Hiring in a Candidate Driven Market


Hiring in a candidate driven market is tough.

A candidate driven market is one that is driven by the skills of professionals, not by the wants or plans of employers. While there are many factors that have led us to this job market condition, one of the largest, by far, has been the explosion in tech.

Tech companies rely on innovation, and innovation relies on the talents of individual employees within the company. Basically, if you’re a tech company, or any company that want to keep innovating, then you’re going to need a nearly endless supply of bright-eyed employees with bright ideas to support your company’s future.

Though all jobs require specific skills to get the job done, the level of skill demanded by companies in the tech industry has drawn a clear line in the sand. On one side of this line are companies whose employees have the talent to drive innovation for their employer and the skills to adapt to changes in the industry. On the other side, are companies whose employees lack the talent to drive innovation or the skills to adopt new industry practices and technologies quickly.

No matter what industry you’re in, however, similar lines are being drawn. Companies whose employees are skilled and talented enough to make critical updated and adjustments, will be able to make the jump. Companies without talented individuals in critical positions, won’t make these critical moves before their competitors. They may not be able to make these moves at all.

For critical and/or technical positions, either your employees have the skills, or they don’t. They may know more than you do about coding or IT, but that doesn’t mean that they know a lot by industry standards or enough to make the next big leap that your company needs them to make.

It’s sink or swim out there, and you want to be sure that you’ve got some strong swimmers on the team. The challenge, is attracting the sort of talent that your company needs, or will need, in order to continue with business as usual.

A Candidate Driven Market

A candidate driven market is on in which A-Players have options, and the first step to hiring in a candidate driven market, is accepting that your job is only one of these options.

Highly talented candidates are always being offered different, highly-desirable, customized job offers, even from companies they’ve never applied to. In order to stand out for talent in this sort of market, you have to have more to offer than just a job.

According to a recent article on the subject from the Vesume Group, these are the conditions that you will be working with in a candidate driven market.

In a candidate driven market candidates, candidates:

  • Are solicited regularly by multiple interested parties.
  • Have multiple opportunities from which to pick their next move.
  • Have more negotiating leverage.
  • Are more apt to change jobs if their current job is not fulfilling.

In a candidate driven market, you have to provide great candidates with a great reason to join your company. If you want to make the high-talent hires that you need to make this year, you need to be offering the next step in a hire’s career, or at least a job that will help them make this step. You want to be able to present talented individuals with a job offer that feels like it was created just for them, not another phony-opportunity for them to screen from their busy lives.

Hiring in a candidate driven market is more difficult, but far from impossible. It isn’t even that much different, if you’ve been providing your candidates with an awesome application experience. What has changed, is that you have to drop the pretense that many employers have about their open job: that it’s the best job on earth and candidates should count their lucky stars to be offered it.

In a candidate driven market, you need to know how your open job stacks up against jobs offered by your direct competitors as well as jobs in your industry at large. For instance, if you think the salary is generous, and the competition says otherwise, then you’re going to have to take the hit in order to remain competitive. If you don’t adjust, then you’re going to have a hell of a time making a competitive offer.

Making the Hire You Need

Hiring in a candidate driven market requires that your hiring process is an efficient, professional and pleasant experience for your applicants.

Providing an application experience that is clunky, slow or even “standard” will fail to impress your applicants and will cause your top choice for the job to drop out of the running.

In order to make the hires that you need to, you have to provide candidates with experiences and information that will prove that your open job is great. While you’re welcome to tell candidates that your job is great, showing them will always work better.

If you want to hire in a candidate driven market, you must:

  • Emphasize your Employer Brand
  • Move Quickly
  • Extend an Offer that Feels Personal

Emphasize your Employer Brand

According to hiring and employer branding expert, Dr. John Sullivan, an employer branding initiative is defined as “An integrated effort to spread the word in an authentic way about the characteristics of the firm that make it a desirable place to work.”

Unlike your company’s brand or the brand of any of your products, your employer brand represents how desirable a job is at your company. Now, some companies try to improve their employer brand by offering insane perks and salaries, but these things alone won’t guarantee a strong employer brand. Neither will the prestige of your brand, the actual work being done at your company or the way that this work is done.

Your employer brand is a snapshot of the entire picture, and takes everything into account, from: the company culture to the dominant management style to the day-to-day work conditions to the spread in your break room.

Well, not so much your selection of bagels, but you get the idea. You should emphasize your employer brand from the earliest opportunity, which is usually a candidate’s first job interview. Showing off your employer brand means exposing them to the policies and perks make your company unique and a great place to work. You should also let candidates get a real feel for your company’s culture, as this is an important part of your employer brand. There are few things worse than a great hire discovering that they don’t fit in very well at your company, so make sure that everyone knows what they’re getting into.

You want pros in your industry to respect your employer brand, and that starts with giving respect to all candidates that you interveiw. Interviewers should always view themselves as brand ambassadors, and should treat all potential hires with the respect they’d give to potential customers.

Providing candidates with a bad application experience is never an option. Disrespectful, inefficient and unprofessional practices will ensure that you won’t be hiring your top choice for the job. Maybe not even your second or third choice. No matter how sweet a deal you’re offering, candidates will view a negative application experience as a sign of more pain in the future. They may have read about how great it is to work at your company, but they will trust their own experience before anything else.

If you can introduce what your company stands for, your mission and the way that you support your employees from the first interview, you’re doing it right. The interview is a candidate’s first peak behind the curtain, and, if you can show them something interesting or even beautiful, you’re leaving them with a positive employer brand experience. With this, you can secure the interest of high quality candidates and ensure that all applicants leave with a positive story to tell about your company.

The bottom line: A bad application experience will drive away top talent, no matter what your company does.

Move Quickly

In a candidate driven market, time is not on your side.

Highly skilled candidates are more visible than ever thanks to LinkedIn, and are often hired into their next job before they’ve even quit their current one. Those who take the more traditional job seeking path, are being hired faster than we’ve ever seen before. According to the 2015 Global Recruiting Trends Survey, the “best” candidates, aka your top choice for the job, are hired within their first 10 days on the job market.

When’s the last time you made a hire in 10 days?

In a candidate driven market, you should always assume that you have less time than you think, to make your offer. While you still need to gather data on what your top candidates want from their next job and test their skills, you also need to account for losing these top candidates at any time. Typical interview models can have you asking candidates to come in for 3 or more interviews over 3 or more weeks, which is nearly a guarantee that your top choice will have taken themselves out of consideration.

Hiring in a candidate driven market means recognizing talent early and moving them forward in the screening process. All applicants should have a shot at the job, but true A-Players will need much less vetting than their peers and will appreciate the chance to show off their stuff.

For instance, if you can see that a candidate is above and beyond their peers in your applicant pool, you should try to have them in for a follow up interview in the same week as their initial interview. The candidate will appreciate the value you see in them and the shortened time table allows you to extend an offer before your competitors can.

Though the skill and experience requirements of a role can slow down the screening process, you should always keep speed as one of the top priorities in your hiring. If your hiring process is slow or has periods of dead time, you will probably lose your top choice for the job.

The bottom line: Move highly skilled candidates through the hiring process as quickly as possible.

Extend a Competitive Offer that Feels Personal

You should never extend a cookie-cutter job offer in a candidate driven market. After going to the work of providing a great application experience and accelerating the screening process, the last thing you want to do is extend an offer that is canned or below market for the position.

Instead, you want to provide your top candidate with an offer that is both competitive and customized to their professional wants. Extending an offer that feels personal, however requires that you gain a good understanding of your top candidates in your shortened interview cycle.

To do so, here are some questions to help you out:

  • Why are they looking for work?
  •  How can you make your offer the opportunity they’ve been looking for?
  •  Why did they leave their last job, and what has to be different their next job?
  • How does your job relate to their career?
  • How can you further support their career path in your job offer?
  • Which tools or training programs will help them get there?
  • What did they say was most important to them in a job?
  • Did you write it down?!?
  •  How can you give it to them on a silver platter?

When making a job offer to highly skilled candidates, you need to be sure that it aligns with their career goals. Though a competitive salary will be crucial in making an effective offer, customizing the role to better suit a candidate will make them feel valued and will make them respect your employer brand.

For instance, if your top choice for the job is averse to a secondary duty of that job, like teaching, then you should de-emphasize the role of teaching in the position or nix it all together. Alternatively, if a candidate was interested in teaching, but this was not part of your original job description, then adding this additional detail will make your job offer stronger.

The leeway that you have to customize the role will always depend on the role, but even a small change, when it’s wanted, will do wonders for the effectiveness of your offer.

The bottom line: Extend an offer that proves you know what your top choice wants from their next job.

Making a good hire in a candidate driven market, requires that you put the candidate first. If you can ensure that ALL applicants have a positive application experience, it will strengthen your employer brand. If you can accelerate the hiring time table for A-Player candidates, it will help secure their interest until you make an offer. If you can extend an offer that is competitive and customized, then that offer will stand out against the competition.

Add it all together, and you have the perfect conditions to make a quality hire in a candidate driven market.


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