MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE: Why You’re Struggling to Find Talent

Let me take you back to last weekend when I spent an entire road trip listening to my 5 and 2 year old repeatedly serenade me with the chorus of their new favorite song. That song was none other than Maren Morris and Zedd’s musical collaboration, Meet Me In The Middle. Not only is it catchy, but it has a way of staying with you like smoke from a bonfire. Secretly, I was just thankful to have a break from Baby Shark. Unexpectedly, the more I heard the song, the more I realized how close to home it hits the recruiting process. In all the years I have been recruiting, one of the biggest hurdles I have experienced is a client’s unwillingness to meet in the middle. That unwillingness is why they struggle to find great talent.

The Economics of Hiring Great Talent

I imagine you are familiar with the concept of “supply and demand”. That leverage plays a major role in the hiring process. At the time this article is being written, certain industries such as cyber security, licensed healthcare professionals, and construction are 3 industries where there is a significant supply and demand issue. The talented employees within these industries have way more control over their futures than most companies. Hiring poor talent because it’s cheaper is a band-aid on the problem. The solution to attracting the right talent will require you to meet them in the middle as a potential employer.

If you’ve read our article about The Hidden Candidate Market, you know by now that many of the best candidates aren’t actively looking to transition into new careers. That’s why it doesn’t always matter how great you think your opportunity is. Since passive candidates are often employed and happy, they have no reason to sacrifice. If a potential employer is uncompromising and rigid, the candidates usually start singing along with me.

frustrated, middle management


If you have lost job candidates to competitors, you are suffering from something I call Handshaker. Let me explain. The candidate shakes your hand after the first or second interview with obvious intentions of moving forward. You think nothing could sever this bond. Then you find out weeks later they accepted a totally different job during the time following that day. Why and how could this have happened? You or your employer made them jump through too many hoops without any intention of meeting them in the middle.

In a competitive candidate market, the process needs to be condensed and personal. The candidate should feel a strong desire to work with you. Don’t get me wrong, you need to have pride in your company and have high standards for hiring. Just don’t have so much pride that an A-level candidate gets frustrated during the courting process. I can hear your rebuttal already, “Patrick, if we are talking about high level candidates, there needs to be a rigorous process in place. We need to weed out the wrong fit.” That’s half true. You do, indeed, want to weed out the wrong fit. Handshaker isn’t a criticism of high standards. It’s an indicator that you may have a poor process in place.

Let’s Meet in the Middle

Want some tips on ways to meet these candidates in the middle more often?

Don’t just wait for applicants to apply to your job posting. 

Go out and actively recruit some of the best talent in the market. Engage them in a conversation through LinkedIn or other media platforms. Where is the person in their career and why do they love their company? What do they consider to be the next advancement opportunity for themselves?  If you just listen to what they say, you will learn a lot.

When someone applies to your job (who is qualified), insert a human touch ASAP. 

If you do get a great applicant to your job posting, do not rely on the automated email response from your website.  Make sure a real human interaction is created as soon as possible.

Shorten your interview process. 

I’m not suggesting you take pieces out of your interview process.  You know what your business needs best, but don’t let the process take 3-4 weeks because of poor planning. Be smart about your interactions, and be efficient in your planning.

meet me in the middle, dinner party, interviewBe willing to meet the candidate off-site. 

The candidate you are considering may have played the game of corporate office hopscotch during interviews for previous jobs.  If you want to differentiate yourself, make the first meeting offsite. Try breakfast or an after work drink.  Schedule the candidate to go out to dinner with the team they will potentially be working with. No rigid panel interviews. You need to create an emotional pull before an offer is made. Also, you never really know someone until you see how they handle you talking about the future with spinach in your teeth.

Get creative in your job offers. 

Understandably, there are some parts of an offer package that are standard and may not have flexibility. Be willing to be unconventional in how you make a job offer, though.  I’m not advocating that you allow a candidate to dictate all the terms. Remember that it is a negotiation and this requires give and take.

Keep a pulse on how long its been since a live interaction. 

Don’t rely on text or email without interjecting with a live human interaction. Some conversations should never be had over text or email. Use the phone or a video application when possible. This is a visceral interaction. We are talking about a person’s career, not a dinner order.  This increases accountability, and hearing a human voice reaffirms the relationship you are developing.

handshake, hidden candidate, meet me in the middle Make a future plan. 

There will be times when you have a great process, but you just aren’t able to give the candidate everything they want now. Don’t bow out of the offer process.  Instead, communicate vision of the company, the role you are hiring for, and a timeline of when you can consider giving the candidate what they want.  You will find that all candidates will appreciate your honesty. Some may even buy into the vision enough to consider the offer with a contingency of future income possibilities.

Ultimately each job candidate wants to feel that you and your company care about them in a larger capacity. They want to feel valued beyond just their role and job description. Also, meeting someone in the middle applies to all relationships. For some, it’s easy to forget that in a work environment. Any one of us can become myopic about our own responsibilities. Try these things and drop me an email sometime to let me know about your results, or you can give me a call if you ever want to sing along with me. My hope is that every time you hear the song now, you will think of this article!


Patrick Sirmeyer, Luxus blog, Meet me in the Middle

Patrick Sirmeyer is an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the staffing and recruiting industry. He has more than 15 years of experience and has developed multiple businesses. His wheelhouse includes Sales, Executive Search, Team Building, and Organizational Leadership. Patrick graduated from Stetson University with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and Physiology. He currently lives in Winter Springs, Florida, with his wife, Anna, 2 children and 2 spoiled dogs.