How do we win the war for talent?

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Do we currently find ourselves in a war for talent? 

How do we win it? 

How do we still win it when we lose a battle? 

If the recruitment process breaks down, how do we react to get things back on track?

We’ve spoken a lot in recent months about the recruitment process and how the way we work is critical to placing the right candidates in the right roles.

It is that process that enables us to effectively and efficiently plan, develop, search, screen, evaluate and control your recruitment requirements.

It identifies the right people with the right skills, personality and motivation needed to work for your organisation. 

It is a plan of action that helps Barron Williams successfully identify, attract and deliver the best candidates for the role.

And a good process will not only find and place talent, but it will also save you time and money on replacing and training new people.

However, that process can break down sometimes. 

People can be unpredictable.

How do we react as your recruitment partner?

How do we utilise our agility and ability to turn a negative into a positive?

Hiring obstacles or mistakes, whilst incredibly frustrating, are often valuable learning opportunities, though hard to digest at times.

As Sallie Krawcheck, the former head of Bank of America’s Global Wealth and Investment Management division and current CEO and co-founder of Ellevest puts it:

“If you’re not making some notable mistakes along the way, you’re certainly not taking enough business and career chances.”

As much as we would like to believe these things will never happen, unfortunately, they do.

Nobody sets out deliberately to fail, and in recruitment, many of the issues we face during the process are out of our (Barron Williams and our client) control.

For example, we make an offer to an exceptional candidate who wasn’t actively on the market. They’re perfect for the role/client but at the 11th hour, they decide to stay with their current employer.

It happens. 

How we react is highly consequential. 

The recruitment process evolves

Important questions need to be quickly asked and addressed at this point.

How we respond and how we get the process back on track is critical.

We often find that with these setbacks, the initial review and recalibration, lead to an even better conclusion.

Why is that?

For a start, you often gain a better understanding of the clients’ needs.

You’re already tapped into the market for relevant candidates for that role.

More focussed on finding that needle in the haystack.

It is not uncommon for us to start looking for one thing but as the recruitment process progresses, the client identifies the need for another, often inadvertently.

You must implement recruitment strategies at every step of the hiring process.

At Barron Williams, we are in this for the long haul. 

With that comes scrutiny. 

But we can answer the difficult questions.

The War for talent is intensifying 

We currently find ourselves in an increasingly competitive landscape for the recruitment and retention of talented senior execs. 

And, despite the economic carnage wrought by the pandemic, we are seeing first-hand how difficult the current recruitment market is.

Covid has amplified what Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company called the ‘War for Talent’.

There’s an increasing demand for leadership coupled with a limited supply of the best leaders. 

And, understandably, we all want the best.

Competitive advantage comes from having the best talent in your organisation. 

You have to merit them joining you too, of course.

No matter the state of the economy, hiring the best people is, and always will be, essential. 

Best for now, best for the future, best for you and best for them.

Organisations have been challenged by the pandemic and many have learned a lot about their people in the last 18 months. 

The way we work has shifted dramatically, and some have adapted better than others.

At the start of the summer, CEOs of major companies and recruiters told the London Evening Standard that; “they are seeing the most competitive talent hunt in years”.

In that article, the recruitment giant Robert Walters stated that; “598 banking jobs were being advertised a week in London against 133 in the same week last year” – That’s a staggering 349% jump!

FTSE 250 recruiter Hays highlighted in the same article that; “56% of employers are recruiting – with 67% looking to hire senior-level staff”.

One CEO was quoted as saying: 

“The jobs market is so hot in the media. I’ve had staff telling me they’re being offered 20% pay rises to go elsewhere. The war for talent is in full flow.”

A major PR agency chief added: “It’s booming right now. Staff know they have options and it’s a job to try and keep them.”

The market varies by region and sector, of course, but this isn’t untypical.

In the year to March 2021, 813,000 jobs were lost in the UK, particularly hitting the shuttered hospitality and leisure sectors.

But UK-wide vacancies have surged in the last 6 months or so.

With the hiring freeze quickly thawing, the need for fresh talent is high.

But are many of the best candidates reluctant to leave an employer that has supported them through the last 18 months?

Many have re-evaluated their employer relationships.

Do we have an army of pent-up senior execs hungry to make their move now things (hopefully) seem to be settling into the new normal?

One thing we do know for sure here at Barron Williams is that we are incredibly busy at the moment, across all sectors and functions.

However, there is caution, we are in uncharted territory, numerous threats still exist.

And our experience tells us that sometimes we will lose a battle before the war is won. But that’s OK, if you’re battling for the best, it’s all part of the game.

How and why does the recruitment process break down?

No two processes are the same. 

Just like no two candidates or clients are the same.

We can utilise the framework we outlined in our not your typical Senior Executive Recruitment Agency article but each must be tailored to the client and specific role.

The aforementioned candidate staying in/reluctant to leave their current post is one example at the senior exec level. 

Often the current employer will offer an incentive to stay that our client is unable to match. 

You have to know when to walk away – And it’s not all about money!

‘Evolution’ of the role brief sometimes means that the candidate no longer meets the needs of the client or vice-versa.

More often than not, however, we are faced with an employer who’s determined to retain their best people. It demonstrates that we are finding and attracting the best, of course, win or lose.

We do work hard to set reasonable expectations on both sides, in terms of the role and the ideal candidate profile. However, battle plans can go out of the window when the battle starts.

We work to a structure but agility is the key to keeping on track.

Whilst the costs (both time and money) of a breakdown in the hiring process are real and no company wants to absorb them, they often present a unique opportunity to evaluate the process and make the necessary adjustments to identify the right individual.

Ultimately, it is about the right result.

Whatever you do, don’t make a bad hire

Worse than losing a preferred candidate is hiring the wrong one.

We’ll do our best to stop you if we’re unsure because we know the costs of a hiring error. It’s not bad luck, it’s usually a mistake.

When we set out to fill a role, we’re often thinking of all the characteristics we’d like to identify in the new hire. And they’re usually consistent.

Sometimes, however, there is the odd rare occasion, when once they’re in post, things just don’t click, despite the efforts of all concerned.

When that happens we regroup and go again. 

Share the pain for long-term gain.

How do we address a breakdown in the recruitment process?

The starting point is to quickly figure out where things went south. 

Sometimes this is obvious, sometimes not so.

We (Barron Williams and our client) must approach the setback with an open mind and a willingness to take a hard look at the evidence.

We will reassess the role brief and establish if the message to market was correct. 

The good thing is that market refreshes rapidly.

People not actively looking only recently are suddenly receptive to a polite approach or a well-written advert prompts them to get in touch.

Amid a war for talent, talented senior execs have greater options (Demand > Supply), so we must find ways to attract them.  


Ask each other the tough questions, for example:

  • Does the role brief match what you are looking for/need in the long term?
  • Is the package right? The market will soon tell us.
  • What opportunities will the candidate have for career development/progression in your organisation? It’s not just about this role, what’s next?
  • Could/should you consider candidates with different skills, experience, qualifications or from out of sector? New thinking vs. knowledge of the ‘dark arts’?
  • How will you develop them? How can they become a leader in your organisation?

We will always go back to the market in this situation with a refreshed role brief and market with confidence. 

Utilising the power of our network is key to identifying suitable candidates when search plays a prominent part in the process. 

If we’ve had to return to the market, we already have recent knowledge and contacts as a starting point, saving time and energy in the new search.

It is critical we sell our/your brand when facing a war for talent

We are working with you, and critical in that process is brand building. 

Both our brand and your ‘employer brand’ are essential in our armoury in selling you and your role to the people we want to consider. 

A strong recruitment strategy to attract talented individuals for a hard-to-fill role must be underpinned by a strong brand ethos.

Know your ideal candidate. 

Cultural ‘fit’ is crucial, even if clichéd.

What sort of people ‘fit’ your organisation?

We’ll write a clear and compelling role brief with your input.

We’ll then look to speak to and showcase the role to the right people.

Sell, sell, sell.

We pitch the role. Hard sometimes.

Then you need to back us up.

Be your brand.

Make sure you get your employer brand across.

Sell, sell, sell.

We need to clearly define your culture, values and USPs to demonstrate that this is a company they want to work for.

Consider pre-employment testing and assessment

It is a subject we’ve covered several times on this blog but we are advocates of psychometric testing and analysis via our partners.

You can read more about the reasons why and how in our article the benefits of psychometric testing.

When ‘fit’ is critical, these tools can enable us to apply more filtering and identify those who could potentially be that right fit.

Is your current provider proactive or reactive?

If you are coming to Barron Williams from an existing search partner who has let you down, then proactivity is our modus operandi.

In the current climate, it is something we are hearing regularly…

I wish we’d made a decision sooner.

Over-promised and under-delivered.

Headhunter/Recruitment Agency X can’t find the right candidate.

Poor process, poor long-list, one good candidate, but bad luck… 

Still failed at the end of the day!

We’ve had all of the above in the last 2 months or so.

A reactive approach from many means they are all fishing in the same waters. 

Lazy recruiters or simply unable to do the job?

Our proactive recruitment model is designed to identify and attract the best, not just those active in the market (although they’re not mutually exclusive).

We will get to the core of who/what you need. Then find it.

We will cut all the ‘noise’ from your hiring process. Trust us. We are thorough.

Our clients become long terms trusted partners. 

Ask for references, read our Case Studies.

Once we’ve presented the right people, you can focus on making the right hire, not the process per se. 

Agility is the key in a war for talent

As we stated last month; do the top executive search firms have the agility to find the top talent?

Barron Williams build relationships with potential candidates, our network is critical, and is what enables us to draw up high calibre long-lists of qualified candidates.

We attract great people. 

We are a candidate-driven brand.

That means that when we lose that preferred candidate, we’re straight back to the market. Quickly and efficiently.

Create a consistent candidate experience

Focus on the candidate experience. 

In other words, play the long game. 

Candidates demand a 5-star experience, and rightly so. Once we get you involved, tag-team with us to win.

If you want them to potentially join your organisation, then we need to build a relationship.

React quickly when we need you to engage – It’s highly valued by us (and candidates).

We will ensure they understand the process and the current state of play, provide constructive feedback as needed, keeping in touch.

Even if we decide not to hire someone now, they are always treated as a potential future client. 

Needs change over time, a little professional courtesy always goes a very long way. 

People remember. Some of our best clients are ‘failed’ candidates.

Each candidate, successful or not, will form an opinion about your organisation. 

A positive (or negative) candidate experience will potentially be shared, and neither you nor we want that, do we?

Culture is king (and it eats strategy for breakfast, according to Drucker)

It is a mantra we’ve oft used in many articles. 

Always put culture front and centre. 

And if there is one positive to take from the pandemic, it’s a shift towards ensuring the environment we work in is the right one.

Good organisational culture is what sets the bar, the gold standard. 

It defines how people behave and work together. How they function as teams, small and large.

It battles silos, breaks boundaries and ensures that people feel belonging, thus improving decision-making, working practices, performance and RESULTS.

If you want to win the war for talent, then you need the culture to match.

For us, it is key. 

We can’t work for organisations where we can’t honestly portray their culture

It’s good to talk

Often winning the war for talent simply requires change…

…change in mindset and culture.

It’s about ensuring those who work for you have a genuine work/life balance, that they can openly communicate how they feel, and that they can affect change within the organisation. 

Open. Honest. But challenging and performance-led too.

That in turn is then reflected in the ability to attract the best. 

Talented people want to work for good companies and like-minded people.

Who are your best people?

What makes them so?

The first step in winning the war for talent is to acknowledge that the talent is already winning. Yours… 

So, raise the average. Hire more people like your best people.

Those with the desired mindsets have options. They can choose where they work. Their choice will be made on which organisation best fits with them.

We want to work with clients who agree with us that it is best to fight for the best.

Mr(s) Right NOT Mr(s) Right Now!

That’s how we’re geared. 

Our brand is aimed at candidates.

Trust, opportunity, accessibility, helpful, supportive, open, honest, reliable.

And that ethos applies to all – People who apply for specific roles, register for opportunities on our Execbank or simply Follow Us on social media…

They are our raw materials. 

So, we want the right ingredients. For you, our clients.

That is what gives us an edge when dealing with good people.

We respect them. 

We communicate with them. 

We support them.

Yes, we’ll interview rigorously. 

Yes, we’ll tell them when they’re out of the running without the Bake-Off/Strictly pause for dramatic effect.

We are respected for that.

We retain their trust.

So, as for the war for talent?

Work with an agency that knows how to find, attract and then deliver talent.


It’s in their approach, mindset and values.

You’ve just read about ours.

If you’re looking for a senior executive for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or Call Us now.

If you’re looking to find or apply for a new role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or Call Us for an exploratory conversation.

Barron Williams

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