In my 16 years of recruiting with Major, Lindsey & Africa, I have seen the following scenario play out one too many times: Our client is undertaking a search for an attorney. We work with our client to develop a position description that highlights the significance of this role. We then leverage our networks and come up with a fantastic slate of candidates that the client loves and we move forward. Suddenly, we hear from the finalist candidate that he/she wants to withdraw for another opportunity. He/she has changed his/her negotiation tack for an unrealistic demand or because he/she accepted the client’s offer then reneged due to a counteroffer from his/her current employer.
Right now, it’s a candidate’s market. We at Major, Lindsey & Africa know this, and we inform our clients of this fact. We work with our clients to monitor potential pitfalls, but as a CEO, GC or CHRO, you must maintain a tight and swift search process to find and hire the right candidates.
Here are a few steps to take to improve your odds of winning over the best candidate:
Be unified. Know what you want in a candidate. When you meander or change your mind in the middle of a search, it effectively starts it all over.
Go fast. This doesn’t mean be sloppy, but think about your search process in advance. Put together a timeline with your search consultant. If your search firm is meeting with candidates now, block off time on the relevant people’s calendars for interviews in the coming week. Scheduling can slow things down but can easily be handled on the front end.
Be focused. This is tough. Recruiting is all I do; however, it is a small fraction of what you do. So it is easy to let a search linger too long because of competing priorities. When working with a search firm, expect to have scheduled weekly calls so that every week the ball keeps moving forward.
Limit interviews and decision-makers. Again, this doesn’t mean don’t have a full process. What it does mean is that if after the first screening interview, the candidate is moving forward, then try to have everyone you need in the next round of interviews. Have a process for collecting feedback and have a call on the calendar with your search provider to discuss feedback shortly after the interviews conclude. If you can avoid a hiring committee, I would recommend that you do so. A committee leads to hours of conversation.
Sell. Put your best foot forward in an interview. Have your top employees assist. As much as the candidates should sell themselves, you should sell yourself to them, too. Their experience during the interview process helps to develop the desire to work with you.
Be decisive. If you aren’t giving the candidate the job, let them go. If you like them, move them forward. We see too many clients who love the first candidate but want to see 10 more before they can make a decision. By the time they are ready, the candidate has moved on or doesn’t feel the love.
Compete. When you are ready to make an offer to the candidate of your dreams, be aggressive in your offer. Now is not the time to low ball the candidate. Put forward a competitive offer that shows the candidate you want them. Work with your recruiter to make the offer appropriate for the candidate’s experience and for market conditions. Put a reasonable time limit on the offer; candidates will sometimes want to see what else is out there and will string an offer along as long as they can. Be prepared to pull the offer if the time period elapses.
I understand that there are circumstances beyond your control and that vacations, scheduling conflicts, change in business and many other things can slow down a search. Outside factors will always happen. But if you can streamline the ones you can control, you should take the time to do so to help eliminate delays and lost candidates.