Perhaps you have heard the phrase “The best apples remain high in the trees?"
The theory being, the best apple-pickers know that they will have the greatest reward by putting out effort (climbing that ladder and finding the best apples to pick) rather than easily collecting those apples that have already fallen to the ground. Recruiting is the same. The best recruiters know that they will have to put out the effort to proactively find and recruit the best “apples” rather than hope that these best candidates will find them.
Has the current economic slowdown changed this?
Marginally. The global economy has shaken the tree and perhaps dislodged more “good apples” than usual. But visionary managers are well aware that the economic slowdown will not last forever, so they are doing everything possible to keep their “best apples” in the tree. It is a lot easier to retain them than trying to replace them when the economy improves.
As for those few “good apples” who are downsized out of their organization, they are unlikely to “stay on the ground” for very long. These people are still very desirable, and they are proactive in finding career opportunities within familiar industries and familiar organizations. Don’t assume that they will find you. And don’t assume that they will be responsive to outdated recruitment techniques (ie: job postings). They will still require significant professional recruitment effort.
Whatever the economic circumstances, we should always strive to hire the best people. Whether employed or temporarily unemployed, talented candidates will always be in demand. You will require a systematic quality recruitment process to consistently win them.Here are some considerations to help you be successful in your recruitment efforts:
1. Don’t Fail At The Start.
Quality recruitment is a process that takes time. There is no sense sacrificing what you require in a candidate simply to hire the wrong people faster. Mass marketing recruitment methodology is unattractive (and sometimes insulting) to above average candidates. You will need to go out and find great candidates.
After you have taken the time to successfully identify a suitable candidate, be careful not to lose them by attempting to move too quickly in the initial stages. A career move requires time for the person to gain trust in the source, to digest the information presented and to move logically toward the decision stage. A consistently successful recruitment process will require you to nurture the candidate relationship, not force it. Forcing a candidate to apply for the job without the proper decision-making information will significantly increase your rejection rates as quality candidates will either join the competition or wait for what they think is a better opportunity.
Don’t expect significant decisions from the first candidate contact. Great candidates will not make rash, ill-informed decisions. Your initial contact should focus on gaining trust, outlining the essentials of your career opportunity (not simply the compensation), identifying relative technical fit and then gauging the candidate’s openness to going further in the process.
2. Avoid In-Process Mistakes.
The recruitment process is fragile, especially in a tough economy. Lack of professionalism at any step in the hiring process will result in the loss of some great candidates. Neither recruiters nor managers should try to “sell” the opportunity too quickly. Nobody likes to be sold, so overselling a top performer is one of the worst approaches to take.
No top performer will be excited about an opportunity until they know the details behind it. So beyond fully understanding the motivations behind job change, recruiters need to understand the attractiveness of the position and the organization, the real job requirements, and be fully capable of communicating the details in the candidates’ language. They need to be prepared to effectively, and honestly, answer a full range of questions throughout the process to ensure that the information is properly absorbed by the candidate.
3. Listen Or Lose Them.
Good candidates have choices. Make sure that you honestly listen to their career desires, their concerns about your opportunity and properly answer all of their questions. Candidates will place different emphasis on different employment criteria. You should ask them to rank the importance of such items as work content, job stretch, job challenges, growth opportunities, company culture, compensation, security, the hiring manager, and the team. If you are comfortable that their desires truly match with what you have to offer, customize your approach to ensure that they receive the corresponding information required to make a well thought-out final decision.
Don’t hear what you want to hear. Honestly interpret or it will cost you in the long run. Trust based communication throughout the recruitment process will enable you to identify significant changes in the candidates’ situation and respond appropriately to ensure positive progression. Be aware of any competing job opportunities, and the stage that the candidate is at within, and be prepared to negotiate on realistic competing issues. You will be out-recruited by the competition if they identify and rectify misunderstandings better than you do.
4. Keep The Candidate Honest and Involve Them In The Process.
Don’t show too much enthusiasm too quickly. Be honest about the progression of the process, share information consistently, but keep each candidate “on their toes” by mentioning other top competing candidates and the selectivity of the hiring managers. Throughout the process confirm the attractiveness of the opportunity on the basis of its career impact and the challenges involved that will support career growth. Show them why top performers are competing to be selected.
You will increase your offer acceptance rate by getting the candidate to invest more time in evaluating your opportunity rather than the competition’s. Spread interviews over a few days or weeks, rather than all in one day. Be aware of what stage they are at with competitive opportunities, but don’t push too fast for them to accept your offer. Not only does the candidate need time to evaluate what you’re offering, but when they agree to participate in these time-consuming tasks they are expressing serious interest and increasing their commitment to you.
5. The Key To Effective Recruiting Is Applicant Control.
From first contact through final offer acceptance you have to remain the buyer and not the seller. You need to control the process and along the way extract the information that you want to know, not what the candidate wants to tell you. Average candidates (or below) will try and convince you, while above average candidates are as concerned about making the right decision as you are. The latter shares, and desires, accurate communication.
As part of applicant control, your job is not only to advance the process, but to recognize the importance of getting the candidate to agree to something significant at each step of the process. Beyond maintaining candidate interest and involvement, this can be a valuable tool in defining and testing the parameters for successful employment offer acceptance. Applicant control is essential for gaining a high acceptance rate from any level of candidate because it eliminates “surprises” at the final offer stage.
6. You Like Them, But Do They Like You?
Prior to making the employment offer take time to review the process to ensure that you are positioned for success. Identify where you stand compared to the competition on all critical decision factors the candidate is likely to consider. Evaluate whether the candidate has an accurate perception of the position, the attractive features of the opportunity and how your organization matches with their ranked acceptance decision criteria. In general, use this review to guarantee that you will surpass any competitive recruitment efforts.
Everything has been a waste of time if a candidate says they are not interested or accepts another offer or counter-offer. Success in recruiting means the candidate has accepted the terms of your employment offer, shows up on the start date, performs at an above average capacity, and sustains this performance over time. None of this happens if they reject your employment offer.
The best way to ensure acceptance is to test every aspect of the offer, throughout the recruitment process, before you formally make it. By informally asking the candidate in advance, you can determine if there is any acceptance hesitation and, if so, identify and address the specific items that are creating this hesitation. After doing so, you can again ask the candidate if he would accept prospective offers. Rushing the offer without knowing if the person will accept is one sure way to lose more great candidates than necessary.
A quality recruitment process is essential if you want to consistently hire top talent. Slow down, recruit properly, and you will not only attract a higher caliber of candidate, you will experience greater offer acceptance and increased employee retention. While you may want to move as fast as possible, the best candidates will not move faster than they can absorb all of the information that they require to make a career decision. Regardless of the economy, good people are still highly desirable, difficult to find and have competitive options. (Most are still in the trees.) Even if you have a great opportunity, they will opt-out if you don’t recruit them accordingly. Build strategic professionalism into every phase of your recruitment process and watch your success rate soar.