Get ahead in business – copy your competitors!

By Jeremy Wilson April 01, 2015 Industry News

The secret to getting ahead in business is surely to just copy what your competition does. The competitive edge, surely, lies in copying their strategies, right?

“No it doesn’t,” you say, “Oh and by the way you’re a plonker!” Interesting you say that.

The vast majority of renowned business leaders (eg Jim Collins) talk about unlocking the potential of a business through hiring the best talent.

Get the right people on the bus and all that. Smash your competition by outwitting them and outthinking them with your recruitment strategy and, by so doing, hiring the best possible talent available. Best talent = improved profits.

Business NZ CEO Phil O’Reilly, in a recent NZ Herald article, said something like: “A sustained shortage of top-tier talent is jeopardising chances of long-term prosperity. Business leaders really need to up their game when thinking about attracting and retaining talent”.

And here’s you, copying your competitors by placing another advertisement on a web job board, putting your feet up, collecting some CVs, doing some interviews and hiring the best of a bad bunch.

And I’m the plonker?

As I see it, this reliance on reactive job boards raises a question. What would you do if they didn’t exist? How would you look to engage with talent?



I just spent a fun couple of days interviewing candidates for opportunities with a client that’s expanding their team. Across two roles I met with seven highly desirable shortlisted candidates. Here’s an overview for you:

  • Six of those seven candidates had come from an approach on my part, with just one from a job page.
  • Each of the six candidates was open to discussing a new role or were thinking about making a move in the next three to six months. They were passive talent looking for a competitive employer.
  • But here’s the really interesting part – only two of those candidates were active on the internet looking for a job and only one of them was actively responding to advertising. What this says to me is that advertising will only reach a small percentage of valuable talent. Imagine the effect on your bottom line of only ever talking to a small percentage of your clients. Go on, walk into a sales meeting and declare “from now on we will only engage with two in seven of our potential clients”… Craziness!
  • Three of those candidates had spoken to recruitment companies since the beginning of the year.
  • One of those candidates registered online with a company-specific HR team and had met with them.
  • Four of those candidates expected that their next role would come from an introduction from a business colleague, recruiter or through word of mouth.

Say what? Read that last point again?

This indicates to me that there exists right now a significant switch in thinking in the market for talent. Right now, candidates expect you to come to them.

They believe that, thanks to this global talent shortage, they should no longer be viewed as an infinite commodity, endlessly scanning the internet and pressing “send” in the hope of some return communication.

All this in turn challenges traditional business thinking around recruitment so significantly that it’s not a matter of if your methods will change – it’s a matter of when.

Now’s probably a good time.


Jeremy Wilson is General Manager of Build People, a search recruitment business with contacts across hardware, consumer goods, electronics and FMCG. Call 021 732 788 or visit for more information.

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