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What’s the best way to ensure a response to a recruiting note? “Please let me know if you have a few moments to discuss this opportunity?” Or perhaps “Let me know if you would be interested in connecting.” Or maybe “I’ll give you a call on this in a couple days?”

These options were the subject of a vigorous debate in a recent management meeting here at Cognito. While I dug in my heels during to my preferred choice during this discussion, I realized later that the conversation was a sideshow.

The job market is extremely competitive right now. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 3.3 million employees left their jobs of their own free will in June, an increase of 212,000 in the month.Unemployment here in the United States is at a near-record low. Labor markets for professional talent worldwide is growing tighter and tighter.

As the person responsible for recruiting at a global agency, I can assure you – recruiting in this environment is difficult. We are now in a candidate-driven market and employers are having a hard time finding and keeping qualified talent. Marketing and communications is no exception.

There is no shortage of advice on what to do – make the process easy, make the job description clear, make it appealing, act fast, offer flexibility – I could fill up this post just listing all the tips you can find.

All of those things work and are important. But in my opinion the most important way to attract and retain talent is by offering opportunity.

Motivated, ambitious candidates with skills want to see opportunity. They want to know they can make a difference. They want to see a clear career progression path and know their employer is invested in making that plan a reality.

Businesses need to ensure opportunity is imbedded in culture. The only way to guarantee this is make sure your current managers are equipped with the tools and resources to not only lead, but to be strong leaders and influential role models.  

Managers sell jobs to candidates. If managers aren’t happy or excited about their job or can’t speak to the opportunity during the interview process, potential talent will walk out the door.

Do a temperature check with management often. Ensure they are still excited to work and have a clear understanding of the direction of the organization. When your managers are passionate and aligned, it shows. This keeps recruits engaged throughout the interview process.

Retaining talent is equally, if not more, important. Turnover is expensive.

People leave managers, not jobs, so focus on them. Do they know how to coach and keep staff engaged? Are they able to continuously develop staff? Do they consistently make staff feel valued? Are they able to communicate effectively? Do they provide staff with clear objectives and responsibilities, so they know what is expected? Do staff feel important? Are they having ongoing conversations about progress?

This has been an area of priority for me since joining the team this year. It was also an area of discussion at our bi-annual global conference in Barcelona. We are dedicating more resources to continuously develop our current and future leaders from sponsoring trainings to our global mentorship program. We want to ensure our management knows how to keep their staff engaged.

By building a team of strong, capable leaders, you are ensuring not only candidates want to come work for you but they also stick around for a while.

Michelle Gennario is Cognito's Global Human Resources Manager