Do You Treat Your Best Candidates Like Customers or Vendors?

January 23, 2014

In an ideal world, the best candidates should be treated as VIP customers. This means recruiters and companies should always keep in mind that their customers/hot prospects have many options and easily can go to a competitor. They deserve to be wooed and shown exactly why your company/product is a perfect fit for their needs.

Unfortunately, most recruiters and companies today treat candidates like they are vendors. Recruiters expect candidates to “sell” themselves and focus on making sure the candidates check the job requirements boxes. By the time the company discovers the perfect candidate, that individual has often formed an opinion of the company, and not necessarily a positive one.

There are numerous examples of how designing a customer-centric experience can boost your company growth. For instance, Jane Park, CEO of Julep, recently shared with Fast Company how transforming their customer buying process has produced remarkable results.

Why not take that concept and apply it to recruiting?

To become customer-focused, you first need to determine if your company’s underlying recruiting and hiring processes are built to attract great people, or if they are preventing the people you actually want to hire from being considered. Figuring out where you stand on the following measures will give you a quick sense of your company’s current talent attraction level:

Building a Talent-centric (aka Customer-focused) Recruiting Process Checklist

1.  Do you have job postings or advertisements?

If your job postings list “must haves” vs. “what’s in it for the prospect” you’re in the Stone Age when it comes to maximizing the customer experience. Here’s an example of a customer-centric posting you can use for inspiration.

2. Do you understand the customer?

Michael Bruce, at the recruitment advertising firm McFrank and Williams, suggests every ad, email and voice mail needs to capture the candidate’s “unarticulated” hero. This is the aspect of work that drives their personal satisfaction. I call this critical factor the candidate’s intrinsic motivator, or in the case of the graphic above, the rabbit’s carrot. Some examples: for techies it could be pushing the envelope on some new technology and for nurses it could be the satisfaction derived from caring for others.

3. Do you acknowledge the surplus or scarcity of talent?

If the demand for candidates is greater than the supply, you can’t pretend it isn’t. Too many companies design their tracking systems based on a flawed supply chain model assuming the supply of great talent is plentiful, and then mixing and matching people on criteria that don’t correlate with performance. If you’re in a talent scarcity situation this default process will backfire, since these people are looking for career moves.

4. Do you emphasize career moves or lateral transfers?

The best people, whether they’re active or passive, are not interested in lateral transfers. So if your hiring managers emphasize skills and experience over performance and potential, you’ve already lost.

5. Are you maintaining the status quo or raising the talent bar?

To raise your company’s talent level you must start attracting the best people available, not just the best who apply. An emphasis on weeding out the weak and filling positions fast perpetuates the status quo.

6. Does your candidate have a going-away or going-towards career strategy?

The best people, especially passive candidates, need to see what you have to offer as far superior to what they already have. This is a going-towards strategy and each step of your recruiting process needs to address this. Pulling someone away is far more difficult than hiring someone who’s already decided to leave.

7. Do you have a transactional or solution-based recruiting process?

If your company’s mix-and-match hiring process is designed to force-fit candidates into pre-defined roles, it’s unlikely you’ll be seeing or hiring too many great people, other than recent grads or for entry-level spots. While a great talent brand can mask the problem, offering a job is not the same as crafting a career. The former is a quick transaction; the latter is a multi-level solution.

8. Are your hiring managers engaged?

The best people want to work for leaders and mentors. Part of creating a true customer experience is the full engagement of the hiring manager at every step in the process. This includes a willingness to take time to meet prospects who want to just explore the possibility of making a move.

It’s obvious that hiring top talent is critical to overall company success. Unfortunately, without the full engagement of every hiring manager and the entire executive team, this critical need is often lost among other important company initiatives. In a talent scarcity situation the problem is magnified. The solution starts by recognizing that the best people are always in high demand and they must be treated as you would treat your most important customers.

* Image by McFrank and Williams

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