Tips on how to hire top candidates in a tight market

posted in: Job Doc Blog | 0

Q: I am part of a hiring team that seems to keep missing top candidates.  We meet with a candidate and then they end up accepting another offer.  What can we do differently to hopefully extend offers to top quality candidates?

A: With unemployment hovering around 3% in Massachusetts, the competition for top candidates is fierce.  We are all fishing in the same ponds.  Candidates, once they have a resume developed, are getting called frequently by search firms but also responding to job postings which may look interesting.

Here are some tips –

  1. Move quickly. Don’t bog down the interview process by asking the candidate to return several times.  Use telephone screens and skype to advance the process.
  2. Ask for professional references early, if you are interested in the candidate. The candidate might need to assemble a list of references and that might take a day or so.  Some of our clients are extending offers contingent upon the completion of reference checks.
  3. Organize your process. Don’t have each interviewer ask the same questions.  One interviewer may focus on the candidate’s job history while another may assess the cultural fit with the organization.
  4. Tell the story of your company. Sell the vision, the product or service.  Explain some of the positive attributes of the culture.  You, the employer, are selling the opportunity.  Remember that!
  5. Answer the question “What’s in it for me?” Ensure that the candidate views the role as an opportunity, not just a job.  Interesting work, a collaborative team and enthusiasm go a long way.  One way to learn what is important to a candidate is to ask the question “What’s important to you in your next role?”  The interviewer can tailor their description about the opportunity, based on what the candidate shares.
  6. Good manners are important. Be on time for candidates.  Be responsive to their questions and concerns.  Don’t let too much time lag between candidate touches.  If a candidate doesn’t receive an update in a few days, that feels like weeks to a candidate.
  7. One of our clients has a mantra of “Treat candidates like your most important priority of the day.” It works.  Candidates feel like they are important and valued.  If the CEO is in that day, the CEO shakes the hand of top candidates.  Guess what?  This client is winning the war on talent.

Finally, even if an employer is not interested in a candidate, circle back to the candidate.  Ideally through a phone call but sometimes an email is an acceptable substitute if time is of the essence.  It is a small world and you may run into this candidate again, either professionally or personally.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.