It’s a candidate-driven market

The market for top supply chain talent is tighter than ever, with potential candidates dictating the terms. Still, the best firms find ways to navigate this candidate-driven marketplace, in order to attract the best and brightest to their organizations. Here's how.

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Editor’s Note: In the July issue of SCMR, three managers from Walgreens described some of the initiatives they’ve launched to raise their profile as a supply chain organization among students and experience practitioners. In the following column, recruiter Naseem Malik, explains strategies organizations should consider to attract talent in a candidate-driven market.

The market for top talent remains tight, especially in the field of supply chain management. The most common frustration among companies on the hunt for talent is a lack of A-players, or A-players who can’t be found fast enough. In short, just as real estate has sellers markets, where the seller is running the show, in supply chain management today, it is a candidate-driven market, especially when it comes to the most valuable and sought after candidates. That raises a number of issues for recruiters.

For example, sometimes the kind of manager you’re looking for is available but just isn’t attracted to your organization. In fact, in the past 12 months, we have seen progressive companies begin to realize that it's no longer 2009-2010, when there were six qualified candidates for every opening. Those companies that haven't yet confronted this reality are the ones that struggle to fill their positions in a timely fashion, if they can fill them at all.

But all is not lost. Here we provide advice for how to navigate this candidate-driven marketplace, in order to attract the best and brightest to your organization.

Think Big Picture:
More and more, the companies we work with are moving away from candidates who are generalists, and focusing on specialized subject matter experts as per commodity and category requirements. Within sourcing and supply chain management, there's definitely a trend towards niche candidates who fit the check box requirements specified by the hiring manager. While it’s good to have an outline of potential technical requirements for a role, corporations should leave room for outside the box hiring, in order to encourage fresh perspectives, and the ability for qualities such as leadership and communication skills to also be taken into consideration.

Yes, there will always be the exception to the rule when a superstar candidate lands on your perch. In that instance, you can throw caution to the wind and take a risk on that hire. But remember that in today’s market that is the exception. Still, it’s rare that companies take a big picture view and hire for potential as opposed to what they perceive is a candidate with the requisite experience

Reduce Lead Times:
The argument that sourcing skillsets are transferable across the SC spectrum no longer resonates, nor does it matter as companies rarely budge from their requirements, sometimes even at the expense of having the search drag on for extended periods of time.

There are perils to having a position open for too long. For one, good candidates will be wary of a company that can’t find someone in a reasonable period of time, wondering if culture, compensation or some other unknown issues are driving their colleagues to steer clear. They'll also question the importance of a position that takes longer to fill than it does to manufacture a Boeing 767. Can this company not make a decision in a timely fashion or is their interview process so archaic that it drags on indefinitely?

Be Competitive:
The issue of competitive compensation also comes into play in this regard. When there's a reality distortion in terms of the true candidate-driven nature of talent in today's marketplace, it also affects what organizations believe is attractive from a salary and benefits package. Companies may be tempted not to put their best foot forward and make a low-ball offer so they can steal a candidate. Short-term antics like that usually backfire: Not only will the candidates move on, but their perception of your company - and how they describe you to their colleagues at the next conference - will also take a hit. The other pitfall to avoid is the dreaded counteroffer. We make it a point to state upfront to both clients and candidates that this is a major risk so we have to be competitive to bring the candidate across the finish line. Likewise, we make it crystal clear to candidates, with the aid of articles and data, that accepting a counteroffer rarely results in a satisfied and elongated career run with their current employer.

Another important reality that most companies are loath to accept is that they may not always be the employer of choice they deem themselves to be. In this hyper-competitive market, where good supply chain talent is at a premium, companies with low brand recognition will find it an uphill challenge to attract candidates. Examples abound of multinational clients with global footprints that just can't convince people to join their ranks. It's not that they're not good organizations with room for growth. It's just that it takes a certain kind of candidate that will be open to opportunities they may think of as high risk.

Takeaways:
Corporations should remember that in a candidate-driven market, they are selling the company brand, culture and role, just as much as the candidate is selling their background and skillsets. By looking beyond job requirements to assess potential, reducing the interview time and putting their best foot forward, organizations increase their likelihood of attracting and retaining top supply chain and sourcing talent.

Naseem Malik is managing partner of MRA Global Sourcing, an affiliate of executive recruitment organization MRINetwork. He brings over 15 years of experience in the supply management and logistics function to the search and recruitment business. He can be contacted at [email protected]. For more information, visit MRA Global Sourcing.

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