It happened again last week. We brought in a candidate for a senior marketing position that pays very well. The candidate showed up, met with our personnel office for about an hour and then just said, “No thanks,” and left. This was a good candidate. But it’s the third that has ended the interview process before ever getting to me. I’m going to get my team together to figure out, are we doing something wrong when hiring? Or are job applicants just not what they used to be? By the way, I’m the Marketing V.P. and the job reports to me.
Would your company send a customer service representative to close a big deal with an important new client? Of course not. You’d send your top salesperson, perhaps along with a company executive and maybe even an engineer from the team that builds the product you’re selling.
When hiring, impress candidates immediately
So, why do you send a $60,000-a-year personnel clerk to interview a top candidate when hiring to fill a $150,000-a-year job? (I’m guessing at these salaries.) It’s not so much the difference in pay that should signal a huge risk to you; it’s the irrelevance of the discussion that would ensue. What does a personnel clerk (even a smart, well intentioned one) have to say to a busy marketing expert who wants to talk shop? (Or, imagine an engineer, a computer programmer, a heavy equipment operator, or a specialized mechanic.)
Is this really how you want to establish your first important contact with a desirable job candidate? Don’t send in the clowns!
Every day, leading-edge companies send clerks to impress leading-edge candidates in screening interviews. (Your candidates seem impressed, all right — but not favorably!) These clerks must then wait to get on the hiring manager’s agenda to “present” the candidate — while the candidate cools their heels. Guess what? Such candidates don’t wait. They smell bureaucracy and walk away because they have other good options.
When hiring, put your managers in the game from the start.
If your management team is too busy to get personally involved in the recruiting and hiring process, your company will lose the very candidates it wants most: the best ones. Even in a slow economy, the best candidates are in demand, and while you’re trying to put them through your administrative process, a headhunter like me will steal them.
No matter how you identify the candidates you want to pursue, never let anyone make first contact except the manager who would hire them — in this case, you. It tells the candidate you’re serious. It puts you ahead of other employers who send in the clowns first.
Make the candidate feel as important as the job you want them to fill.
Never allow hiring to be represented as an administrative process. This turns good candidates right off. No one wants to think they were invited for an interview because the personnel department dragged their resume out of a heap. The candidate wants to know that something specific triggered the company’s interest. Preferably, a manager — not a process — stimulated this encounter. Make recruitment personal, make it important, make it a carefully orchestrated courtship designed to make the candidate feel special. You get one chance to create a first impression. Send in the hiring manager!
Deliver value to the candidate.
I give similar advice to job hunters: The very first time they talk with the hiring manager, they must offer something useful that proves their value. Why do some employers think they can do any less when they are recruiting a candidate? You are not filling a job; you’re trying to change someone’s life. Make sure it’s for the better.
Never forget that you initiated this courtship. Don’t just make your meeting informative; make it intriguing and satisfying. (If it’s appropriate, plan a meal in the executive dining room or at a good restaurant.) Show the candidate, in your first encounter, how your technology, your products and your other employees will impact their life. Show what they stand to gain from working with you. If the value isn’t there in that first meeting, the candidate won’t be back for a second meeting — or, as in this case, they’ll just walk out.
Too often, companies relegate hiring to the personnel department, where candidates are to be scrubbed before they can be presented to management. Imagine trying that with a sales prospect.
You already know that one of the two most important people to your business is the customer. Now, start acting like the job candidate is the other.
Name 3 things you could do better when hiring, if you’re a hiring manager. If you’re a job seeker, name 3 things employers could do that would make a meaningful difference to you when considering a job offer. For everyone: What should employers STOP doing to improve their hiring process?