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Utah Business

How your company can find and retain good talent, despite the competition for it.

All the good talent is taken

“There are hundreds of job offers going out every single day in Utah,” says Austin Miller, founder and CEO at IsoTalent.

Miller has placed countless executives in different companies across the state, but “there are still quite a few unemployed people,” he says. “And there are fewer jobs. So your ability to jump around at your convenience right now is dramatically less than it used to be.”

With more applicants and fewer jobs, the recruiting dynamic has shifted. “A year ago in Utah, you were constantly trying to find people who were interested in your roles,” he says. “Now, the odds of being able to find a larger candidate pool is dramatically higher. So, finding people is less of the issue today but [it highlights] a very different problem.”

That problem? The hiring process itself. “Because there are so many applicants, and companies had such a hard time finding them before, they have overloaded the process they designed a year ago, and it’s creating a poor candidate experience,” Miller says. 

The end result, he says, is an underpaid, underqualified team that just needs to be replaced down the line. 

How your company can find and retain good talent, despite the competition for it.

Too many candidates, not enough jobs

Trying to find a job is like trying to buy a house right now. There’s a flood of people, and not enough inventory to accommodate all of them. As a result, employers, like home sellers, are holding all the cards. 

With few positions to fill and plenty of candidates to select from, ghosting―when recruiters fail to tell candidates whether they are rejected or accepted for the role―has hit an all-time high. Driven by the company’s inability to define what role they are looking for beforehand, Miller says. 

“To this day, I walk into companies, even at an executive level, and the two different peers and the CEO completely describe an entirely different person and skill set that they need for this position,” he says. “You can tell they’ve never sat down as a group and hammered out a true blue scorecard.” 

If a candidate does make it to the final round, chances are they won’t get the salary they are looking for. Employers know they can get a higher level of talent for less money, and they’re taking advantage of that. Though underpaying talent may save a company some dollars up front, it can also cost the company money down the line. 

“In six months, when the things start balancing out a little bit and that individual knows their worth… all of a sudden, all the effort they put into ramping that person up is out the door when they go find something very easily for a lot more money,” Miller says. 

It’s better for a company in the long run, Miller says, to build a solid team from the get-go. Get the executive team together, make a list of the people abilities and skillsets that company needs, and then hire and pay well for those positions, knowing they will be part of building the company from the ground up. 

And if the budget is still tight: “My advice to employers is to hire less, but treat them like you would have treated them a year ago,” Miller says. “It’s better than underpaying and overhiring and losing everybody in six months.”

Too many candidates, no way to hire them

To make matters worse, sometimes the talent that companies need exists, but isn’t available to them. 

“It drives me nuts that we have this incredible talent shortage in every state, every metropolitan area, including Utah, where we’re struggling to find talent and we’re struggling to recruit talent from outside of the state,” says Bassam Salem, CEO at AtlasRTX, “Yet, we have this world-class university that is pumping out incredible international students, all of whom are looking for jobs, some of whom have masters or PhDs in computer science and can code anything, and I can’t go and recruit from them.”

Salem was born in Egypt and came to the US as a teenager by way of France and England. After achieving his BS, MS, and MPhil degrees in computer science as well as an MBA, Salem worked in consulting and technology before turning to entrepreneurship. Salem’s own experience is something he often thinks about when it comes to hiring and why he is unable to onboard someone who underwent a situation similar to his own.

“Our immigration laws make it so difficult for a company―especially a small one like mine―to be able to sponsor a foreign student [and] give them a Visa here,” he says. “In the 90s, when I did it, it was hard, but not crazy hard. Now, in 2020, it’s so difficult to get a foreign student a Visa.”

While immigration laws are federal laws and are not unique to Utah, Salem’s experience sheds light on another recruitment issue that is often overlooked: if the cost of sponsoring excellent foreign candidates are too much for young startups to support, then how can these startups get the very best of the best when it comes to talent? 

“We educate an incredible number of foreign students every year―larger than any other country in the world by an order of magnitude―and then we force them to go home because their Visas expire after they’re done with their school.”

Salem says that the sheer amount of brilliant candidates who are forced to go back to their home countries “is painful and staggering.” 

“I wish more people were aware of [this fact] because I believe we build a great country by attracting the best talent in the world, by making it so those who want to come here and work hard and help us build the economy can and do stay here,” Salem says.

How your company can find and retain good talent, despite the competition for it.

Comments (2)

  • Lisa Miller

    Great insight, Austin Miller! The price of staff turnover ends up costing so much more than paying a higher wage to keep valuable employees. It would be well worth it to take the time and spend the money in the first place to retain great talent. The right executive who is in it for the long haul is always more invested in their job, the company and their success.

  • Don

    This information is not 100 percent accurate… not for Utah.

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