Recruit Top Candidate photo from ShutterstockAs the economy in general and the job market in particular continue to improve, albeit slowly in some market sectors, there is a steady (and growing!) demand for TOP performing candidates by companies that are leaders in their industries—and want to stay in that position.

In an effort not only to stay competitive in the burgeoning worldwide marketplace, but also to increase market penetration and ensure market dominance, leading companies have begun aggressively recruiting TOP performers in a wide variety of professions and skill sets. Professions specifically being targeted include, but are certainly not limited to, the following: computer systems analysis and technical consulting of all kinds, key segments of the healthcare industry, certain high-demand engineering specialties and of course top-performing salespeople across virtually all industry lines.

For some companies, which may still be clinging to the buyer’s market mentality that so strongly and thoroughly prevailed during and for some years following the Great Recession, the task of attracting top performers is proving to be a far more daunting one than they perhaps imagined it would be.

Here are the TOP 5 reasons why it is proving so difficult for some companies to attract these top performers… these candidates…

1. Simply are not looking for a new job, a new company. And why should they be? They are doing very well right where they are! They are NOT surfing the ‘Net for jobs. They are NOT networking in search of new career opportunities. They are largely content and aren’t even thinking about looking for a new job!

A recent LinkedIn survey of 4,500 currently employed people revealed that only 8% were actively searching for new career opportunities.

2. Don’t feel they have the time to even consider other career opportunities. Even if they were to become aware of other opportunities, they are so “crazy-busy” doing their current job with excellence that they don’t feel they can afford to divert their attention long enough to even consider other opportunities.

3. See no valid reason(s) to leave their current job. If they are in sales, for example, these men and women are constantly on target to meet—or, more likely, to exceed!—their sales goals and objectives. They quite likely have a number of very attractive deals pending. Why in the world would they even consider leaving while they are doing so fantastically well with their current employer?

If not in sales, most of these top performers usually are so involved in key projects for their current company that they wouldn’t dream of leaving before successful completion of such projects.

4. Can’t fathom how they possibly could be more successful with another company—no matter what that company might be offering.

5. Feel they genuinely are wearing “golden handcuffs.” For salespeople this may mean they are sitting on a huge amount of earned (or pending) commissions, as a result of their exceptional sales skills and accomplishments. For non-salespeople, they may believe that there is no way another company could possibly offer them a salary that would be better than the one they currently are earning.

Bottom line: Most feel they would actually be losing money, and sometimes, a considerable amount of money, if they were to leave their current employer.

What Companies Can Do to Attract TOP Performers

Does all of this mean, then, that TOP companies can never expect to attract TOP candidates? Of course not. It just means that many of these companies will have to change their way of thinking, as well as acknowledge the necessity to become far more aggressive in their recruiting efforts among these top performers—if they want them to join their teams.

Here are at least FOUR tactics and strategies that TOP companies can implement to attract TOP performers:

1. Establish a continuous search system and build a talent pipeline. Even though we’ve seen that most top performers are rarely on the market, that does not mean that at least some of them are not sometimes on the market! (Remember that 8% who are actively pursuing career opportunities? At least some of the top performers can be expected to be included in that 8%)

Companies seeking to attract these top performers need to make more of an effort to identify and cultivate an ongoing professional relationship with these top performers. That way, when and if the company has an important opening to fill, it will have immediate access to these top performers, who should be willing by that time to at least listen to and consider an offer from the company.

2. Consider engaging the services of a top “headhunter” in the company’s market niche(s). Companies that either don’t want to engage in the approach/activities cited in 1. above or don’t feel they can justify the additional candidate acquisition costs involved, should seriously consider contracting with an appropriate “headhunter” who can provide these services for the company.

A good “headhunter” has a great deal of experience in influencing others, particularly candidates. As a matter of fact, about 45% of a “headhunter’s” time is occupied by doing precisely that—influencing others!

In the LinkedIn survey referred to at the top of this blog, 44% of the people surveyed said they would entertain a conversation with a “headhunter.” Smart companies desiring to find more effective ways to attract top candidates could benefit from considering this particular survey finding.

3. Companies should do a better job of selling the company to top candidates. Perhaps understandably, top companies tend to believe at least TWO things about themselves: 1.) That they are indeed one of the best, if not THE best companies in their industry; and 2.) That it just makes logical sense that everybody else will also recognize that fact.

Unfortunately, when it comes to top performers, remember, they are quite satisfied with their current company and have a very high opinion of it. And while they might (grudgingly) acknowledge that other companies might be in their company’s same league, it will be an uphill battle to convince them that another company is better than their current one. (Doesn’t mean it can’t be done, however.)

4. Offer a More-Than-Competitive Compensation Package. The good news about the top companies in virtually any industry segment is that they tend to offer very competitive compensation packages to every employee. The bad news about the top companies in virtually any industry segment is that they tend to offer very competitive compensation packages to every employee.

To attract top candidates, these leading companies need to deviate somewhat from the norm where their overall compensation system is concerned. They need to explore creative ways to attract top talent, while still maintaining the integrity of their compensation system. For example, the company might consider “signing bonuses” for top candidates. Or, for salespeople, the company might consider short-term guaranteed commissions.

Regardless of what specific approaches to compensation these companies may ultimately decide to adopt to attract top candidates, the point is, they need to seriously investigate implementing some unique approaches in compensation. To be sure, one size does not fit all when it comes to top performers!

As the job market continues to gain steam and momentum, the competition for TOP candidates can only be expected to also heat up. The smarter companies will find ways to attract more than their fair share of these candidates, of course. That’s why these companies are TOP companies; it’s also why they will probably stay TOP companies.

*And what you can do to change that!