July 27, 2017

How to Win Candidates and Influence Them

By Cathy Moll, Partner and Practice Lead, Life Sciences

Rejected offers are costly for employers, but in today’s candidate-driven market, talented applicants hold all the power: a shift has occurred, and companies now have to do all that they can to compete for hires. One of the best ways to do that is to make a candidate feel wanted before extending an offer of employment.

Ninety percent of HR managers believe that hiring was candidate-driven in 2015, more than double the number who believed so in 2011. Confirming the reality of a tightening labor market, almost 50 percent of small businesses report difficulty in finding qualified applicants.

Extending an offer to a chosen candidate only to be turned down represents an unfortunate waste of valuable resources. Hiring managers need to find ways to respond to this new hiring context, which necessitates securing talent early.

A Budding Relationship

Candidates are more likely to pursue a relationship with an employer if they experience efforts to make the hiring process easier: providing the names of interviewers, explaining what the interview process will entail, and outlining the expected timeframe for a decision are all ways to communicate that you value and respect your candidates.

Although candidates appreciate receiving helpful background information before an interview, according to findings from a survey of 25,000 candidates by Talent Board, over 40 percent of job candidates received no such information.

The hiring process should be thought of as the beginning of a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship — but the onus is on the employer to make sure the candidate has a positive experience right from the very first contact. Here’s how.

Be the Pursuer, Not the Pursued

A few months ago, I wrote that firms and candidates need to be “on” 24 hours a day. Communication and the pursuit of good candidates never cease, so it should always be the case that firms are reaching out and building relationships with potential candidates through email, phone calls, texts, and social media.

For example, if a firm initiates a relationship with a potential candidate via LinkedIn, and that relationship develops to the point where an employment offer is made, the pursued candidate is more likely to feel valued by that firm.

Inject a Sense of Urgency

“We want you, and we want you now!” is far more convincing than “We want you, so let’s schedule an interview in a week or two.” Adding a sense of urgency to the hiring process implies that the candidate’s role will be an important one.

Using tools to speed up the hiring process can also be beneficial for both HR personnel and candidates. Accenture, for example, offers a mobile interview app that HR managers can customize for each candidate to better prepare them for interviews, while Genentech has mock interview questions online.

Maintain a Dialogue

Just like clients, candidates should receive excellent “customer service.” If a potential employee contacts the company, the response should be immediate and helpful. If a company takes a day or two to respond to a potential hire (or never replies at all), not only does that company seem disorganized, but that candidate is likely to turn to a competitor who responds more quickly.

If a third party such as an executive search firm is involved, it is important to communicate with that firm and emphasize the need to maintain contact with the candidate throughout the hiring process.

Following up is also key to an ongoing dialogue with an applicant. Talent Board found that 23 percent of job applicants never got additional information, a follow-up, or any next steps after completing an interview, which represents a lost opportunity for hiring firms to demonstrate that the candidate was valued, regardless of whether or not they received an offer.

Ask for Feedback and Show You Care

Finally, candidates appreciate a company checking in after interviews. It’s advantageous to find out what impressed the candidate — and to find out if they are currently pursuing any other opportunities. Use this point of contact to emphasize the advantages of working for your company.

Talent Board found that 73 percent of respondents said they weren’t asked for any feedback from employers on their interview experience, implying no interest in improving the experience for future interviewees.

Candidate management should be a top priority. It pays to find out what motivates a candidate, to zero in on those preferences during the vetting process, and to emphasize them in an offer letter. All of this should be conducted within a streamlined HR process that is fast and flexible.