How to Ruin your Candidate Search


Just because you go to the trouble of writing a job description, doesn’t mean anyone will take the trouble to read it.

Right now, demand for talent is at an all time high.  Skilled, employed professionals, AKA passive candidates, are being bombarded with job opportunities on a daily or weekly basis. At the same time, the majority of hiring managers who are having difficulty hiring, are siting a lack of suitable candidates as the answer.

Hiring managers responding to the question, “What is holding managers back from hiring?” in MRI’s 2015 Recruiter Sentiment Survey, are saying:

What is holding Managers back from Hiring?

  • 31% Hiring Managers are not finding enough suitable candidates to fill positions
  • 27% Lengthy hiring practices
  • 17% Not offering Competitive compensation packages
  • 13% Hiring managers meeting resistance in getting approval to fill open positions

From this data, we can conclude a few things. The first conclusion, is that most companies aren’t marketing their jobs in a way that attracts the highly skilled candidates that they want to hire.

The second conclusion, is that when most companies do source a desirable candidate, overlong screening/hiring cycles, internal resistance and stingy offers thwart their ability to make strong hires or make hires at all.

This is not the way that good hires are made, but don’t just take our word for it.

According to the same study, 90% of recruiters say that employers “are hiring in a primarily candidate-driven market.” Due in part to the increased demand for niche skill-sets, we are all trying to hire in a job market in which candidates have more options that we’re used to them having. The only problem is, employers haven’t adjusted their hiring policies to account for these job market conditions.

Here are some of the Recruiter comments from the study, to get the world from the front lines:

  • “It’s a competitive environment where the candidate has both other opportunities and, likely, an employer who doesn’t want him or her to leave. It’s almost gotten to the point where if no counteroffer is made, you wonder about the quality of the candidate.”
  • “Despite being in a heavily candidate-driven market for several years, most companies still follow antiquated hiring practices, even for critical positions. They refuse to acknowledge that the market is candidate-driven.”
  • “The number one reason why deals fail is TIME. The average timeframe for new hires is 3-4 weeks. Clients who take more than a month to interview, offer, and hire will have a much harder time attracting top talent … simply put, their competitors are doing it faster!”

There are no guarantees of success, only guarantees of failure. If you aren’t marketing your job opening like a job opportunity, then you aren’t going to attract the skilled candidates that you want to hire. If you aren’t able to screen the top candidates you do attract, quickly, then they will accept other offers. If you aren’t able to extend a competitive offer to top candidates, they will accept another offer.

The way we used to hire isn’t cutting it. For years, even decades, employers have been enjoying the perks of an employer-driven job market, where the person with the job opening had all of the leverage. Today, many employers are still acting like they have this leverage, and are losing out on talent because of it.

If you want to make great hires, you’re going to have to offer candidates a great application experience and some great reasons to join your company. If you don’t take the steps to ensure a quality candidate experience, then you will keep losing out on talent to companies that do.

How to (NOT) Ruin your Candidate Search

A great application experience is one that starts strong and doesn’t give candidates any cause for concern. Now, “great” is used to describe everything from great walls to GRRRRR-eat breakfast cereal, but a offering a “great” candidate experience isn’t as simple as calling it great. It also begins a long time before anyone actually comes in for an interview.
These days, candidates are trusting employer review sites like Glassdoor over anything that your “About Us” page says. This is forcing companies to “walk the walk” when it comes to their staffing practices, as to minimize the number of disgruntled reviews they get online. While you are free to ignore this trend, try a side-by-side comparison of your “About Us” page and the reviews of your company that your current and former employees have posted.

  • If you were a candidate, what would this comparison tell you?
  • Do the reviews of your employees support the “official” version on your company’s website?
  • How do these reviews make your company look, objectively?

If you want to give your candidates a great application experience, it starts by making sure that these two versions of the truth don’t conflict with each-other. When a candidate wants to know more about your company after reading your job description, you want to support their interest with good reviews and interesting content, not give them reasons to question you as an employer.

Once you’ve made sure that the first search result for your company isn’t hideous employee reviews, turn your attention to the content of your job description. Just like you don’t want bad reviews throwing off your applicants, you don’t want a poorly written or vague job description to stop them from applying in the first place. Now, you don’t have to write the next “Game of Thrones,” but your job description should highlight the most interesting aspects of your open job and it should definitely sound like you know what you’re talking about.

If it doesn’t sound like you know what you’re talking about, then it will sound like phony fluff to the people who really know their stuff. If you want to hire top talent, then you’re going to have to speak to the technically interesting aspects of the position, even if you haven’t ever filled that position before.

Right now, most job openings are for newly-created positions, meaning that half of you will be writing your job descriptions from scratch. According to the same survey, these are the reasons that jobs are being advertised:

What is causing job openings?

  • 50% of job openings are for newly created positions.
  • 26% of job openings are from resignations.
  • 10% of job openings are from workforce top grading.

 According to the same survey, these are the areas that employers are prioritizing this business year:

What Areas will Employers make a top priority in 2016?

  • 55% Key Strategic Hires
  • 39% Employee Engagement and Retention
  • 22% Succession Planning
  • 21% Building and Promoting a Strong Country Culture

So, apart from the majority of employers posting ads for newly created positions, the majority of employers are making “key strategic hires” their top priority this year.

With this unprecedented demand for talent, the only way for you to make great hires is by standing out from the competition. With this much competition, the only way to stand out is by creating job ads that break the mold.

Instead of writing a job description, we want you to think of it as a love letter to your ideal candidate. You shouldn’t get mushy, but it should be written to speak to the right person for the job.

Your job description needs to be enticing enough to fall in love with, but not because you make it sound like the cushiest, best paying gig on earth. You want someone to fall in love with the work that will be done, not the prestige, the perks or the pay of the position. You want someone who wants a serious challenge. You want someone who can’t wait to get to work on the problems that keep you up at night.

In order to find this person, you need to describe the work that they will be doing in a way that someone can fall in love with it. But not just any someone. You want the perfect person for the job  to fall in love with your job description. In order for that to happen, someone who does this work, or work similar to it, should be involved with the writing of this love letter.

Given that the majority of job openings are for new positions, this may be a challenge, but two heads are always better than one. Even if the position is completely new, involving someone who has done similar work will help you to describe the work being done in the position in a much more detailed and appealing way.

You don’t have to start shadowing anyone and you don’t even need your consulting employee looking over your shoulder when you write your love letter. All you need to do is ask them some questions about the work, write your love letter to the ideal candidate, and them have them check it for authenticity. An authentic love letter is one that makes your consulting employee want to quit their job and apply for that one, right then and there.

  • What do you love most about this kind of work?
  • What should the perfect person for the job love most about this work?
  • Which tasks, operations or functions, specifically, will this person need to be great at? What will make them great?
  • How would you describe the demands of this job? How would you describe the day-to day?
  • What job would the perfect person for this job be doing, if they weren’t holding the direct job title?
  • What would the perfect person for the job want from their job, besides wanting and being able to do their work to a degree of excellence?
  • What are some of the best (fun) parts of working here?

Once you have asked your employee consultant these questions, and carefully taken down their answers, you should take this expert insight and gently sprinkle it throughout your job description. You can add their words or just the gist, but it has to sound like the real deal.

After you’ve taken your employee consultant’s insights into the work and the position and formulated the first draft of your love letter, have several of your employees (including the consulting employee) read your love letter.

Love Letter Checklist:

  • Is it the real deal? Does it make them want to apply?
  • Does it sound like a good job opportunity?
  • Does it sound like you know what you’re talking about?

If it’s the real deal, then you’re good to go. Instead of a job description, you’ve written a love letter to your ideal candidate. Now, a good love letter will attract a lot of attention and, if you’ve done your job right, then everyone will want to think that they’re the perfect person for the job.

Just remember that you’re looking for a single hire, so don’t get caught up shopping around your candidate pool. The perfect person for the job can be right under your nose, but you can still lose them to competing offers if you don’t identify them fast enough and extend them an offer.

If you don’t want to lose out on top talent, then you’re going to have to expedite your hiring process. Multi-week hiring cycles are the norm, but the data is telling us that this is one of the worst possible practices for your hiring. Here are some more quotes from the 2015 Recruiter Sentiment survey:

  • “When the hiring process takes too long, a candidate that wasn’t formerly looking at other opportunities starts paying attention to other opportunities, and often takes another job before the original company has finished the interview process.”
  • “MRINetwork recruiters now report the majority of job offers are being presented between 3-6 weeks.
  • “3-4 weeks after the first interview continues to be the point at which job offers are most frequently rejected.”

Right now, the way that most people are hiring is completely backwards. The time at which most companies are extending a job offer, 3-6 weeks into the screening process, is the time that candidates are most likely to reject offers! If you want to make those shoe-in hires that always seem to back out at the last minute, start making those hires weeks before you would have otherwise.

It doesn’t matter how you shorten your screening process, but it does matter that you don’t cut any corners. After going to all of that trouble with your love letter, the last thing you want to do is give candidates a rushed application experience. They will appreciate fewer interviews, but they won’t appreciate feeling rushed or having to spend an entire afternoon answering the same questions from different people.

As long as you are able to extend an offer before this 3-4 week deadline, your offer is much more likely to be accepted. Your favorite person for the job is probably another employer’s favorite person for the job, so treat them with respect and make your offer as soon as you’re certain that the’ll be great at the job.

The difficulty of each candidate search will be dependent on the job you’re filling, but these best practices will ensure that you aren’t trying to do a job with the wrong tools for it. If you want to make high quality hires, then you must provide a high quality application experience, from the job ad candidates respond to, to the point at which you extend your offer.

How to NOT Tank your Candidate Search:

  • Make sure your online presence is consistent and positive.
  • Write a love letter to your ideal candidate.
  • Extend your offer before the competition.

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