I recently courted a best-in-class digital advertising agency only to find myself quickly dumping them at the dinner table. After LinkedIn-stalking one of its directors, developing a long-term e-mail business relationship and ultimately meeting over drinks, I was excited to finally speak with a recruiter. As we started to conclude our phone date, the recruiter asked me my target salary. Upon hearing it, he promptly informed me about the position's highly competitive talent pool—a talent pool willing to work for $30,000. Opportunities certainly are worth quite a lot, but so is my credit rating. While I still am attracted to the agency's work, I could never date the place long-term.
Top talent seeks a long-term relationship and will partner with companies whose manners reflect a soulmate, like online retailer Zappos.com. In my interview experience with them, the only prices discussed were potential media buys. Our date included an all-expenses paid trip to Vegas, a trip to the "Soul Doctor" (Zappos' personal onsite psychologist and career therapist) and a Polaroid for my personal scrapbook. In the end, I didn't get the job because they were looking for someone with more experience, but had things worked out, I could easily see myself growing old(er) with them (as can other swooning potential employees).
To attract top talent, I recommend these behaviors: 1. Don't make me go Dutch. Please pay for interview travel. It indicates financial stability and employee value. 2. Don't speed date. This is a courtship. Get to know me beyond a rote questionnaire. 3. Break up via phone, not silence. Quickly tell me that we are through rather than dragging it out in ambiguity. 4. Value me for me. As an MBA, I know what I'm worth. Although advertising agencies are notorious for paying under industry average, please do not immediately lowball my desired salary. Treat me like a potential partner. Partners require negotiation.
Remember: Any company can find employees. But a charming company who uses these manners will almost always get the most striking partners in the employment pool—and keep them, too. Which do you want to be?