The “war for talent” has officially reached a fevered pitch as unemployment sits at 4.1% in the US (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). That’s the lowest rate we’ve seen in well over a decade. What this means for employers is that the pool of active candidates is at historically low levels and you may find yourself duking it out with your competitors more and more often for top talent. Aside from an ability to handle the increased competition, the current marketplace calls for a different approach to candidate experience altogether. Where active candidates are simply looking for the best job available, passive candidates don’t need to make a move at all if they don’t want to. That means you’ve really got to bring something special to the table to get their interest.

Volumes have been written about creating a positive candidate experience (including at least a few written by us), so we won’t attempt to redefine the process for you. It’s also true that what works for one organization may not work as well for another. However, we have worked with diverse businesses throughout a wide array of economic climates over more than two decades, and we have certainly identified themes, which we’ve distilled for you below.

1. Give candidates as much info as you can and enough time to prepare
Candidates want to do well on their interviews just as much as you want them to. They want to know who they’ll be meeting with, their titles, etc. This means it’s up to hiring managers to provide them with an itinerary and details with as much lead time as possible. You want your candidates to walk in confidently, so that they can put their best foot forward. This means they should know everything they need to know in advance of arriving, from who to ask for at the front desk to what time they can expect to be done for the day. Don’t leave them guessing until the morning of.

2. Don’t make an onsite interview feel like a marathon
These gainfully employed passive candidates tend to have a lot going on in their lives. It’s no small ask to have them take time off work to interview with your team, so you should make sure it’s a positive experience all around. We know you want to make the most of their time and have them meet with as many stakeholders as possible, but you should try to be selective. We occasionally see interview itineraries that have candidates meeting with anywhere from ten to FIFTEEN people in one day! That’s simply too many. Not only will it be next to impossible to get consensus from a group that big, but the candidate will be exhausted and overwhelmed by the time they’ve run that gauntlet. Show candidates that you value their time by scheduling wisely.

3. Keep your messaging tight
Never forget that candidates are interviewing you as much as you are them. They are looking to the hiring process for clues about company culture, so you want your interview teams to be on the same page and to present a cohesive company image. This means letting everyone know up front what’s important to the individual candidate, so they can tailor their messaging appropriately. Make sure everyone on the interview team knows what everyone else will be asking, so your candidates don’t have to answer the same question about Excel five times. Most importantly, make sure your interviewers are prepared to answer questions about the business and to show/tell candidates what makes your company such a great place to work.

4. Offer them career development
One of the most consistent things that today’s candidates are looking for is career development. We know that, ideally, you want someone who can hit the ground running and knows how to do the job already, but you should remember that great candidates aren’t going to get excited about the chance to do a job they’ve already done. They want stretch goals, new challenges, and to be able to add meaningful bullets to their resumes. Be ready to come to the table with something that represents a new challenge, like an interesting project, a new client group, an advanced job title, or the chance to lead a team. This might mean you’ve got to be flexible on the job description to give top candidates a role tailored to their unique wants/needs or that you’re willing to invest a little time in a high-potential candidate who’s taking on a stretch role. However you approach this, the takeaway is to make sure that candidates know they’ll be challenged and developed with your business, both now and in the future.

5. Be FAST!
As a recruiter, it’s heartbreaking to watch the perfect candidate get snatched up by another company just because they got to the finish line faster, but it’s an unfortunate reality. With the talent market as tight as it is, you’re naïve to think that you’re the only company calling. Not only is it a turn-off for candidates to have to wait a week or more for feedback from an interview, it also means they could be moving through the process with your competitor during that time. If you’re excited about a candidate, have the offer letter drafted ahead of time so you can make an offer the moment you decide they’re the one. Try to be as flexible as possible to accommodate candidate schedules, rather than pushing interviews out further. Get your candidates feedback in a timely manner. Basically, BE FAST!

6. It’s about more than just the job
Another consistent theme with candidates lately is that they want a company they can be excited about. Whether it’s an innovative technology company, an organization with a meaningful mission, or a business that produces a product they know and love, candidates want to feel passionate about not only what they do, but who they do it for. This means that employers must be ready to tell candidates why what they do as a business matters. Be prepared to talk about your products and services, your mission statement, and the ways in which you push the envelope as an organization. It’s one thing to show candidates how they can make an impact in your business, but it’s another thing entirely to show them how your business makes an impact on the world.

To sum it all up, this isn’t your grandpa’s job market. Employers have to be savvy, fast, and smart to land the best talent. Show candidates you value their time, tell them what’s in it for them, offer them something to be excited about, and do so with a sense of urgency. If you follow these principals, your only challenge will be finding the talent – and hopefully, that’s where we come in! Give us a call to see if we can help you win your war for talent.

We are always happy to help you through every step of the process, from determining what your career goals are to helping you reach them. Feel free to contact us!

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask here.

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