What Job Candidates Expect From Employers: The Power Shift in a Candidate-Driven Market

Sept. 30, 2017
Employers must get better at managing candidate expectations or risk losing out on great talent.

The job market continues to be candidate-driven, which means job seekers have far more power and latitude to be very selective regarding opportunities and employers. In fact, they probably have a pipeline of opportunities from which to choose. There’s no doubt that employers are feeling the impact of the heightened competition for their attention.

Hiring managers need to step forward and make changes to their recruiting and hiring practices in order to attract and engage in-demand talent. It is important that they sell the candidate on the role and company as well as focus on their career goals, who they are, and what makes them tick.

As an example of why to shift the process or face failure, a manager at a manufacturing company asked to speak with a candidate over the phone to gauge interest. While this is not unusual, it is unusual not to let the candidate speak. The manager proceeded to go on about how he climbed to his position and how well-known he is in the industry. He also interrupted the candidate constantly. When the candidate finally managed to ask the question, “What do you look for in a successful sales person?” the answer was abrupt. The hiring manager said, “Work hard and don’t be a pain in the a**.”

This answer and the overall tone of the call might have been overlooked in the previous employer-driven market but today, when you have a qualified candidate who is not necessarily looking for a new opportunity but open to a discussion, it’s almost certain death. The candidate is thinking, “Thanks but no thanks.” Consequently, we had to confront the interview team and asked them to provide the candidate with a better experience, and sell the candidate on the job and company brand. They promised to have two other practiced interviewers who knew how to handle the opening of the conversation take this over.

Another example is how a slow hiring process kills deals. Our search for a sales representative turned into an extended hire date. Eleven candidates were interviewed for the role and the ideal candidate was identified. However, the company was not ready to make a formal offer for another two months. They wanted us to keep the candidate warm during this time. The candidate was excited about the opportunity and was willing to wait. When the formal offer came through the start date wasn’t for another six weeks. This extended timeframe left the door wide open to doubt, counteroffers and a plethora of other opportunities. In the end, the candidate decided there was too much uncertainty with our client’s timeline and accepted another position.

Keeping these anecdotes in mind, following are some important hiring practices to put into place that could mean the difference between landing the candidate or losing the candidate.

Great Candidate Experience

As stated, a candidate-driven market means that companies are aggressively competing for talent. As a result, candidates expect special treatment and a great candidate experience even before walking through your door. This includes a full explanation of the job, frequent contact and a rundown of your specific hiring process. Even little things mean a lot to candidates, especially when arriving for the interview, including a greeter, tour of your facility, introduction to future co-workers, etc.

Regardless of whether you make the candidate an offer or not, they will tell others about you. If you treat them with respect, they’ll be your advocate. If you don’t, they may rant to friends and family and post on social media, which could prevent top talent from looking your way.

Speedy Response and Hiring Process

The current mindset of candidates is that your response time and hiring process should be streamlined. Most job seekers are currently employed and don’t have time to waste. They prefer a non-canned response when uploading their resume and an easy and efficient hiring process. They want to hear from you immediately to schedule a phone, video or personal interview, and if that goes well, they want to move to the next step pronto. In this candidate-driven market, they have the upper hand.

Consider using a candidate tracking system to shortlist candidates. This can make the sourcing and interview scheduling process much faster and bypass the hours sifting through resumes. Without a shorter response time, your organization may miss out on in-demand talent.

Attractive Compensation

Mediocre compensation packages lose candidates. Therefore, before you even start interviewing for a position, you need to do your due diligence and come up with the best and most appropriate combinations of salary, annual incentives, long-term incentives and benefits. You may find that generous, even outrageous, offers are being made for qualified candidates, including large base salaries, bonuses, stock options and other perks. Payscale.com is a good resource since it provides up-to-date information on the salary for industry professionals.

Remember, candidates don’t just look for a reasonable paycheck. They want a package with different types of compensation.

Mobile Access to Jobs

It is estimated that 77% of job seekers are using mobile devices to find their next opportunity. Therefore, to compete for industry talent, mobile-driven recruitment is a must. Active and passive candidates expect that your company has a mobile-friendly website, an up-to-date career page that is easily accessible, and improved navigation for use on all mobile devices. The most popular mobile device used is a smart phone.

Strong Employer Brand

Job seekers want to work for a company with a great reputation, culture and strong brand, and they have a broad range of tools at their disposal to research companies. If your business does not have a compelling message or brand, candidates will look elsewhere.

It is imperative to take an active role in shaping your organization’s image and get your employees involved. Actually, the most effective employer branding starts with your employees. They are your best ambassadors. Their stories can help to a make a good first impression with candidates. Therefore, create an employee testimonial page on your website or start a blog so your current staff can tell their stories.

Also, build your brand in social media. Post positive things about your company, such as community service, team-building exercises, reward trips, happy hours, wellness programs, etc.

Employers must get better at managing candidate expectations or risk losing out on great talent. It’s time to make the shift to meet candidate expectations and the terms they want when weighing new career opportunities.

Cherie Shepard is director of material handling, packaging & food processing with Direct Recruiters Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, a relationship-focused search firm that assists top-tier organizations with recruiting, acquiring, and retaining high-impact talent for mission-critical positions.

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