Preparation, Pace Are Key to Hiring Top Talent

By Joe Kotlinski and John VanderSande Dec 13, 2011
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The economy is in the midst of a steady rebound. Companies forced to lay off employees or freeze hiring during the 2008 recession are looking to add staff in 2012. It’s been a while since companies have had to flex their hiring muscles, but with a plan and some practice, recruitment units can get strong again and attract top talent.

Organizations poised to add to their workforce, however, will learn that the talent pool has shifted dramatically during 2012. When the economy plummeted in 2008, almost the only people looking for work were those who were out of work. With an improved economic outlook for 2012, passive job seekers—those currently employed—are starting to explore other possibilities, too. This means that the pool of potential candidates might be more plentiful, but these people might have more options for employment—including staying put—so competition for finding and hiring top talent is increasing.

Companies that can move quickly and tailor their interview process to accommodate this changing dynamic yet still perform proper due diligence to make sound hiring decisions can put themselves in a strong position to succeed.​​

Gain Talent Attraction Advantage

Companies can gain an advantage in attracting top talent in a number of ways:

Know what you want. Don’t jump into the hiring process. Have a plan. Talk to managers and staff to determine what the organization needs and what roles really need to be filled to address those needs. Once key positions have been determined, get specific. Identify the skills and experience the people who fill those roles should possess. What flexibility is available in the job description, and what skills are non-negotiable? The more that is known about the type of job candidates being sought, the easier it will be to find the right person.

Create a timeline. It is helpful to make the hiring process task-oriented and develop a timeline similar to the following with milestones to keep everyone on track:

  • Respond to resumes within 24 hours.
  • Conduct initial (phone, in-person) screenings within 48 hours of resume review.
  • If initial screening is successful, inform candidates that same day, and schedule a second interview within three business days. In addition, have candidates submit a job application if it is required. And if multiple rounds of interviews are necessary, schedule them as soon as possible. Remember, if an applicant is considered a solid job candidate by people at your organization, there are probably other companies and hiring managers making a similar assessment.
  • If required, begin the background and reference check process immediately after the interview process.
  • Be prepared to extend a verbal offer as soon as possible after all interviews have been completed—even if this offer is contingent on successful background or reference checks.
  • Be ready to extend a written offer within a day of a verbal offer.

Knowing the milestones upfront can keep you in the running to hire top talent, especially if you need to move quickly.

Review Recruiting, Hiring Processes

Companies should review their recruiting and hiring processes regularly for ways to streamline procedures. A rigorous or time-intensive process might mean missing out on a great employee.

That doesn’t mean rush. The hiring process should be deliberate and thorough, as the costs of hiring the wrong person are great. But there might be ways to combine or eliminate certain steps.

For example, replace in-person meetings with a phone interview if appropriate, or schedule multiple face-to-face meetings for the same afternoon. Is the company open to meeting employed candidates before or after normal business hours if necessary?

Emphasize Communication, Flexibility

If your team is truly interested in a candidate, don’t play hard-to-get. Replace “We’ll let you know” with details as to where the candidate stands. If the process gets delayed because of illness, vacations, business trips or busy schedules, let the candidate know the reasons. When delays occur, a call from the hiring manager to explain the situation and reinforce the organization’s interest can go a long way.

Joe Kotlinski is a partner, information technology, and John VanderSande is principal consultant, software engineering, for Waltham, Mass.-headquartered staffing firmWinter, Wyman.

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