Go back in your mind to your dating years and think of a time when you first met someone who sparked your interest. No doubt, you made it a point to put your best foot forward, to show them what a great catch you were and then went on to give them clues that you were interested. Whether it was laughing at their jokes, flirting a bit, or reaching out to touch their hand as you spoke – you let them know, perhaps subtly, (perhaps not so subtly?), that they had your attention and interest.
Did you realize that those little clues accomplished several things simultaneously? First, your obvious interest probably caused them to stop and consider whether they might have an interest in you as well.
After that, it gave them the confidence to open up more to you, and lastly it gave them the green light to move forward with making their own interest known. Even if a relationship never developed, no doubt you made a lasting impression on them!
But suppose you made your interest known and the other party was less than enthusiastic or maybe they asked for your phone number but weeks went by and they never called. I'm confident that you quickly moved on and your interest began to wane. There was a brief opportunity there – and either way, they missed it.
As an employer, you have the opportunity to spark the interest of highly qualified individuals at any given time. Unfortunately, once a candidate has expressed an interest, even when they're viewed as highly qualified initially, interview processes can often be fraught with obstacles that are designed to give them the opportunity to fail.
When interviewers take a “wait and see if you can convince me” approach during the process, or drag the process out for weeks with no feedback, candidates often begin to talk themselves out of the job. They start to think of all the reasons why the didn't really want it to begin with. And once they've begun the process of selling themselves on not wanting it – you've missed your brief opportunity.
I always advise candidates to approach every interview with complete enthusiasm, to sell themselves and what they can bring to the position and to go all out in letting the company know just how interested they are. I remind them that they cannot be halfhearted in their approach and then decide half way through the process that they're interested because while they can always turn down an offer, but they will never get another opportunity to make a first impression that will GET the offer.
I've seen companies, however, who have been halfhearted about candidates during the process. Despite the qualifications of those short-listed for interviews, they been non-committal in their approach, or drug the process on while they waited to interview 3 or 4 others just for comparison. Remarkably, they're shocked when the interview process finally winds down with an offer to a candidate – who turns it down.
Despite what you may think – highly qualified candidates are in very high demand right now and the best of the best have several opportunities to choose from. In order to truly attract and hire the best, we've got to woo candidates in the process. Once a candidate's attention has been sparked, we've got to let them know early and often that we're genuinely excited about what they can bring to the table.
I read an article recently that stated in a perfect world that every candidate invited to interview would be treated as if they were imminently qualified – not put into the hot seat to prove that they were. I agree 100%. But going beyond even this, we need to get back to selling the opportunity and the company to them. We need to move quickly to the offer stage so that they don't have time to talk themselves out of the job.
In short, once we see that the interest is there, every step should be about wooing them, showing them our interest, progressing towards the final stage of offering and having them accept an offer. Let's get rid of indifferent and non-committal attitudes, let's build on the momentum and excitement – let's bring back the romance.