With unemployment going down and job reqs going up, there is a war for talent brewing that we haven't see for a few years anyway. But is it clear who you are doing battle with?

Josh Bear is the COO of Jivaro Professional Headhunters and the author of a recent TechCrunch post about the talent wars where he leads with this line..."We live and work in an age of mass competition and where the ability to land top talent can have as much of an impact on the success of the company as the product line itself." 

Okay, most of us can likely agree with that statement. But it seems to me as if there would be less consensus on a follow-up statement, and his overall hypothesis, that in today's hiring environment the “little guys” are fighting for whatever scraps fall from the talent table of the “big boys.”  

Before we go any further, or you look up the original post, we should make clear that Bear is specifically speaking of the situation in Silicon Valley with regards to tech talent. But I think several of the things he said could have broader application outside of the Bay Area, and are worth examining.

Bigger May Not Be Better

Bear goes on to say, "With name-brand recognition, a pool of hiring resources and deeper pockets, it has at times appeared to be a one-sided battle with the big companies that impose their will as they see fit. With no hiring compass to turn to, and little direction to follow, the smaller companies constantly find themselves out-worked, out-hustled and out-bid for today’s top talent."

Whether you run a small staffing firm, are the hiring manager for a small business, or have a Silicon Valley start-up, of course you are always going to be competing against fancier offices, bigger salaries, better perks and more resources of larger companies, whether they be Google, Apple, or Manpower.

But the fact is, corporations like this employ less than 10% of the U.S. work force. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 60% of registered American businesses employ less than five workers, and 89.7 % employ fewer than 20. Companies employing less than 1,000 workers make up 99.9% of employers and employ 89% of American workers.

When large corporations dominate the headlines, the marketplace and our thinking often, it's hard to wrap your head around some of those statistics. But the fact is most of us don't work for corporate America and there are plenty of good reasons to work for smaller companies.

Jon Bischke is a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur and CEO of Entelo, a company that uses social data and predictive analytics to help their customers find candidates. He is certainly battling the "big boys" in the Bay Area when it comes to tech talent, and he took exception to the TechCrunch article.

"One thing this article misses is the key reason why a lot of people join startups: the incredible professional growth curve. At a startup you can rise through the ranks very quickly. Try doing that at a big company. We have an employee who is making almost four times what he made when he started with us...14 months ago. Good luck doing that at any company with 1,000+ employees."

Back To The Battle

Okay, so let's get back to what might be some takeaways for the rest of us who aren't in Silicon Valley. Headhunter Josh Bear says recruiting talent requires a "concise plan of attack." Check. He says that "knowledge is power and the more you know about clients that you are trying to recruit, the better the odds will be in your favor." Check. "You will need to arm yourself with an understanding of what is important to the candidate." Check. Now, he says, go and figure out where they are in the job hunting process, why they are looking, what they are looking for, what motivates them and so on. Nothing we all haven't heard before in there. 

He does also issue the reminder that smaller companies do have some advantages when it comes to the actual hiring process itself. 

"When a big company has a slow and passive process, you can act quickly and aggressively. Where they might find themselves tied up in red tape, you can swiftly slice through any delays to move forward."

Bear concludes by saying that "if you simply take time to know your target candidate and build a relationship based on the things that are important to them, you will significantly increase your chances of convincing them to join."

Ah yes, information, knowledge, creating connections. Knowing what your company has to offer, knowing what the competition has to offer, and being planful and deliberate about who you want to make the offers to. 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” 

― Sun TzuThe Art of War

Tags: Google, Manpower, Apple, TechCrunch, Tech talent, Talent shortage, The Art of War, Hiring wars, Sun Tzu, Jon Bischke, Entelo, Josh Bear