Why You Might Be Looking at Your Competitors All Wrong When Hiring People

I was recently going back through some of my notes from Seth Godin’s Akimbo The Marketing Seminar workshop I completed over a year ago, and I came across one of the lessons on positioning.

I’m fascinated by positioning. One of my favorite books that I’ve read several times is Obviously Awesome by April Dunford.*

One of the exercises Seth recommends we do is make a list of the things our prospective clients would like to change. Then, pick two and create a set of axes and put yourself where you feel you fit and also list your competitors where they fall on the grid.

If you’ve ever done any research on G2.com, it’s similar to the grids you would see there.

Going through this exercise is excellent, and it’s something I’m going to do, but it wasn’t the exercise that caught my attention.

It was Seth’s simple explanation of what competitors are: they’re not competitors at all, but rather “alternatives for people who seek something you aren’t offering.”

When I read that, it made me think of the world from the view of abundance, not scarcity.

It made me think about how I may offer a service or a similar outcome as my “competitors,” but the process and the way we get there will be different. Also, working with me will be different – because it’s me.

My personal and professional experience that I will draw from will be unique.

People seek outcomes, but they don’t always make a purchasing decision based on the outcome. It’s often all about the process and how they’ll feel as they’re pursuing their desired outcome.

This logic applies to why people decide to work with a specific business – and even at a personal level when someone asks you for advice.

They could work with anyone, but they chose you. The outcome could be the same for your client or customer if they went to someone else. But, they chose you.


The Candidate Experience Matters

When people are going through the interview process, they are likely also going through it with other companies in addition to yours.

The roles are probably very similar, if not identical, especially if they’re a software engineer.

Every company they interview with will offer them the same essential outcome – employment, a list of benefits, nearly identical salaries, and hopefully cool projects to work on.

I don’t have to tell you that more times than not, the highest bidder loses.

All the money in the world isn’t worth a bad experience.

The way you treat the candidate is what matters. The experience they have every step of the way matters. Every step! Every interaction they have- whether it’s with the first recruiter who reached out to them, the hiring manager who interviews them, or the corporate travel person arranging their flights and hotel if that’s something that will be needed.

It ALL matters.

Would it be an honor to work with the candidate, or do you present it as an honor for the candidate to work for you? Big difference.

Granted, some companies have enough brand power to elicit these feelings of gratitude toward the role and team, but they’re likely interviewing with your competitors who have equal clout.

What are you genuinely offering that your competitors aren’t? When the candidate envisions themselves in your role, what sets your company and position apart from the others?

As they go through the interview process, what are you offering them that your “competitors” aren’t? Are they being seen or seen as a cog going through a process? Chances are, that’s how they’ll be seen as an employee, too.


Culture is Talked About, But Can You Show It?

A company’s culture is a hot topic right now. When the jobs are all the same, culture has become the go-to differentiator. That’s great, but culture isn’t about a mission statement or a bunch of words.

Culture is about a collective of values. Taking another page out of Seth’s book, culture boils down to “people like us do things like this.” People like us work for companies like this.

Are you living this culture, or did you hire an expensive consultant to help you brainstorm the same “progressive” things everyone else is saying?

Either way, it will be pretty obvious the first time a candidate speaks with someone at your company.

When people like us do things like this, it’s part of who we are. It’s always displayed. It’s not an act or something we have to try to remember.

Work culture can be a huge differentiator – when it’s genuine, and it’s real.

A company’s work culture is not something invented by a consultant - it’s formed organically. Like two atoms banging around and finally coming together.

What is the alternative you’re offering people that your “competitors” aren’t?


Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash


* Note: Amazon products I link to are done so through the Amazon Affiliate Program and I'm paid a small commission as a result.