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Tips to Attract & Retain Candidates for “Hot Jobs” in DC

Posted on April 11, 2018
Paul DavisWritten by Paul Davis | Email author

What is a “Hot Job”?

When I’m working with clients to develop targeted recruiting plans it’s common to encounter positions that require additional planning in order to successfully fill the vacancy. These jobs are those that are in high demand and are often referred to as “hot jobs”.

In other words, a “hot job” is hot because it can be difficult to find qualified candidates, and also may command a premium in the market when you are trying to determine the compensation to attract the best and brightest. Which jobs are “hot” can vary by region due to local supply and demand. The DC metro region has an added twist in that some positions require the employee hired for that job to have a government security clearance, which results in an additional constraint on the labor supply.

It is critical to pay employees in “hot jobs” competitively. Even if you manage to hire an employee below the going rate for a hot job, your odds of retaining that employee are not good, because recruiters will be actively working to lure that employee to another employer.

Are All Hard to Fill Jobs “Hot Jobs”?

Not all hard to find jobs are “hot jobs”. It is valuable for organizations to be introspective (and not just blame the job market) when it comes to exploring why they are having difficulty finding qualified candidates at an acceptable price point.

What I often see happen to organizations without proper recruiting process controls, is they will create vacancy/job announcements that make finding qualified candidates very difficult. This often occurs when there is a lack of clarity and/or acknowledgment regarding what skills are desired, versus which skills are necessary. It is critical, not only when searching for candidates, but also when trying to determine pay, that organizations take a hard look at what the actual qualifications for a role are so they are not overpaying for candidates and/or employees who can do more than what the organization actually needs.

Current Hot Jobs in the DC Market

While this is not a comprehensive list, based on my experience working as an HR consultant alongside my fellow recruiting consultant colleagues with many clients in the DC market, the jobs below are generally considered to be “hot jobs”:

  • Applications Developer
  • Development Specialist (Non-Profit)
  • Systems Engineer
  • Technical Sales
  • Registered Nurses
  • Information Security Specialists
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Tips to Manage Compensation for “Hot Jobs”

Step 1: Gather all the information that you can. 

When you know you’re dealing either with candidates or current employees in hot jobs/with hot skillsets, it’s a given that you will need to pay them competitively. There are a number of sources of information that you can typically use which, while none serves as a complete panacea, will help you reduce your uncertainty in decision making while determining pay.

The first of these sources is benchmarking jobs via salary surveys. In short, it involves using actual market data for roles and comparing that data to your internal positions so you are able to arrive at an expected market rate for a certain type of role. In addition to benchmarking, there are a myriad of third-party compensation experts and recruiters who deal with all sorts of positions on a daily basis and have a good feel for their associated level of compensation in the current market. Lastly, leveraging professional networks for the sorts of positions for which you need compensation information, can be a valuable way to hear from the community what is going on in the relevant job market for hot jobs.

Step 2: Slot “hot jobs” in a compensation structure appropriately.

What is often the case with hot jobs is that you can compare the “hot job” to a non-hot job that is comparable in responsibility, complexity, technical expertise, etc. Based on this comparison you can generate an idea of how the hot job would be compensated were it not for the supply and demand market-factors that contributed to making the job a “hot job” in the first place.

The same concept applies to when you are slotting a “hot job” into a salary structure. I recommend to my clients they slot jobs into a structure based on their salary leveling guidelines and not place a job into a structure at a higher grade(s) based on the inflated market value of the role. This approach is conducive to maintain an accurate picture of internal equity across positions; just because a job is hot does not mean that it is more or less important than traditionally comparable positions within the organization.

Step 3: Place a premium on the “hot job”.

The big question when dealing with “hot jobs” isn’t whether to pay a premium for those roles:  it’s how much of a premium is attached to those positions? The answer to this question is tricky because it involves a relative premium, which begs the question; relative to what? My answer to all of this is to start by using the above steps to triangulate in on a level of compensation that is based on the current market for what you consider to be comparable work. From there, based on the information that you have gathered from performing additional research (see Step 1), you can apply a premium that makes sense in the specific situation. Typically, I see premiums for hot jobs ranging from 5% – 15%, but it can vary based on the particulars of each situation.

Step 4: Leverage bonus and incentive plans for “hot jobs”.

In my experience, it’s always easier to communicate to an employee or job-seeker that you’ll be giving them something, but it is immeasurably more challenging to take it away without blowback from the employee. For this reason, even after a premium has been applied to reflect the competitive market for a hot job, it is recommended that if incumbents in hot jobs are flight risks due to the market-based demand, that they are provided additional compensation via bonuses or incentives. This provides organizations the flexibility to navigate the competitive market while not increasing fixed costs.

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