The amount of exceptional employees capable of making a significant difference is finite. There are only so many people out there who are capable of coming in and single-handedly moving the needle. Or, to put it how Lou Adler might, there is a talent scarcity. If you have ever been responsible for hiring, we can probably agree on this right? Before we really dive into the issue and the solution I want to share with you real example that will ultimately illustrate my point and frame the solution nicely.
Several years back I was working as a corporate recruiter and one of the groups that I supported needed to hire some people… A lot of people actually. If my memory serves me correctly, they wanted to hire 35 engineers over a 6-month time span. These were not easy fills. These were computer science grads with 4 to 7 years’ experience doing something very specific. The point I am getting here is that it was a significant undertaking. However, with my role I had some very key advantages. The company I worked for was a great company. Fortune 500 with competitive salary, benefits and in the area it was a marquee employer.
So it should have been no problem right? I should have been tripping over the candidates with the bottleneck being having too many interviews that my hiring manager’s calendars were overbooked. If that was for the case this wouldn’t have made for a very relevant story. What actually ended up happening is we had a decent amount of candidates. Not as many as we would have liked but realistically I was pretty happy with the volume. Those were tough roles, the fact that I wasn’t having to source everybody was a pretty positive outcome for me.
However, this story doesn’t end there. We were constantly interviewing and while we were making some successful offers, something else happened. We were experiencing turn downs. Candidates who went through our entire process (which for this role was long), receiving an offer and then saying no thanks. Now the fact of the matter is turn downs happen. Candidates get counter offers (for my thoughts on that check out this post, 3 Powerful Reasons to Never Accept a Counter Offer) or they expected more compensation or they simply get cold feet. If you extend offers, at some point you are going to experience a turn down or two. However, this wasn’t one or two. This was more than that and it started to get a little concerning.
At one point my manager and I had our bi-weekly meeting and these searches came up. She asked me how they were coming along and I told her. I let her know that while we were making progress, the fact of the matter was we weren’t making the kind of progress all parties involved found to be acceptable. So we came up with an idea, we decided I was to call every candidate who turned down our offer and talk with them about it. The goal wasn’t to get them to reconsider but rather to find out why? After all, it was a lot of work to get an offer. We are talking two phone interviews, an onsite interview and a technical assessment. So after all that timer, why turn down a competitive offer with an industry leader that just so happens to be headquartered where you live?
So I came up with a series of questions and called every single one. On occasion it was a little bit of work to get them to talk with me but I think I ended up talking to all but one. I tend to be a pretty conversational interviewer and that combined with the relationship I had established with the candidates allowed me to get some pretty candid feedback. Throughout all my conversations there was one consistent theme. Our interviews were not pleasant. Not only was out process long but once candidates made it onsite they were subjected to rigorous testing, tough questions and intimidating panel interviews.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know there is a significant negative impact to making bad hire. It is costly and it can carry far reaching implications. So yes, sometimes, the testing and the intense interviews are necessary. However, if you find yourself in the position of interviewing some of the top talent in your industry, you sure as hell better spend some of that time selling them on why this opportunity is a great one. The conclusion was we had intimidating interviews and we weren’t doing the opportunity justice when it came to selling how great it really was.
Along the way another thing happened. We looked at some of the government data we had access to and we found out that we had some stiff competition. For every one of these engineers in our market there were over 6 job openings. When you don’t sell your opportunity, have intimidating interviews and are located in an area where a candidate is able to compare a multitude of opportunities, you are going to run into some heartache, regardless of how great a company you are.
So what did we do? Well a few things. We worked to shorten up our process to get from starting line to finish line faster. We also diversified our interview panel. Not just ethnicity and gender but also with tenure. We wanted to give perspective diversity in story told by the people they were meeting. Lastly we highly encouraged the people interviewing candidates to talk about why this opportunity was awesome. After all, it really was. I mean you were working with the newest technology, surrounded by other really smart people and you were making an impact in products that were global industry leaders. While you might be thinking “Well Ben, that should sell itself”. Maybe. But I am of the opinion that you should never stop selling how great your opportunity it is. When you are talking about the type of talent that can make the type of impact your business needs, maybe should not be good enough, not even close.
Selling the candidate becomes even more important when they aren’t someone who applied but rather, someone your recruited pursued and engaged for this one specific role or a “passive candidate”. With passive candidates you have less margin for error when it comes to have an unwelcoming process. Because they aren’t really looking to make a move they are going to be more willing to walk away when they run into something they don’t like. I am acutely aware of this because I work for a company that only works with passive candidates. A few roles ago I was a headhunter for a fortune 500 company and guess what, if you engaged us to work on one of your jobs we posted it. We posted it to a lot of places and sometimes the candidates who got the role applied and then we sent them over. That’s just how most 3rd party agencies work. However, in my current role, even if I wanted to post a role I wouldn’t have the ability. Every single candidate is passive. They wouldn’t apply to your job if you posted it you wouldn’t find their resume online. If that seemed like a small commercial, it was! If you are a company and want help finding the best passive talent at a fraction of the cost of a typical head hunting agency find my email on this page Work with Ben, email me and let’s chat so I can tell you about my organizations unique process.
If you made it this far thank you so much for reading. Remember, your job isn’t done when you find the candidate. Interviews aren’t just figuring out if they are right for you. Candidates are doing the exact same thing, so make sure you help nudge them in the right direction. If you liked this post, please feel free to share with your social networks. Thanks and have an awesome day!