Companies are struggling to recruit talent in a competitive market. As marketers have known for years a compelling pitch isn’t one-dimensional.
Managers are struggling to hire in one of the most competitive job markets they’ve seen in their lifetimes. I’ve been hiring tech talent for decades, beginning at the height of the dot com boom and through the years since including the hypercompetitive years of late. Having primarily worked at startups I’ve always had to compete for candidates against companies in a heavier weight class. Big Tech like Amazon, Google, Facebook as well as the hot startup du jour (Uber, Twitter, Four Square) have always outclassed me when it came to cash. I learned to be effective in recruiting and closing candidates against better capitalized alternatives and you can, too.
Unless you’re the big company in your market, odds are your salary is not the top and so you can’t compete on that dimension alone.
Consider a product category. It could be cars, accounting, golf clubs, clothes, CRM software, anything at all. Within that category you have different options. There is the premium brand, costly but known for luxury. On the other end is the discount brand, the lowest cost in the category. Another option might be the value brand, not the cheapest or costliest, but the best value for the money. Beyond the dimension of cost there are other factors: the biggest, the lightest, the fastest. There are often other dimensions like the most flexible, the easiest to use, the one with the most partners or integrations. Different customers are drawn to different value propositions within the category.
What you don’t want to be is #2. Being the cheapest option can be a good position in many categories (think $0.99 pizza in New York City). It doesn’t help to be the second cheapest. If someone is price sensitive, they will buy the cheapest, not the second cheapest. If someone wants flexibility, they want the most flexible, not the somewhat flexible.
What you don’t want to be is #2.
But wait, you point out, it’s never one thing. They might be price sensitive but don’t necessarily want the absolute cheapest because the second cheapest has more options that are worth the extra cost. You’re right. The marketing mistake would be to only compete on cost and not be the cheapest, or only compete on weight and not be the lightest. Products and services often compete on multiple dimensions and can own their niche not in one dimension but in the multidimensional space. They key, of course, is it must be a real dimension customers care about. Being the most colorful wrench probably isn’t going to help your wrench sales.
As I’ve noted in prior articles, when you compete for candidates, you are selling job openings. What do you compete on? At my startups I could not compete on salary alone (by which I mean salary, bonus, and benefits). Even throwing in stock options we weren’t financially equivalent; those Big Tech companies could always outspend me. Salary matters to everyone, but it’s not the only dimension. I had to be competitive with salary, but I couldn’t count on being #1. (With candidates for whom salary was the only dimension, I lost out, but there was nothing I could do in those cases.)
Obviously, title / role matters as well, but presumably the candidate can find the title elsewhere. The role, however even if the same on paper, may be different from one company to the next. A vet is a vet, you take care of animals. However, working as a vet in downtown Boston is very different from working as a vet in rural Oklahoma in terms of what you’re likely to encounter.
Culture, opportunity for growth, and the team (manager, peers, subordinates) are all unique. It can be similar, but is not quite the same, from one company to the next. The product / service and the mission of the company will also vary greatly.
If you’re going to sell along one dimension, you better be the first choice in that dimension. Unless you’re the big company in your market, odds are your salary is not the top and so you can’t compete on that dimension alone.
As I’ve noted before, your marketing team understands this well. Sit down with them and use marketing techniques to recruit for your jobs. Create a value proposition for your roles that aren’t just about financial compensation. As they’ll tell you, in a competitive market, you need marketing to succeed.
It’s critical to learn about corporate culture before you accept a job offer but it can be awkward to raise such questions. Learn what to ask and how to ask it to avoid landing yourself in a bad situation.