Attracting the right employees is a critical precursor to any hiring. It is similar to customer relationship management with the subtle difference that it is not about generating sales, but about attracting people who will make your company more successful. Neglecting building relationships with your future employees would be like starting your customer acquisition activities only when you urgently need to generate revenue. Companies which tackle the issue of employee acquisition early on through targeted candidate relationship management will invariably attract the best candidates.

Peter Kosel is the Founder and Talent Community Manager at cyberunity which has a passion to build and maintain relationships with people. Whether cyberunity is perceived as a recruitment agency, an executive search firm, a personnel consulting company, or as a head-hunter plays a minor role. As relationship managers with a focus on cyber security specialists, cyberunity remains a central information hub for both candidates and clients where exciting opportunities can be effectively paired up with the right specialists and individuals.

Samir Aliyev, CEO and Founder of the Swiss Cyber Institute has been discussing with Peter, amongst other things, the importance of building relationships with potential employees.

Peter, the war for talent has been raging for years and exceptional individuals are in high demand and in the driving seat. Which strategies should organisations adopt to fulfil their business and growth objectives?

“KNOW YOUR TALENTS” instead of “WAR FOR TALENT”. We hear from many employers that they are urgently looking for employees – this is especially true in the field of cyber security, where the demand for talent is increasing dramatically.

However, if we look at what companies are doing to proactively interact with their future top performers and, above all, to cultivate these relationships sustainably, we see a striking discrepancy when compared to customer relationship management. In the context of CRM, it is well understood that the sales of tomorrow (and the day after) must be initiated today by sales managers.

No one waits until they urgently need revenue before creating a revenue stream. The solution therefore lies in planning today for the needs of tomorrow.

Not all companies can or want to invest in future employees. With cyberunity’s “KNOW YOUR TALENTS” approach, employers gain an edge in the talent market when it comes to attracting cyber security specialists early on.

You work closely with many SMEs and large businesses. How do you help them solve this talent shortage?

Through our “KNOW YOUR TALENTS” approach, we build relationships with potential candidates well before a vacancy arises and we maintain these relationships  within our cyber career community. Through us, employers benefit from having immediate access to this community and are ideally able to meet and attract suitable specialists relatively quickly.

Employers can make the most of our bustling candidate network by investing in a mandate – a systematic and targeted search – at an early stage in the recruiting process. Investing and demonstrating commitment is a vital part of an effective recruitment process and we have successfully filled every mandate so far. Most employers only reach out to us after their internal recruiting efforts have been unsuccessful. The result is usually the loss of valuable time. All too often we still hear the statement: “We don’t want a mandate – why don’t you just send over a suitable candidate?” Such an approach can, of course, be successful, but in this highly competitive market, it leaves too much to chance and requires a lot of good fortune.

We invest in long-term relationships with cyber-security specialists and accompany them on their career path. Through the drafting of professional articles with information security specialists and by engaging in active community building in the cyber scene, we continuously enhance our area of specialisation and act as the leading point of contact when it comes to cyber security careers and employment.

What can be done to secure and retain cybersecurity team members in the face of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges?

Cyber security specialists are rather demanding when it comes to exciting state-of-the art projects – that’s the big draw. The attraction is often the challenge they are presented with rather than the bread-and-butter tasks of managing, supervising or processing. Now, one could expect companies to constantly launch “cool” projects, and, of course, there are also plenty of cyber security specialists who are not chasing the latest trend and who are content with their current employer. Salary is and will remain a key factor, but much more important is one’s corporate culture – genuinely caring about and getting to know your employees: KNOW YOUR TALENT. This is far easier said than done and it can be extremely demanding to put into practice. Keeping your team informed, coordinating regularly, and bringing team members on board when it comes to making important decisions, or at least informing them of such decisions early on, is absolutely vital.

Switzerland has long recruited international talent. 32% of the professionals working in this sector are foreign nationals, compared to an economy-wide average of 26%. Is this the solution to meet market needs?

It is indeed one of many possible solutions to the talent shortage in Switzerland. The quality of graduates from Swiss educational institutions is sensational, but in terms of quantity it is insufficient to meet the needs of our economy. That’s why smart alternatives are vital – further education programmes like those offered at the HSLU or by the Swiss Cyber Institute help to alleviate the pressure somewhat, but this is only a drop in the ocean. Furthermore, there is a need today, not coming up in 24 months. There is room for improvement in Switzerland when it comes to our openness to considering top foreign candidates from other countries. Recruiting candidates from the EU is no longer an issue. However, we are still very restrictive when it comes to employing highly qualified specialists from so-called third, non-EU countries. If we open up a little bit on this front, having one of the best standards of living in the world, we have a very good chance of attracting the top specialists we so desperately need.

This leads directly to the next issue – the question of language skills. Switzerland is an attractive place to work, and we receive applications every day from hopeful internationals with strong qualifications who want to come and work in Switzerland. But they apply for job offers in which German is a clear requirement, without having ever spoken a word of German, all the while emphasizing how eager they are to move to Switzerland. Switzerland is indeed an international environment, but learning the local language still has its advantages, whether in the business setting or the social setting, and backs up a candidate’s eagerness to relocate – something that applicants still don’t seem to be entirely aware of.

The flip side of this is the openness of companies, especially in the SME sector, to English-speaking candidates. All too often we hear that a lack of German language skills is a no-go. If there wasn’t a talent shortage this would be less of an issue – but in a climate where companies are emphasizing how difficult it is for them to find the right specialists, one would expect a little more flexibility when the ideal CV is on the table and the only thing missing is fluency in German – language courses as part of or prior to onboarding, support with integration, smart solutions and workarounds in general, are all still too few and far between.

Flexibility is not only needed politically, but also in terms of business and corporate culture.

Are you ready to invest in your future cybersecurity talent pipeline? Contact Peter.