Posts Tagged ‘candidate’

Getting to “YES” on Job Offers

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

It used to be that to get a top executive, you figured out what salary you wanted to pay, offered a bonus that might be discretionary, and extended the offer.  The candidate might accept, decline, or counter, and the response was almost always based on the money issues.

Organizational Talent Management experts have learned a lot about candidate motivation, yet offers are still often constructed and extended based on just monetary issues.  Candidate turn-downs are often based on many other factors.

Hidden Concerns:  There are lots of things you can’t legally ask a candidate about, but might be on their mind.  What issues could interfere with a move?  Does the candidate have elderly parents, or kids in high school?  Is the spouse really on board, or being dragged kicking and screaming?  The best way to address these hidden concerns is pre-closing, or testing the offer.  When you float a dollar range, and ask could they accept that, you will often hear, “Well, I’d have to think about it.”  Your next question should be, “What will you be thinking about?” Or, “What issues will you be considering?”  This will surface many of the hidden concerns, which opens the door to further discussion.

Candidate Motivation: “A” Players are rarely motivated by just the money.  Other key motivators include being inspired by your vision, liking your company culture, identifying with the challenges you have laid out for them (performance objectives for the position), feeling they can make an impact, long term potential for growth or equity, etc.  If you take care to find out what really matters to each candidate, and make sure you have painted a picture that incorporates these features, the money becomes secondary.

Offer Components:  There are many components to offers today that can be important to a particular candidate.  Again, it is critical to ask what is really important in the features and benefits you include.  One candidate might find educational reimbursement to be valuable, while another might need flex time.  We had a candidate this year who needed the relocation package to allow much more for temporary living, and much less for cost of home sale, and that required a change in company policy by the new employer!  A key issue for executives today is where they will be permitted to live, with many people wanting to keep their home, and commute twice a month to the job location.  Know what is important, and see if the candidate’s needs can be met.

A key strategy is individualization.  Most companies employ experts that standardize HR policies as much as possible.  Candidates are at their most vulnerable when they make a job change.  Being treated like a person instead of a commodity will win hearts and minds, and get “yeses.”  Last year, I had one candidate for whom the money wasn’t an issue at all – he was taking almost a lateral.  All he wanted was some help getting his wife started on her job search in the new locale.  He was jumping for the opportunity, while she was hesitant, and that’s what it took to win her approval and consent.

The pool of talent will begin to tighten in the recovery, and getting offer acceptance will become an art and science, and you must master both!  As an employer, you need to be creative, intuitive, responsive and willing to customize.

The Truth on What Candidates Want to Know

Monday, June 5th, 2017

When a hiring manager conducts an interview, he or she is usually most concerned about what to ask the candidate, and how to evaluate the candidate’s answers qualitatively.  Most interviewers think about having the right questions, not the right answers.

Recruited candidates (vs. job applicants), have higher expectations for information.  The candidate who already has a good job expects to find out key things about the job, the company, its culture, etc. that will justify making a change from their current job.  When we ask candidates whether they feel more favorable or less favorable about the position after they interview with one of our clients, their replies are revealing.  When employers are unprepared and/or can’t make a “case” for the job opportunity, the candidate feels less favorable after the meeting.  When the employer does have good answers, the candidate usually feels more favorable.  Especially when you are trying to recruit an employed person, it is worth being well prepared.  Be ready for some of these key questions:

Why is the position open?  Did someone resign, did you terminate the incumbent, or is the position newly created?  The candidate will want to know why in each case.  You must be credible and positive in your response.

What is the company culture like?  Perhaps you have a great, happy environment.  If so, feel free to extol the virtues.  But, not all companies are like Google.  Sometimes there are factions, resistant people, lack of motivation, all of which will become quickly apparent after the new person starts work.  You can be selective in what you say, but if the new hire must do a turnaround of a bad situation, sometimes it can be a plus to say so.  Many executives like turnaround challenges.

What are the opportunities for growth?  Surprisingly, many companies don’t articulate a good answer to this, either because they don’t have a plan beyond their current needs, or they don’t want to commit to future promotions.  It is fair for a new hire to get reasonable expectations for their growth.

What do you need this person to accomplish?  So many companies still work off old-style job descriptions based on boring duties and responsibilities. They fail to describe objectives, because they haven’t thought them through.  Create performance-based job descriptions that define the objectives for the position, and you will attract the top people, who want to know the challenges of the job.

How is the company doing financially?  Would you turn over the next few years of your life to an organization that wasn’t doing well, or wouldn’t even tell you how they are doing?  You must find a way to give a truthful and confident picture of your finances.

What are the company’s long term goals?  “Putting out fires” is the wrong answer, but that’s what a lot of companies are doing today, and may be doing for a while.  Find a way to share your inspiring long term plan in a simple, succinct manner that doesn’t divulge too many secrets.

What is the company’s exit strategy?  That’s right – they want to know if you are going to sell!  Most employers see key hires as an asset that will attract a potential buyer, but you have to realize that many key employees bail out after a company is sold.  If an exit is looming (1-3 years), you may have to think about sharing the wealth (and the information) as a retention strategy.

How strong are the people that I will be managing?  How about my peers?  If you have “A” players in all important slots, proudly say so.  If you are tolerating “B” or “C” players, ask yourself how you can candidly describe the organization’s shortcomings and still be a desirable employer.  If you have hidden flaws or gaps in talent, you will lose credibility once the new hire starts.

Does the company support and promote personal and professional growth?  If a candidate was completing a degree, would you tell him/her that your 12-14 hour days and intense environment make no room for continued education?  Can a person have Work / Life balance at your company?

What would my bonus be based on?  Candidates like bonuses based on their personal performance, because it is within their control.  “Subjective” or “Discretionary” are not good answers, and candidates discount that part of the compensation when they consider your offer.

Have you had any layoffs or RIFs in the recession?  Candidates may ask probing questions due to the economic issues we’ve faced.  It is best to be candid  – they will find out from peers anyway.

Do you feel I’m a fit for this position?  Some candidates are “closers”.  But most leave interviews either thinking they did great, or not being able to tell.  It is better to candidly tell the candidate if you have concerns, because it might surface additional useful information that can shape your decision.

This is just a brief sampling of the dozens of questions candidates might bring to an interview.  To incorporate “recruitment” (attracting as well as evaluating the candidate) into the screening process requires an employer to be well prepared with good responses.

When Hiring Managers Switch Gears

Monday, June 5th, 2017

If you are in internal recruiting, 3rd party recruiting, or you are an HR leader, you know that one of your worst nightmares is when your Hiring Managers change the requirements for a hire in the middle of your recruiting effort, sometimes right in the middle of interviewing a slate of candidates.  Often, they will insert new requirements, saying, “Well, none of the people you presented had ‘X’!,” even when “X” was never part of the original spec!  Another similar obstacle occurs when a key decision maker, perhaps a top executive, who may not have been part of the original spec conversation, inserts a new requirement at the 11th hour.  This can even happen with a finalist candidate, who has already been thoroughly vetted by other members of the team.  Changing requirements when a search is underway derails the search.  It causes a reboot of your efforts, wastes time, and delays the new hire.  It costs you money in lost opportunities (with an empty seat or an ineffective person in the seat) and duplication of efforts.

Why does this happen?  How can you prevent these changes?

Hiring managers make unpredictable changes when the job spec you are recruiting from isn’t the whole story.  When they (and additional decision makers) have other ideas in mind for the hire, and you don’t know those other criteria, your project can plunge into chaos.  Here’s what you can do:

Complete Job Spec:  Don’t use old, outdated or incomplete job specs.  The position probably has changed.  Don’t base your job spec just on duties / background.  Include the objectives for the role.  Make the hiring manager articulate what success looks like – what the new hire actually has to get done.  A Performance-Based Position Profile goes a long way to ensuring no surprises.

Input from All Decision Makers: The biggest and most unpleasant surprise comes when a key decision maker rejects a candidate after others have approved the person.  HR people don’t want to annoy top executives.  But, the same exec will be disappointed in your actions if they don’t like the people you present.  So, take a deep breath and go get the info up front.  Ask the hiring manager what the end-game will be.  Who else will have to buy-in / sign-off on the hire?  Get input from those key people up front.

Musts/Nice to Haves:  When you are getting input from the hiring manager and all other key decision makers, differentiate between MUST haves and NICE to haves.  Send a follow up document stating the differences, and get validation.  You are creating a “contract”, an agreement, on the factors the candidate has to have.  Much easier than letting the hidden factors surface at the end.

What will they Ask?  Another way to make sure you have all the necessary input is to find out what your hiring managers and other decision makers will ask in their interviews.  The hidden criteria will often surface when you ask this key question.

Make the Case:  Of course there are valid reasons any candidate can be rejected.  However, if you and your team, and most of the relevant parties have said yes to a good candidate, stick to your guns.  Make the case to the outlier that the person really does fit what they said up front.  Defend a good hire if you think it is right.

Controlling the process and making sure you have full and complete info from all key decision makers is the best way to prevent unpleasant derailment of a search project.  You will fill the position more quickly, with the right person, and the Hiring Manager will actually like participating in a more precise action plan.

Why Not to Extend a Job Offer Too Soon

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Many employers, correctly seeking to act quickly on a good candidate, put together and extend offers as soon as they decide a candidate is right for them.  The minute the offer is extended, all control moves over to the candidate, and the employer’s ability to influence the decision, or help “close” the candidate is diminished.  An important strategy is to test-close or pre-close the candidate, mostly to surface non-monetary issues.

Indicate that an offer is being put together at level $X, and ask if the candidate would accept an offer “like that.”  Most will say “I’ll have to think about it.”  At that point, the employer or recruiter can ask, “What would you be thinking about,” and begin to dig further into what issues need clarification, what other concerns (beyond the money) are present.  Surprises will surface!  Perhaps the candidate is not fully closed on relocation, or on the counter-offer possibilities.  Maybe the spouse is worried about a new job, aging parents, kids in high school.  Some candidates are concerned with seemingly minor issues, like another week of vacation, or employee share of health insurance, or even how much per pound the moving allowance will be!  By finding out these variables before extending the offer, the employer remains in control of the information flow, can provide meaningful answers, counsel the candidate on the transition process, close sometimes inconsequential gaps, and get the close.

Once the offer is extended, the communication often stops, and the process becomes a poker game.  Candidates will ask for more money, but sometimes hesitate to discuss other meaningful decision points.  Many employers end up unnecessarily increasing the offer, to get a yes, when there are completely different issues at stake.

Take the extra time to find out what is really on the candidate’s mind.  Get the acceptance faster, with less pain, and often at a lower cost.

Why Behavioral Based Interviews With Context Are Vital

Monday, June 5th, 2017

More and more companies are moving to Competency Based (also called Behavior-Based) interviewing.  We feel strongly that Performance-Based interviewing yields better hires, when compared to competency-based interviewing.  We are advocates for doing the work during the interview to find the candidate’s precise skills in context (in directly comparable situations) that align with the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals that apply to the position.

Competency-Based Interviewing, focuses on specific personal traits, and seeks to find examples of how the candidate has demonstrated the trait.  Common traits included in this type of profiling include: leadership, teamwork, decision-making, ethics, communications, etc.  A typical CBI question would be: “Give me an example of how you have exhibited leadership in your job.”  Interviewers find CBI easy, because it follows a script, conversation flows, and it feels like a high quality information exchange.  There are several flaws and pitfalls to using CBI:

  • Candidates know how to win the game. There are too many books and articles instructing job seekers on how to prepare and rehearse great-sounding answers to CBI questions.
  • The information has no context – you won’t find out if the candidate can do what you need done. Even if the candidate answers sincerely, you’ll only learn how they behave in general terms.
  • You will end up judging the candidate based on presentation, not true capability.

Performance-Based interviewing takes behaviors and puts them in the context of the specific results needed when that behavior is used.  The performance-based approach requires an up-front definition of the performance objectives (SMART goals) for the job.  Once those are determined, each goal can be turned into a question that is contextual.  For example, suppose you need “leadership” to be exemplified specifically by improving profitability and efficiency.  Your question to the candidate might be: “We need this person to turn around production, improve efficiency and increase gross margin.  What specifically have you done that would prepare you to achieve this goal?”  Candidates can’t rehearse that answer.  Mediocre candidates will be uncomfortable, employ generalities, talk around the subject, and their lack of substance will be evident.  Highly qualified candidates will have specifics, facts, figures, percentages, and will be excited about giving you the answer.  The difference will be palpable to you.

Constructing a Performance-Based job description and interview profile takes more work.  The interview itself takes a more structured approach (than CBI), and being willing to dig for details – the evidence of capability in context.  The result is knowing that you can predict the new hire’s performance, and be better assured of success.