Avoid asking candidates to make a big decision. Keep asking for small decisions until relocation is a logical next step. People resist making big decisions without enough information – and asking them to pull up roots and move is a very big decision because it potentially impacts a whole family. Do you tell candidates in the first conversation that they Must move to your town? If so, you are probably making relocation a more difficult issue.
3) Will the candidate be viewed as a diversity candidate? If so, they will be concerned about what happens if they move and the work relationship fails. They will also be concerned whether or not they will “fit in” to the company, neighborhood, schools, etc. It is important to introduce them to other similar employees in your company or area.
With all of the potential complications, what process works? Remember first of all, this is a sales process. Therefore you want to ask the candidate to make small easy decisions with each one leading the candidate to the next obvious conclusion.
You need to determine if the candidate is qualified. In your introductory phone call you discuss your company/client and the specific position to see if there is interest. It’s important to honestly sell each – company and position. It is good to mention the location of the position but that’s not important yet. What is important is their interest level in a position like that and in your company. At this point if they say I don’t want to move to (Park City/Washington, DC/Iowa, etc), you reply “I understand. What’s more important at this point is if you are interested in this position and the direction of the company.”
“We don’t even know if you qualify for this position yet. When is a good time to sit down to discuss your qualifications?” Set up a phone screen. At the beginning of the phone screen, refresh their memory about the position and the company. Be sure to add some new information that will keep their interest. Once you have decided they are qualified, then you may say “The next little step is to have a phone conversation with the hiring manager. Would you prefer to have that conversation during the day or in the evening?” If they object that they do not want to move, simply say “I’m not asking you to move. It doesn’t cost you anything to talk. Let’s just chat with the manager to see if this type of position is interesting to you.” You want them thinking about the next easy decision – when to phone interview with the manager. Once you have a mutually agreeable time, contact the hiring manager to set up the call and coach them about the next steps.
After the call with the hiring manager, ask how it went. Find their level of interest. If it is high, the next little step is to meet with the manager in person and meet people on the team. Then a tour of facilities, followed by a tour of the area by a chosen professional real estate agent who is there only to sell the area but not a property (that may happen later). The real estate agent will ask them during the tour what they would like to see – schools, playing fields, cultural locations (museums, live theaters - repertory or off-Broadway), hiking/biking trails, etc. While they are conversing, the real estate agent should ask them if they like what they’ve seen - in other words, understand their objections. This is key to your success because candidates will tend to be more open to discussing concerns with someone who is not connected directly to the company.
Once you know their true objections – and if the hiring manager really wants to hire this candidate – you may be able to answer that objection in your debriefing conversation. For instance, they may say they won’t make a decision without their spouse seeing the area. One client answers that objection early by inviting the spouse/significant other to the onsite interview trip. They tour while the candidate interviews. After the interview, the other person joins them and is shown what the first liked the most about their tour (and will probably talk about their interviews).
After the real estate agent debriefs you, you can debrief the candidate. If there is an objection, treat it as important but not a show stopper (the person could just have a little cold feet). If there is mutual interest at this point, the next little decision is an offer. At this point, it is expected and the move will seem like a smaller decision because of the additional information since the first conversation.
If this is a key position, companies need to have some flexibility on relocation benefits (especially in this housing market), signing bonuses, and compensation/title (it still needs to be within the compensation structure). How much is this empty position costing the company per month?
Before the offer is extended it is important to review all of the reasons why the candidate should strongly consider the position and get their agreement on those reasons. Then with excitement extend the offer to them. Once they accept, negotiate a start date and coach them on the Counter Offer again (but that’s another blog!).