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Step-by-Step Guide to Positioning Your Company to Attract Top Talent

Given the ongoing media reports about the economy, it’s easy to assume that hiring managers are in a position to have their “pick of the litter” when it comes to hiring talent. The reality is, the best candidates are in high demand. The ability to attract and retain them is one of the most critical components of any growing firm’s success. To be competitive, hiring managers need to give considerable thought to how they position the opportunity and best represent their company to top job candidates.

Why It’s Important to Sell Your Company & the Role

The competition for candidates who are in the top 15% of their field is as fierce as it was during the boom years of the late 90’s.  Most exceptional candidates are choosing between multiple attractive offers.  Often, their choice to accept or reject an offer is not determined by compensation but by other criteria such as: career path, environment, the team they will be working with and the challenge of the task at hand. Too, the way a company highlights the opportunity during the interview process plays a  major part in acquiring the best talent.

Make a Compelling Case 
Assess Your Current Needs and be Flexible
To effectively recruit for a specific opening within your organization, start by compiling the following: a description of the responsibilities, a list or requirements for the role, selling points of the position as well as the selling points of the company.  As you determine the needs of the position, make a point to distinguish requirements vs. “nice to haves.”   One mistake employers often make is wanting the potential employee to be experienced with every aspect of the job so that they can “hit the ground running.”  This can be taken negatively by a top tier candidate; if he or she has already done all aspects of the job, there could be a perception that the role won’t allow for new learning, or it will not offer growth. Having attractive “nice to have” requirements allows you to detail what the candidate can learn, while ensuring you are not passing up an all-star.

Speak to Your Current Employees
As you determine the selling points for both the company and position, speak with your current employees to learn what they like about both their roles and the company.  Give weight to the input of any peers; why someone early in their career likes working for a company may be different than the perspective of senior management.  Gathering input from peers will allow you to set a consistent “sell” that will begin with the job description and will be supported throughout the interview process.

Evaluate the Competition
Use these conversations with staff to research your competition.  The strengths of your organization are relative to your competition.  For example, you may have an exceptional benefits plan that is better than 70% of most companies’ packages, but if your direct competition has a better package, this will not be the selling point to lean on during a multiple offer situation.  Speak to new hires to determine whether they also interviewed with the competition.  If they did, why did they choose your company?  This information is invaluable when positioning your attributes.

Create an Effective Interview Process
Agree on the Job Description
Once you have created the description, call a meeting with everyone involved in the interview process.  Share a copy of the job description and ask if they all feel the description accurately describes the role.  A mistake we often see is when a candidate interviews with several people in one day and hears wildly different viewpoints regarding the position.  This disconnect can cause concern for the candidate. 

Document the Selling Points of Your Company & the Role
After reviewing the description you should also create a document outlining the broader selling points for the position and the company.  Many employees are very good at their core responsibilities, however, they may not be natural interviewers.   One common misconception is that the interview is merely an opportunity to evaluate prospective employees.  Make it clear that the interviewers need to “sell” as well.  After reviewing the selling points, poll the group to make sure everything has been covered. 

Avoid Redundancy
Companies can also lose candidates when multiple interviews are not handled strategically. Make sure each interviewer is asking different questions; you will help your candidate have a less redundant and more positive experience. Consider having different individuals evaluate different criteria.  Depending on the role, one might conduct a technical interview and another may evaluate management experience.  At the same time, it makes sense for each interviewer to be prepared to speak to different selling points.  For example, the hiring manager is in a good position to discuss career path and growth while a peer can outline what they like about the environment and culture.

Create a Connection with the Candidate
At this point you should also determine who is going to run point with the candidate during the interview process.  Ideally, this would be the hiring manager.  Building an emotional connection with the candidate can create a critical competitive advantage that will aid you at the offer stage.  The conversations that a hiring manager has between interviews can help create that connection and will put you in a better position if you are competing against firms who are merely scheduling interviews via e-mail in an impersonal fashion.

Selling throughout the Recruitment Process
As a final step, keep in mind that every candidate’s needs and desires are different.  A selling point that is exciting to one candidate may be meaningless to another.  The sell will likely be broad and impersonal
at the beginning of the process and will become personal and specific by the final stages.  Gather critical information at the beginning of the process that you can use to position your company better during the final rounds.  For example, questions such as “What criteria are important to you as you evaluate a position and company?” or “What did you like or dislike about your previous employer?” can help you gather that information.  In addition, pay attention to how they made decisions in the past.  When reviewing their experience, ask them “When you decided to join a particular company, why were you excited about it?”, “Did the position wind up confirming your expectations?” as well as “Were you weighing multiple offers?  If so, why did you go with this one?”  The answers to these interview questions will help you both determine if your opportunity is a fit while allowing you to position the opportunity in the most attractive way.

Interviewing and securing top talent requires significant preparation, internal communication, strategic thought, time and attention. Ultimately, these steps will set your organization apart from the competition and make it an obvious choice for even the most sought-after candidates.

Photo Credit: The New Advocate