June 26, 2017

Client-Candidate Communication: Managing Expectations

By Sean Sposeep, Partner, Life Sciences

Hiring doesn’t have to be the difficult process everyone assumes it is: what I’ve found is that it comes down to understanding that there’s no magic recipe for a hire. The hiring process involves a unique convergence of the needs and desires of both candidates and clients, and in order to understand those requirements and manage expectations on both fronts, I’ve found that there’s no substitute for straightforward, in-depth communication.

Of course, communication is a two-way street: just as employers expect candidates to put their best foot forward and convey their background and skills clearly, candidates expect that companies be up front about what they’re looking for — as well as what they’re prepared to offer as compensation. The best fits come from a radical transparency between employers and candidates, and recruiters are often helpful in achieving that transparency: they understand what everyone’s expectations are, and they’re prepared to manage those expectations, keeping the interests of both parties equally in mind.

Recruiters also know that for the most part, everyone’s expectations are set from the get-go. For example, no client is going to change a job description to accommodate potential employees, and no candidate is going to alter their career goals or salary requirements to by accepting a position they know isn’t a good fit for them. Also, if either party did so, that hire probably wouldn’t last very long — and everyone would be back to square one.

One of the most crucial (and, for some, potentially awkward) elements of this conversation is discussing compensation. It’s important for both candidates and employers to be as frank and honest about compensation expectations, and to discuss this aspect of the hiring process in as much detail as possible up front. This means that clients should explain to recruiters not only what they’re prepared to offer in terms of a base salary for their open position, but also disclose any potential stock options, benefits, and bonus structures. This will help recruiters understand what offers at their company normally look like (e.g. what traditional packages are); equipped with this information, they can better transmit to interested, qualified candidates how a potential offer might come together.

For candidates, being open about compensation also means being up front with recruiters about your salary history — but beyond compensation requirements, it’s even more essential to understand what candidates’ short- and long-term goals are. The best candidates will be able to turn their professional experience into a coherent narrative, a trajectory that gives a firm sense of where they’ve been as well as where they want to go. Knowing a candidate’s objectives is crucial to figuring out whether or not they’ll be interested — and invested — in a particular job opportunity, or whether they’re going to cut and run at the first opportunity.

It’s important for candidates to know why they’re looking to make a change, and to be as transparent about this as possible with both recruiters and potential employers: in other words, what’s missing from your current job that you hope to find at a new one? When recruiters and companies understand this, they’ll have a better idea about whether or not an open position is a good fit for that candidate as this time. It’s not just about resumes and cover letters: knowing this additional information is key to completing a hire that’s beneficial for all parties involved.

As a recruiter, I make a point to really get to know all of my candidates, which means investing plenty of time in them and understand what their life story is and what their career plans and goals are. By the same token, I spend time talking to clients about what they really want from a hiree — not just what the job “requirements” are, but precisely how their team and company functions so I can help them make the right choice. When everyone’s on the same page, that’s when the best matches are made.