Let’s start with a cold, hard fact: the only way to recruit a senior top consultant with more than 5 years of experience is to offer him or her a meaningful career step forward. These talented individuals don’t change jobs often, or without a compelling reason to do so.
This is bad news for many of you, because in the competitive world of elite strategy consultants, we are seeing a very real war for talent. This is because the main factor that limits the growth of top consulting firms is often talent. To grow, you need more smart and expert consultants, but most of these people are content where they are.
After all, why should the senior top players move? For the most part, they know they are performing well after many years of hard work, they get healthy bonuses, and they feel respected.
Consultants beneath this top tier tend to move out of the service or manufacturing industries. At some point, they recognize they will never be a star and decide to move out. But the stars remain not only in their consulting world, but most likely with their current employer.
Given that, here are a 3 critical tips to convince a star to look at a new opportunity:
Tip 1: Have a compelling value proposition for each open position. Companies use value propositions on the marketing side of their business, but not many understand the power of creating a unique value proposition for a particular job opening. Doing so gives a satisfied star player a reason to consider a new opportunity. This can’t be a superficial or minor element; it has to be highly attractive and meaningful. For example, before I pursue a talented candidate, I always have a future success story to share.
Consulting companies can be risk averse when recruiting, but I recommend offering the candidate a more senior position, rather than a lateral hiring offer. Such a move has the added benefit of significantly impacting the salary package.
Understand what matters most to a candidate. A top candidate may be tired of working three years running for a string of utility industry clients, or dislike working for a manager he considers to be less insightful than he is. Another might profess to be happy, but in reality is frustrated not to have the next title yet.
Recognize that consulting work can be tough on spouses and children. I’ve had clients who have attracted top talent by offering more flexibility and/or support. Such benefits might include funding for a nanny or the opportunity to work remotely.
If you understand what a candidate wants “in a perfect world”, then you have an opportunity to create such a world for them.
Tip 2: Look outside the consulting ranks. In many cases, the best consultants are professionals who have been highly successful in industry roles. It’s possible to take a VP, CIO or even CEO and transform them into a highly credible and capable consultant. As before, doing this successfully requires the ability to understand what matters most to this person, at this moment in his or her career. For example, you might want to look at what McKinsey Operations is doing.
Tip 3: Move fast, very fast. Once I identify an ideal candidate, my clients work hard to waste no time. In many cases, just a few week elapses between our first discussion and the signing of a contract. This minimizes consultants employer’s ability to make an effective counter-offer ; and current employers always try to retain their top stars.
It’s no small feat to lure another star onto your team. The best way to do this is to find something they badly want, and give it to them.