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Improving Your Interview Process To Attract Elite Candidates

November 17, 2020 at 6:52 PM

Over the last ten years, I have seen the hiring pendulum swing back and forth a few times. Before 2008, every organization seemed to be foaming at the mouth trying to find anyone that could help them achieve their growth goals. It was truly a candidate driven market, where finding exceptional people with the right set of skills was very tough to do. Then, the Great Downturn hit and suddenly, most companies were downsizing. It had become a job driven market where finding good candidates was fairly easy. The problem was finding anyone that would hire those candidates.

Well, guess what? Although we continually hear that unemployment numbers are still high, we are definitely in a candidate driven market again. When I tell people outside of my profession that I can’t find enough qualified candidates for the open positions I have, I usually get a confused look. Many companies are struggling to find candidates that have a proven track record of success, a solid work history and can help them solve their everyday problems.

As a leader in your organization, you need to make sure you have a streamlined interview process in order to attract elite candidates. There are many variables that go into improving your interview process, but we are going to stick to what I believe are the three most important.

Make your interview process efficient.
When you interview a candidate that is at the top of their field, you should realize he or she probably isn’t in a situation where they need to make a career move. And, if they are talking to you, they are probably talking with your competitors too. There is an intense competition to attract top talent and the last thing you want is a lengthy and haphazard interview process. This will portray you and your company as unorganized and indecisive. If you were in a similar interview process, wouldn’t you wonder if this indecisiveness is an indication of other problems throughout the rest of the company? Elite candidates want management to get out of the way and let them do what they do best. Perform.

I’m not saying that you need to make an offer on the first interview. The fit piece is extremely important for both sides to ensure long-term employment, but an interview process shouldn’t need more than three separate dates to be effective. If there are multiple decision makers that need to be involved, stretch out one or two of the appointments to longer blocks of time in a way that accommodates everyone. As a side note, if a candidate requests an additional meeting to gather further information so they may make an intelligent decision, go ahead and schedule it. That is completely acceptable and in your best interest.

Also, try to keep your interviews within a relatively compressed period of time. I’ve had clients that have insisted on having everyone in executive management meet a particular candidate over a three month period and wonder why the candidate decided to move in another direction.

Remember, elite candidates are busy staying on top of the leader board in their current role and will quickly get tired of having to meet multiple times over several months.

Know what you want before you search for it.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised to find some Fortune 500 companies that have too many decision makers affecting the outcome of a hiring decision. Many times I have seen an organization that will hesitate on a candidate because one hiring manager had a different idea of the necessary skill set needed for a particular opening or because one interviewer out of five felt their meeting with the candidate only went okay.

Here is a chance to show elite candidates that you know how to lead. Have a clear vision for your open positions. Make sure you have a clearly defined role along with a clearly defined list of qualifications and be ready to make a decision. The cultural fit needs to be there for both sides, but as long as you have a candidate with a solid track record of success, has strong references that you trust and has the qualifications needed to help you build your team, move forward. Don’t wait for perfection, because it doesn’t exist.

They call it recruiting for a reason. So, recruit!
When I hear the head of a division or head of an organization say to me, “Well, we don’t want to hire them if they don’t want to be here”, that tells me that the hiring manager doesn’t feel they need to actually recruit when trying to hire exceptional people. They may say they do, but their actions say otherwise.

Recruiting a candidate to your organization is the act of persuading someone that you can offer a better opportunity for them, their family and their career. It can be done in a number of ways but higher income, a bigger title, increased responsibility or better environment are usually the top drivers for someone considering a career change. Why on earth would an elite candidate join your team if you can’t offer them something better than they currently have? As a leader, it is your responsibility to be the face of the company and show them that your organization could be a better situation than they currently have.

I’m not asking for anyone to roll out the red carpet. I’m also not asking anyone to promise things they can’t deliver. I am asking business leaders and anyone involved in an interview to talk about the positives of their company. Don’t rely solely on how well your company ranks or how strong your reputation is in the market. Do talk about how making a move to your organization could have huge career growth potential or how your company can offer specific perks that other companies can’t.

Sit down with your team and make sure you understand what makes your company and/or opportunity great. Strategize on what you can offer candidates and get the word out in the market that your company is a great place to work. Knowing where you excel and where your competition does not is the first step in great recruiting. You joined your company for a reason, so use that information when you are recruiting elite candidates!
What has your company changed in the interview process to be more attractive to the top players in your industry? Were those changes hard to implement?