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Selling Texas: Recruiting Specialists Reveal Their Top Tips

It’s true: Folks are flocking to Texas. The Austin area scored the highest rate of population growth nationwide in data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. But recruiting specialists will tell you: More bodies do not necessarily mean more talent. Last year, nearly 80 percent of Austin technology CEOs reported it was difficult to attract qualified technical staff. Beyond Austin, jobs in the Houston metro area including Beaumont are outpacing the availability of local workers. Reuters recently reported that of the top 20 metro areas in the U.S., Houston’s pace of job growth is the second-fastest in the country. The city that edged out Houston was another Texas giant: Dallas/Fort Worth (where, ironically, a shortfall of construction workers is being fueled by better-paying oil field jobs back around Houston).
It’s no wonder Texas has started staffing from outside of the state—in jobs roles from skilled labor to the creative class. But when it comes to relocation, Texas also has fierce competition. An international 2014 Atlas Van Lines industry survey found the need for talent was the major factor of rising relocations for new hires internationally. In particular, the survey discovered the need for talent at mid-size firms outstripped economic conditions and real estate concerns as the reason for relocating staff nearly 2-to-1 (48 percent vs. 25 percent).

That same study found financial firms actually felt the greatest impact of local talent shortfalls (58 percent), while nearly half of wholesale/retail (48 percent) and manufacturing/processing firms (44 percent) also viewed local talent shortfall as a key issue. These industries are also huge in Texas. So how can employers sell Texas when competition for software developers, financial professionals, manufacturing workers and more is so universally high?

“The biggest advantage Texas has is that our cities are at the top of every ‘best places’ list that comes out,” explains Nad Elias, co-founder and managing partner of The HT Group. “Austin, in particular, is now so well recognized that when people see a 512 area code calling, they pick up. They want to be a part of what’s happening here.”

Elias recommends employers sell what’s big in Texas right now: Growing communities and strong local economies.

“There’s also a civic responsibility in the Austin community, for example, where executives get involved and give back.  With today’s candidates, that sells much more than it used to,” Elias says. “Money and salary isn’t what gets these candidates to move.  It’s actually 7 or 8 on a list of 10.”

Jay Long, managing director of The HT Group’s Search division agrees. “Employers in Texas benefit from a state that aggressively pursues other companies to create more jobs and better opportunities,” he says. Long is a seasoned recruiter who competes for software developers every single day. His focus is on attracting candidates away from the other major technology hubs like the Silicon Valley, New York, Washington, D.C., and even locations overseas. “Austin, specifically, has interesting opportunities in technology—it’s a great playground for innovation. The cost of living is competitive and access to higher education is excellent.”

That said, however, Long insists that relying on location first and foremost is a huge mistake even veteran recruiting specialists make.

“Selling Texas to top candidates is more about the overall recruiting process than anything else,” he explains. “Most recruiting processes today are still antiquated and designed to screen people out rather than recruit them in. Typically, during the initial stages, candidates are treated like bothersome job seekers until someone internally has an interesting connection or conversation. By then, it’s too late.”

The result of a poor process trumps location every single time, he says, adding that “highly sought-after talent will often move to a second or third desired geographic location based on the recruitment experience.”

So, while Texas may be the place to be right now, how confident are you that you’re selling Texas to the right job candidates in the right way?


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