Part of my responsibility as CEO of our recruiting firm is to debrief with clients and candidates quarterly and review every engagement with our team to understand how we can add greater value. This quarter one theme was pervasive: Candidates Have Options.
In the past, hiring managers could pick from a group of interested candidates and could rest assured that offers extended were routinely accepted. Today, candidates have many options and many offers and employers are fighting to win the talent war – all the way through a candidate’s start date.
I do have advice for hiring managers. There are a few things you can do to effectively attract and engage the best talent in this ultra-competitive environment.
Prepare Before You Start Interviewing
Clarity and consistency are big differentiators for candidates. We see the most success when clients focus on three items before they start interviewing:
- Define the role and engage key stakeholders to ensure everyone knows what you are looking for (and what you are not) in a new team member.
- Define your budget and understand what the market is paying, be willing to adjust your budget if needed. If your budget cannot be adjusted upwards, decide which skills you can loosen and which you cannot (and which ones can be developed in a less experienced candidate).
- Define your hiring process and timeline. This creates a better experience for the candidates and helps you manage expectations with key stakeholders to respond quickly and swiftly for top talent.
Once You Start Interviewing, Move with Urgency
A well-defined and expeditiously executed interview process keeps candidates engaged (a long process is the top reason candidates lose interest) and reduces the risk that other companies will move quicker and scoop up that candidate. Here are some of the most effective practices we see employers enact:
- Provide interviewers with guidelines on the key criteria for the role and specific areas where you want each to focus during their interviews.
- Streamline your process by having multiple interviewers speak with the candidate during a single site visit and schedule a time to debrief with all interviewers immediately following the interviews.
- Communicate with the candidate(s) throughout the process. At the beginning of the process, set the candidates’ expectation of how your process will work and keep them updated on progress and next steps.
Sell the Opportunity and Your Company
One of the biggest reasons candidates remove themselves from consideration before an offer is given is due to a blemished company reputation. This is the factor you have the most control over – their perception of your company.
- Sell the candidate on your passion, your company, and its culture. The other positions they are considering may be similar, but the companies are not. Make sure your company stands out for all the right reasons.
- Clearly communicate the challenge and the opportunity. Don’t sugarcoat reality. Balance challenges with benefits and growth potential. The right candidates will be excited and will appreciate your sincerity and transparency.
- Have a consistent message. Candidates evaluate you and the other interviewers so you want to make sure all interviewers are on the same page. One way is to provide each interviewer with talking points to ensure the right themes (growth potential, challenges, opportunities, company culture) are delivered.
It’s not Over when You Make the Offer
Companies will fight to keep quality employees when they accept another offer. It is challenging and costly to replace top talent, and ‘counter offers’ have become a virtual certainty. Here are a few things to consider:
- ‘Lateral’ offers are risky. A counter offer that improves at least one factor important to the candidate will be much more attractive. Even if your budget doesn’t allow you to pay the candidate a higher salary than what they are currently making; include benefits, flexible work options and incentives that make your offer and your company stand out.
- Once you decide to make an offer, move quickly. The longer it takes for the candidate to receive (and accept) your offer, the more time their current employer has to make a counter offer.
- Make it easy to accept your offer. If the candidate is signing your offer letter electronically, make it as simple as possible. Some automated systems require a candidate to enter a lot of information before they can sign the offer letter. The simpler you can make this process the better the candidate’s experience will be.
- The best candidates are moving toward an opportunity with your team (not away from a bad situation). Communicate throughout the transition. Check in with the candidate, send them a hand-written note, let them know you are excited to have them join your team. Remain as high touch as possible even post acceptance to ensure that employee starts on day one.
In today’s marketplace, attracting and engaging the best professional and technical talent is more challenging than it has been previously. But with every challenge comes new opportunities. I have seen clients snag these opportunities to improve their hiring process and hire quality, impactful talent. When you are hiring mission-critical roles, invest the time and effort needed to ensure you are doing everything possible to attract that talent. Define your budget, deliver a consistent message, sell your company and culture and make an attractive offer. Then when a candidate signs on the solid line, communicate as often as necessary to retain their level of excitement through their start date. The fight for talent is real, but you have the tools and resources to win!