Can your company “blow” an interview?
From our “How to Win the War for Talent” series

By R. Gaines Baty

Has your company ever lost a great candidate for an important position to a competitive offer? If so, there’s an excellent chance that your firm may have under-performed in the recruitment of that candidate.

Proven executives are always difficult to find and attract. In fact, these exceptional people are in very high demand and are heavily courted – in a free agent market. Offer turn-downs, due to competitive and counter offers, are more common now than ever.

Why should an organization worry about such things? Let’s examine what’s at stake: First, “average” leadership can inhibit optimal performance and overlook or mishandle opportunities. Second, hiring the wrong person can prove catastrophic - a competitive disadvantage. Simply put, average leaders are frequently just not good enough. Peter Drucker emphasized this when he wrote; “Of all the decisions an executive makes, none are as important as those about people because people determine the performance capacity of the organization.”

Consistently winning the battle for top performers’ services requires a well-orchestrated approach. However, such pursuits can be abruptly derailed by two common process lapses:

  • An elongated and/or inefficient interview process; in-demand candidates frequently cannot or will not wait on an indecisive, ineffective or unprofessional suitor.

  • Failure to effectively represent the quality and future of an opportunity; “A-players” are usually well-employed and have multiple attractive employment options for comparison.

In college athletics, National Championships are won by recruiting the best talent and managing that talent to success. Corporate recruiting is no different. Recruits, athletic and corporate, are attracted to the most exciting vision, challenge, cultural fit, skills match, growth opportunity, etc., while being mindful of family considerations. Other subconscious influencers can include powerful but unspoken emotions. Any of these factors can drive a candidate toward or away from you at any time in the process. Just as in college athletics, prospective employers must consistently bring their “A-games” to win these contests for top talent.

So, how might an employer achieve the most positive recruiting outcomes, or improve on an already good process?

  1. Make ‘recruitment process excellence’ a top priority for your leadership team: a fiduciary obligation, even in spite of a hectic business climate.

  2. Create a positive candidate experience. Treat every candidate like a customer (not like an “applicant”). Ensure that each step and each interviewer in your process communicates a consistent vision and makes a positive impression.

  3. Ask your organization’s stakeholders, “Why should a top performer quit a good job to come to work with us?” Compelling answers to this query must be provided to the candidate. While evaluating a candidate, an employer must simultaneously ENTICE that person with the opportunity. Do not over-promise or oversell, but don’t under-emphasize the value proposition either. Ensure that your strategic vision is communicated consistently. Discuss the challenge, opportunity, career growth potential, culture, upside, etc. What is most important to the candidate? What’s in it for him or her? Keep in mind that this is a very important career (and life) decision for the executive and his or her stakeholders/family.

  4. Streamline and expedite your evaluation process. Utilize best practice evaluation techniques (see www.rgba.com) to determine as quickly as possible if the candidate can do the job. Don’t lose the best person because you can’t make a timely decision! Inefficiencies and indecisiveness are off-putting, and extra time fosters dwindling candidate emotional momentum and opens the door for other companies to join the chase. Act promptly and assertively. And, in these competitive times, offer an aggressive compensation plan. Make the candidate’s decision an easy one…easy to say “yes.”

  5. Review each recruiting win and loss, and take corrective action immediately. One should never rationalize a loss to any reason “outside our control.” Candidates provide palatable and politically correct explanations for declining offers, but the real reasons frequently center around the fact that she or he was more excited about (or ‘enticed’ by) a competitive suitor. And it’s not always about money.

Conclusion: No recruiting process is foolproof, but it is important to consistently put your best foot forward. Landing just one additional “star” - possibly the star that helps win the championship - will deem your efforts as well-invested. The ROI can be substantial.


R. Gaines Baty is President of R. Gaines Baty Associates, Inc. (est. 1977)a Dallas-based retained executive search firm.  Mr. Baty, who started his career with IBM Corp., is formerly a two-term President of both the Society of Executive Recruiting Consultants (SERC) and the Dallas Independent Recruiters Group (IRG), and is a well-known author, trainer and practitioner in executive team building, executive evaluation, executive search and career management issues.  Mr. Baty can be reached at gbaty@rgba.com. 
 

 

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