Job Search

What Candidates Tell Me During Their Job Search

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I speak to many candidates during their executive job search and it’s amazing the things they tell me about their potential employers. I picked out the best insights from candidates to help hiring managers avoid some common pitfalls.

Understanding the mindset of your candidates in addition to their qualification will make all the difference when recruiting the very best. What are the most important things you should be aware of? Read on and see how candidates really see you.

“They seem to be ready to make me an offer after only one interview day.” OR “They have offered to have me meet more people, but I don’t think I need to.”

Offer opportunities to speak with others.  You should exercise a certain level of control over your interview process, but also give your team the opportunity to make an impression with your candidate.  If you are a competent leader, your people will understand how to represent you and your organization well.  If they create a poor impression, you have a bigger issue to solve before you bring new hires on board.

“I think they are going to make me an offer, but I am not sure if I want the job.” OR “I am interviewing with a number of firms, but this is my first choice if they make the right offer.”

I believe that no offer should be made without a commitment to accept it.  I realize this cannot be the case in every circumstance, but it should be the standard, which we try to achieve.  The reason for this is to understand your candidate’s true interest level.  The last thing you want to do is sit back and wait for an acceptance, then wait, then get rejected.  Checking your candidate’s interest will help you close the deal, and if not, will at least give you useful feedback that you can use in subsequent interviews.

“She thought I was interviewing for a manager job, when I am a director already.”  OR  “They have not told me the level yet, but I am willing to make an investment in the company if the compensation and responsibilities are appropriate.”

Get the level right, or don’t commit.  Many candidates fall on the line between two levels.  You may also find yourself interviewing someone without have fully prepared for a meeting.  In either case, do not discuss level and keep an open mind.  Presenting the wrong level is a sure way to turn off candidates.

You should also communicate this to your recruiter.  This is the area where I lose the most candidates based on my own discussions with candidates.

“I really like this opportunity, but I have an offer that I don’t want to let go of.”  OR  “If they can make me an offer at the right level, I will discontinue conversations with other companies.”

You should always ask how far along a candidate is in their job search process.  Even if your candidate is “not looking,” they will probably start once they become interested enough to interview with you.  Candidates like to weigh their options, and most will try to maximize their opportunities as soon as they begin discussions outside their own firm.  Find out what stage they are in and you maximize your chances of hiring great people.

“It seems like they are creating the position just for me.” OR “They have been trying to establish themselves in my area for some time, and I can help them get there.”

Justify the position.  Whether you have been looking to fill a role for a short time or for a number of months, you should give the impression that you know where you are headed.  Consider what will happen to the position beyond the need to satisfy a pressing business demand.  If you can clearly explain what the new hire will be doing a year or two after she starts, you will put yourself ahead of your competition.

“I have been hearing different things from different interviewers.” OR “I have been hearing consistent messages from all the people that have interviewed me.”

Provide a consistent, coherent vision for your organization.  Of all the areas listed, this gives hiring managers the most trouble.  You must address this issue for your candidates and for your team, but most importantly for yourself.  If you hear flatness to the delivery of your future vision, or if you are getting negative feedback, put your interview process on hold and reconsider where you are headed.  (Don’t forget to tell your recruiter to effectively manage your pipeline.)

If you broadcast a weak message, you will attract mediocre candidates.  If you cannot find your voice, it may be time to set the course of your own career. We all face difficulties and frustrations at work, but a sense of purpose helps us see past immediate obstacles.

“I feel like I would just be a cog in a machine over there.” OR “That is a very interesting, entrepreneurial opportunity.”

The strongest professionals look for the ability to take responsibility for their actions and experience upside reward based on their own success.  When I hear that a candidate views an organization, or an opportunity as entrepreneurial, I know that my clients have represented themselves well.

The word “entrepreneurial” suggests many positive traits.  It means the kind of place where people interact openly, and strive for the common good.  It identifies an organization that rewards success, and provides no specific limitations on achievement.  It connotes an ability to sit at the front lines of a business, and have a significant impact.  Even if you work in a large organization, opportunities exist to act like an entrepreneur.  If you can express the traits that allow your company to provide an exciting place for people to work, you are on the right track.

The lessons here all point to one overarching theme that any hiring manager needs to follow.  Think before you act!  Companies make significant investments of time and money to bring in the best talent.  They also make the emotional investment of exposing themselves to potential rejection during a hiring process.

You must attract people and build relationships to grow a successful business.  Take the time to consider each hiring decision and each candidate, and reap the financial and emotional rewards.

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