Talent War Escalates as Hiring Increases

By Carrie Rossenfeld | Orange County

NEWPORT BEACH, CA-It’s a candidate’s market in certain parts of the commercial real estate world, particularly among junior analysts and senior-level executives, according to Brandi Popovich, managing director at locally based executive-search firm RETS Associates. Popovich tells that the war over talent has escalated to the point where firms are going the extra mile to attract and retain employees.

Currently employed, ideal candidates will receive job offers from outside firms, and then the current firm will put out a can’t-refuse counter offer, leaving an open position with very few qualified candidates to fill it, according to Popovich. RETS calls this a chronic problem in the marketplace, particularly among firms seeking employees with two to three years of commercial real estate experience.

“So few firms were hiring for entry-level positions in 2011 and 2012, right after the recession, so we went from firms hiring pools of analysts to firms hiring just a few,” says Popovich. “There was a feeding frenzy for the developers and owner/operators, so there’s not a lot of those left anymore, and those candidates are in extremely high demand. Everyone wants that training, that foundation, but there’s probably ¼ of the candidates out there with that experience than there were before the recession, and everyone is vying for that 25% analyst pool.”

The dearth of talent is also occurring at the senior level, Popovich adds. “If you go back and look at what was going on in real estate when people in their late 30s to late 40s entered the market, there was the recession of the early ’90s and not a lot of hiring going on at that point in time for commercial real estate. If you’re at that level, you can almost pick and choose where you’d want to go, what type of firm you want to work for and what you want to be doing.”

Candidates are getting multiple solid offers from good companies, and those who are not unhappy with their jobs are still listening to what firms have to say because the offers are so enticing. By the same token, counter offers are seriously beefing up. “It’s not a typical counter offer,” says Popovich. “They’re saying, ‘We really appreciate you, but let us show you how you stand with the future of the firm.’ It’s a smart business practice, and it’s what you need to do if you want to retain employees.”

Firms are going to the extent of laying out five- to 10-year plans with their current employees, offering a lot more money and a complete change in responsibility, moving them to the headquarters building and actually sitting down to talk with them and find out what makes them tick in order to make them happy. Popovich calls this “bubble-wrapping” employees, and it works on the wooing end as well as the current-employer end.

From the wooing end, employers will have the president of the company respond back to candidates’ thank-you notes after an interview or write them a letter telling them how much they want them to join the firm, says Popovich. “It makes the candidate feel really good when someone senior in the organization reaches out and reiterates why they’re so excited about them.”

2.21.14 GlobeSt Online