There are more than enough arguments, books, articles, and blogs out there with advice and opinions about which “priority” should sit atop the executive recruiting process as “Rule No. 1.” I’ve read many of them. Maybe you have too. But if you ask any of our firm’s clients over the past 18 years, they will tell you that I’m a consistent and vocal advocate for nothing being more important than the “candidate experience.”
And here’s why.
When it comes to making an impression on every candidate — particularly finalists — every company believes that their brand is coolest. Their location is the most desirable. Their comp plan is the most attractive. And the career path they offer is basically unbeatable.
And maybe that’s true. Every bit of it. For every company. But those attributes aren’t the best ways to truly show off your organization — and leave every candidate with a good gut feeling about your shop.
Side note: Every candidate? Yup. Every one. There are stats from 2016 that tell us nearly 50% of candidates rate their company interaction/interview experience as “poor” — and nearly 70% of all candidates say something on social media about it.
And with the increased saturation of “Twitterbook” in our culture, those numbers are guaranteed to climb. Which means that the one surefire way to have a needless, self-inflicted black eye for your brand is sloppy candidate handling.
Which brings us to this: The top two factors for handling the recruitment of candidates for your agency’s next management- or executive-level opening: people and pace.
Rule No. 1a: People
Every company has stars. And duds. And steady Eddies. And you all know who’s who and what’s what within your own walls. So if you’re truly invested in closing your top-choice candidates, you and your recruiting team should be aware of who will do more in the interview than just provide a monotonous data dump. You need to consider which of your employees will be more than just a smile and a handshake — and who from your ranks will contribute more than just asking stale, canned interview questions.
This means that when you select the group to speak with and meet with your candidate slate, you’re looking for interviewers who are conversationalists and communicators — who also know your business cold. Building this list of staff, managers and leaders from within your organization with solid, real, personable and successful communication talent, is the first part of your interview process — which should be complete before the first candidate is even identified.
Why start on this so early in the game? Because it takes effort and thought to blend a diverse group of your best players with one collective goal: Give a better candidate experience than the other guys.
This awareness — and the time that it takes to carefully choose these people — will result in the right mix of personalities and knowledge base, being in the equation, when your company is face-to-face with finalists (and even in the initial candidate contact with HR or recruiting). It’s the first — and most critical — component in selling candidates to make the move to your agency.
Rule No. 1b: Pace
Now that you’ve put together an all-star group from your team to interview your selected candidates, the speed with which you move forward becomes your top priority.
This means that, no matter how strong your internal executives, managers, staff, and HR might “show” with your candidate finalists, if the readiness of your process doesn’t match the quality of your interviewers, you’re leaving candidates to wonder. And no matter how well-intentioned you are, that vacuum of activity and information can spell disaster.
And here’s why.
Remember those survey results? Well, 40% of candidates felt that there was an unacceptable lapse in time between interviews. Four in 10. This inactivity can be seen by candidates as indifference, arrogance, and detachment. And since most likely you aren’t the only game in town for candidates, a gap in the process like this kills any compelling motivation for your candidates to move away from their current status quo — or even worse, leaves the door open for competing agencies.
Please don’t take away from this that I’m a proponent of you flying haphazardly through your process like a bat out of hell. Let’s be clear: “Pace” is defined as “consistent and continuous speed in walking, running, or moving.”
And when applied to your hiring process:
- Pace means matching the candidate’s time investment.
- Pace means being responsive with feedback — thumbs-up and thumbs-down.
- Pace means showing your people and your company as decisive, athletic, and aware.
- Pace means treating your candidates like you treat your customers.
It’s the candidate experience.
And it’s Rule No. 1.