Five Tips to Acquire Top Talent

We have all been bombarded lately with articles in the press, on the news and over the internet concerning the decline in available talent. Most of these stories convey a similar message; “employers must learn to compete for talent in an ever shrinking pool”. Hiring Managers are beginning to feel the pinch as vacancies remain unfilled for longer periods. All too frequently that “perfect candidate” is snatched up by a competitor, leaving you frustrated and wondering why this happened yet again.

We see this scenario played out week after week. We speak to many hiring managers who cannot believe they have lost a candidate at the eleventh hour. In speaking with candidates we begin to see clearly why the situation occurred and how it could have been avoided. Following are five tips that can help you capture top talent the next time you have a vacancy to fill.

  1. Failure to define the key attributes necessary for success in the role. On the surface this sounds obvious. However, you would be surprised at how many mangers fail to clearly define the skills necessary for a candidate to succeed. When asked, the response is generally filled with vague adjectives. (i.e., “I want someone who is professional”, “They must be a team-player”, “They must be aggressive”). While these characteristic traits may be important, they do not speak to the specific skills needed. As a manager you should look at the goals for the specific role and work backwards, asking yourself what specific skills a candidate must possess in order to meet or exceed a goal.
  2. Have a plan. Many failed job searches begin to de-rail at this point. It brings to mind the adage of taking a trip without a map. How will you know when you’ve arrived? Managers do not always have a clear idea of when they need a candidate in place or a realistic plan to meet that goal. The most common answer of course is “I need them to start yesterday”. So you begin to interview candidates, and then the process stalls because of a scheduled vacation, trade show or other obligations which take precedence over the current job search. Remember, in today’s economy candidates generally have several opportunities working at once. Most likely they will no longer be available when your process starts up again. You should take some time to map out the process. Identify your “drop dead” date, and then work backwards from that point. Understand that most candidates will need to give their current employer a least a two week notice. Depending on your hiring process, the interview process usually involves two-three meetings (or more). This can account for a least two more weeks. It may take at least one week to begin surfacing potential candidates. In a perfect situation you would need to begin sourcing candidates five weeks in advance of your expected hire date. Don’t forget to consult your calendar for any scheduled events that could stall the process. Once you begin a search, treat it with a sense of urgency.
  3. Don’t get caught up in your process. Most organizations have certain requirements a Manager must adhere to in order to fill a vacancy. You should step back and analyze your current process. Are the steps you follow required? Many times you will find that the steps you follow are not so much “corporate policy” as they are tradition or personal preference. Is there a way you can streamline the process while still following corporate guidelines? The more steps in an interview process, the longer it takes to fill the role. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. What kind of message is your process sending? If you were applying for the role, would you follow your organizations process or would you aggressively pursue an organization that was able to move quicker? In today’s market candidates have more options. Time is of the essence in capturing top talent. The quicker you can move a candidate through the process, the more likely you are to successfully hire them.
  4. Communicate. Whether you are dealing directly with HR, a candidate or a recruiter, clearly outline the interview process. Make sure everyone involved understands the steps and the time line. If you encounter an unforeseen delay in the interview process, communicate with the appropriate party and explain the situation. Don’t leave anyone hanging. Lack of communication generally sends a negative message to the candidate. Your goal in acquiring top talent is to keep them interested and excited about joining your organization as they move through the process. Lack of communication begins to create doubt in the candidates mind, giving them cause to reevaluate their desire to join your organization.
  5. Make the candidate feel wanted. In speaking with candidates who have removed themselves from consideration, this ranks among the top reasons. One of the easiest things you can do in the hiring process is make the candidate feel wanted. Be respectful of the candidate’s time. If you say you will follow up with them on a certain date, do so. In a lengthy interview process, periodically reach out to the candidate and let them know you are still interested in them. Send them a quick email with a recent press release or information on a new product, etc. Even the smallest gesture can go a long way in making a candidate feel as if you truly respect the value they can add to your organization.

The next time you have a vacancy to fill ask yourself; is the role clearly defined? Do you have a plan for bringing the search to a successful conclusion? Is your process as streamlined as possible? Make a concerted effort to communicate with the parties involved in the process. And above all, make the candidate genuinely feel wanted. Remembering these five tips can make all the difference between successfully filling a vacancy and starting the search all over again.