What You Need to Know About Opportunistic Hiring

Eric Mochnacz
April 14, 2023

The war for talent rages on.  A year ago, businesses could enter the fray with a strategic plan for attracting (and retaining) the best people for their organization.  Equally, candidates felt they were armed for battle, ready to negotiate a great salary package and remote work options.  With recent economic uncertainty, both employers and job seekers are at a stalemate.  Companies are slashing headcount.  For companies who are in the financial position to bring jobs to the market, they are more cautious and moderately paced with making a final offer.  Conversely, the candidate market isn’t wide open like it was and job hunters have lost negotiating power.  With a job market in constant flux, companies need to consider innovative approaches to hiring.  Specifically, shifting from reactionary to opportunistic in how and when they hire talent.

What is Opportunistic Hiring?

Simply put, opportunistic hiring means making a hiring decision when the opportunity presents itself, rather than waiting for a position to open.  You’re hiring to address a potential want rather than a current need.  If you meet someone at a networking event or through LinkedIn who blows you away and makes you think “I need to hire this person”, you have the freedom to snap up good talent immediately, rather than waiting.  As long as you can afford to pay the person in the short and long term, take advantage of the top talent that’s standing right in front of you and get them across the line!

Reactionary Hiring vs. Opportunistic Hiring

For a majority of businesses, their hiring process is reactionary.  A position opens, whether through termination or resignation, and human resources reposts the job as part of the standard offboarding checklist.  The goal is to fill a vacant role, without any critical analysis of the position and if it still serves a business purpose.  So, you’ll get what you’ve always got because you’re doing what you’ve always done.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with filling a vacant role if it is critical for business continuity, but it isn’t the only way to hire.  As you develop strategic business goals, opportunistic hiring creates a scenario where you hire someone to help meet those goals, even if the role isn’t fully realized yet.  The opportunistic hire has the skills and cultural alignment you’re looking for, even though it’s not at the exact time you expected to hire.  The role becomes fully realized as they grow in tandem with the company.

Tips for Implementing Opportunistic Hiring in Your Company

Making an opportunistic hire is exciting!  It’s a progressive approach to growing your headcount and scaling your business.  It’s an “outside the box” approach to hiring and provides more freedom than reactionary hiring.  It’s risky, but sometimes you find yourself in a position where you cross paths with a perfect candidate, and it’s a bigger risk to let them find a job elsewhere!

Know Your Budget 

We’re not recommending hiring with wanton abandon.  All the companies conducting mass layoffs are doing so because they couldn’t afford to retain all the opportunistic hires they made.  If you’re in a position where there’s an opportunity to hire someone, knowing you hadn’t budgeted for them, evaluate your financial position and confirm you can afford the person now and in the future.  If you’re hiring them because they can support the acquisition of new business or help build out a new vertical, the new business should support their salary.  Understand the cause and effect of opportunistic hiring, with a focus on the bottom line.

Maintain Recruiting Standards 

Although you may not go through every step of your recruitment process when an opportunity to hire presents itself, it doesn’t mean you throw all hiring standards out the window.  Beyond the initial conversation where they “wow” you, have the candidate complete interviews and other process steps aligned with your normal recruitment practice.  This supports an equitable recruitment process and helps combat any potential biases that may have influenced the initial conversation. Behavioral interviewing allows you to further gauge the individual’s skills and core value alignment.  Treat the interview as a conversation, not an interrogation, since you’ve already expressed interest in hiring the candidate.  It’s the method by which you’ll confirm your initial impression of the candidate and feel confident in your unconventional hiring decision. 

Establish KPIs and Metrics for Success 

Since you’ve decided to take an innovative, opportunistic approach to hiring rather than be reactive, invest the time and effort to set yourself – and the candidate – up for success.  Since your decision to hire may have been motivated by a chance meeting, you probably didn’t have a job description.  Create one to clearly articulate what your new hire is expected to do.  Develop key performance indicators and metrics for success to evaluate ongoing performance.  Even if the path to growing your headcount in this manner isn’t traditional, implementing traditional human resources practices and processes sets your hire – and the business – up for success.

Seek Guidance From a New Jersey HR Consultant   

Any type of risk for your business can be scary.  However, a calculated risk, when taken with adequate data and forethought, can ultimately benefit your business.  When you need a “gut check”  on your decision to opportunistically hire, having a skilled HR consultant on your team can make all the difference.  Red Clover consultants support businesses in developing employee lifecycle processes, but are nimble enough to adapt with business leaders as their needs change and want to move quickly to get the right person hired for the business.  Let’s talk to see how we can help!

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