To Hire People, You Need to Talk to Candidates

At Second Wind, we assist many agencies seeking job candidates through our Right Fit Recruiting services. But we are encountering a curious problem with some of our agency clients. We find likely candidates, only to have principals refuse to consider them. Why? Because they are not “exactly” what they are looking for… i.e., they’re not “perfect.”

So we herewith advise all agency principals who are about to start recruiting for their next open job position: there is no such thing as a perfect job candidate.

(We apologize in advance for the scolding tone.)

Finding the “Best,” Not the “Perfect” Candidate

When we begin working with agencies seeking to fill a position, our first step is to develop a job description we can use to advertise the position. Often, the agency in question is seeking specific skills and abilities. But if employers are not at least a little flexible about meeting those parameters, one of two things will happen:

  • You’ll miss talking to many very good candidates with sufficient skills and the right values to fit in and grow into the position; or
  • You’ll never find a person to do the job.

A propensity for agency principals to want a “perfect” job candidate could be due to a number of factors; but we worry that the biggest reason for inflexibility is that agency principals can’t be bothered to interview anyone. They just want the “perfect” person to drop in their lap and take the job with zero training and no onboarding time. Can you say “pipe dream”?

Sending the Wrong Signals

Aside from having unreasonable expectations, potential employers err by not promptly following up on calls and emails; stonewalling on compensation and benefits questions; and not bothering to check the references they demanded. Consider what these and your refusal to conduct interviews telegraphs to eligible job seekers:

  • We don’t care enough to talk to you, and probably won’t be a very nurturing employer. 
  • We have a culture that is inflexible and unwelcoming.
  • We’re as dysfunctional as our hiring process.
  • We suffer from unrealistic expectations, which means we’ll expect you to be beyond exceptional, and to meet unreasonable goals.
  • We don’t want people we have to train or mentor. You’ll be on your own if you take a job with us.
  • You seriously don’t want to work for us.

Sending these signals to recruits and job candidates will backfire on your long-term recruiting efforts, and harm your agency’s ability to compete.

Meeting the Candidate Halfway

Good candidates are looking for jobs; if you want to connect with them, you have to put in at least as much effort as they are putting out. 

Decide what skills, knowledge and abilities are most important, versus obsessing about all the skills you want. That also means that you screen candidates based on those priorities, and talk to anyone who meets the essential criteria.

If the agency principal can’t make time to do interviews, assign a manager or mid-level employee to do initial interviews. Choose this person carefully; they should be positive, honest, and one of your agency’s most passionate advocates. Use a pre-screening form to confirm that the candidate is a good fit in skills, technical knowledge, abilities, and willingness to do the job. Rate each candidate against your criteria. Don’t forget to watch for valuable personality traits, and make sure all interviewers follow the requirements for the interview questions you may legally ask (and not ask). Have your interviewer OK a few candidates for the principals’ personal attention.

Be prepared to negotiate on salary and benefits! Most candidates will negotiate on their salary requirements, but again, flexibility is a must if you want to get a good person. Other agencies are competing for the same top candidates. Have a range in mind, based on competitive salaries in your area. Also be ready to offer perks with which you could sweeten the deal. Be prepared to speak honestly about your location, community, area amenities, local cost of living and your agency’s culture and people. 

Make sure you have good orientation procedures. The hiring process is expensive! Put effort into welcoming new employees and making them feel supported and valuable. In addition to orientation, use regular check-ins to ensure the new employee is happy and gaining a good understanding of their job requirements.

Be prepared to train the new hire. Allow employees a break-in period before you start piling on a heavy workload. Even the best candidate on paper is probably going to need some training and support as they enter a new job. Your agency processes and procedures are likely unique; even if you use a widely adopted AMS or workflow management system, we’re sure you’ve done some customizing. Assign mentors and your most helpful managers to smooth the onboarding process.

Realistic expectations on both sides are critical to new hire success. Be clear during screening and interviewing about your expectations for the new hire, and make sure you understand their expectations as well. Aligning expectations helps ensure onboarding will be successful. Set goals and objectives for new hires as soon as possible after bringing them on board.

Promote from within to keep the skills you need. Your core team can become a mentoring crew who will help integrate and train future new hires. And new hires need to know they have a career path for advancement. If you neglect career planning, employees—not just new hires—may queue for the exit.

Good candidates are out there! Don’t turn them blindly away. Ditch unreasonable expectations at the beginning of the hiring process. Seek to invest in “the best” people, not “perfect” candidates; they’re more likely to return your investment in loyalty and dedication. Start by demonstrating your willingness to be their best choice as a new employer.


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