Since next week is Valentine’s Day, we thought it only fitting to write about the relationship between two parties – and how to move it to the next level. Most of us have been there before – we’re ready to commit but the one we’re courting just isn’t quite so sure. It can be heartbreaking. You, the hiring manager, have finally found the ideal candidate – a match made in corporate heaven. But the candidate has cold feet. It’s not that he doesn’t love what you have to offer – it’s just that he doesn’t LOVE what you have to offer.
We may sound like a broken record, but in case you haven’t noticed, there is a shortage of top IT talent with high-demand skills. Finding “the right one” is a major challenge IT hiring managers are quickly discovering as we settle into 2011. Agile’s white paper “Four Winning Hiring Strategies for the New IT” (I’ve provided a link directly to the paper – there’s no form to complete to download – think of it as a Valentine’s gift) provides recommendations on how companies can ensure they hire and retain top talent in the post-Great Recession. We’ve also blogged about how companies can retain top talent. But what are some sure-fire ways employers can turn their candidates on during the actual courting period? We’ve come up with a list to make that star performer more inclined to say “I do…accept your offer.”
- Have an attractive value proposition. Too often, we see organizations or hiring managers go on and on about how the candidate must be a good fit for them, forgetting that they need to also be a good fit for the candidate. When developing your value proposition, ask yourself “What does this candidate want that you can provide? What is important to them?” Once you’ve determine what it is that they are in search of, you can develop your value proposition around that need.
- Consider your employment brand and reputation. Employment branding is not about your company’s logo and advertising. Branding includes a wide range of factors including community involvement, office location, employee demographics, turnover, etc. Although you should play up the positive aspects of your reputation, you should also address any negative perceptions there may be about the company. It is better to offer an explanation that may provide clarification, than to have the candidate believe the situation is worse than it may actually be. Don’t forget to use your web site and social media to showcase your brand. Candidates can learn a lot about your company and employees from information gleaned on Facebook, Twitter and your LinkedIn group.
- Sell the vision. Communicate the company’s vision. Where is the company today and what is the strategy short-term and long-term? Also talk about the vision of the job the candidate is interviewing for. What is the specific role today and how might it change in the future? In addition, what is the career growth plan for the candidate or employees overall? What contributions will the candidate make to the organization? Usually, vision includes opportunity and you have to ensure the candidate knows he’s not walking into a dead-end job.
- Always impress. You know the old saying “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” There’s a reason why that sounds so cliché – because it’s true! You want to impress the candidate the moment they walk into your office. Make sure whoever greets him makes him feel like he just walked into the Ritz. Don’t let him just sit there while he’s waiting for the interview to begin – help him relax by offering a beverage or asking if there’s anything he needs. By putting an effort into the little details throughout the hiring process, you’ll make a positive impact on the candidate.
- Offer candidate access to “interview” employees. One way to reassure a candidate that your company is the best career choice is to introduce them to other star employees. Encourage the candidate to talk to these employees to show him how achievers have succeeded in building their careers at the company. This interaction will also enable the candidate to ensure that the company is the right cultural and intellectual fit. Candidates will sometimes say “I do” to a job that pays less than another offer if it allows them the opportunity to work with a brilliant boss and impressive staff.
- Provide a copy of all your benefits. This may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s the benefits that make or break the deal. Be sure to give the candidate a copy of benefits and highlight all the perks – work from home, tuition reimbursement, training/certification opportunities, profit sharing, day care facility, free/discounted gym membership, employee discounts at local retailers, etc. The more your company has to offer, the more attractive the offer becomes to the candidate, and the more difficult it will be for him to say “I don’t.”
- Communicate and follow-through. If you’re the hiring manager, give the candidate your business card and provide your cell phone for any questions that pop up throughout the courting stage. If you’re working with a recruiter, make sure to keep her in the loop at all times and understand who will be communicating what and when to the candidate. Send a follow-up email or overnight a letter immediately after the final interview that outlines how things went and next steps. A powerful tool you may want to consider when making an offer is having the CEO call the candidate directly. It will not only impress the candidate, but it will send the message that the CEO cares about her company’s people.
- Promote work-life Balance. This is becoming increasingly important to many IT professionals. Does your company promote work-life balance or are you known for incredibly long work hours? Many employees not only want flexibility in their work schedules, they’re demanding it. What is your work-life balance policy/philosophy? Do you offer flex time? Can employees work remotely? At Agile, staff is encouraged to work no more than 50 hours a week. We also get to work from home two days a week – and that is a huge deal given the nasty Atlanta commute!
- Show them the money. We know, this is so obvious, but it is a reality. Benefits and salary must be competitive or you can kiss your candidate goodbye. During the courting period ensure you get a complete understanding of the candidate’s views on compensation. If you can’t meet their salary demands, you may be able to offset it with outstanding health benefits and other perks (see above). The point is, you need to have the “money” conversation early on in the process so that you know upfront what is important to the candidate from a dollar standpoint. The more generous you are, the more enticing your offer will be.
- Act quickly. If you really, really love the candidate do not give him the opportunity to say “I don’t…accept your offer.” When you know you have the right person, move fast with an offer after the final interview. It’s best if you extend the offer personally over the phone. If you’ve done a good job selling yourself and your company, the candidate will be in a position to want to say “I do…accept your offer.”
What are some other tactics your company utilizes to ensure your top candidates will always say “I do?”