The candidate was just not interested in the role. The duties seemed lateral, the pay bump nominal, and moving to a new city felt daunting. Then the recruiter mentioned that the supervisor would likely be looking for their replacement soon.
Suddenly, the level of interest surged.
I’ve seen this happen dozens of times before in the recruitment arm of our business that does placements with a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens. People want to know the role they will get after the one for which they are being considered. And yet the interview process dwells on the person’s fit for the job opening, rather than showing them a career path.
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said last week that the labor market remains “out of balance” with only “modest evidence” of cooling off. The economy overall seems to be softening, but employers are hanging onto workers and still struggling to find talent.
That makes it more important than ever to get the hiring process right—which, in turn, means helping candidates see themselves not only in the role, but as part of an organization that cares about their future. Here are five tweaks you can make to your process to become or remain an employer of choice:
Know that the path is everything.
Focusing on where a job may lead, in addition to what it is, is critical. Explains Fabienne Lauture Gordon, a recruiting leader for Zillow: “Candidates want to be seen for their talent and skills, but also seeing where they still have room for growth.”
She suggests hiring managers get specific on their track record of helping employees develop: “Talk about where they still have room for learning and your ability as a leader to coach,” Gordon says. “Share more about your past experience to grow others. How many of your direct reports have been promoted or have grown their scope because of your ability to coach?”
Examine your process and remove excessive steps.
Many companies, conscious of wanting to be more inclusive in hiring, are ripping up old playbooks. In an attempt to eliminate bias from the process, they assemble interview panels, ask for memos or mission statements, conduct personality tests.
But consider how the last guy (usually a guy) who had the job got in there. He didn’t have to jump through so many hoops. Why is it different for diverse talent?
Assess each of the steps and touchpoints, from outreach to application to interview to offer. What feels extraneous? Are there really six stakeholders or can you knock it down to three? Is your memo clear on what is being asked, or is it a guessing game?
Once there’s an offer, do you have a designated point person (hiring manager or recruiter or human resources) to answer questions and quickly approve additional asks? In our recruitment business, we’ve seen too many cases of talent getting lost in the email shuffle, with one manager checking the egg-freezing policy and another trying to get approval for attendance at a conference.
Bring up balance.
Speaking of perks and benefits, don’t leave the onus of asking about work-life balance on the candidate. “Employers must see talent not just for what they can do, but who they are. You've got to make it clear that, in this role, your wellbeing matters as much as your performance,” says April Rinne, author of FLUX: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change.
Employers should begin the relationship, even pre-hire, with an atmosphere of trust. “This means, for example, revising HR policies to allow talent to decide how much time off they need, and opportunities for talent to update their own job description,” says Rinne. “Accepting a job offer from a company that does this becomes markedly easier, because you're seen more fully and can tap into your own agency.”
Similarly, Zillow’s Gordon suggests one concrete way to demonstrate support for the full person: “Learn what the candidate is passionate about and create space in their scope for 5% of their time.” (That’s about three weeks of the year.) She recommends tailoring job offers and tweaking roles and job descriptions to accommodate the final candidate’s motivations, whether that’s compensation or the desire to learn a new skill like design or management.
Leverage the power of affinity and community—and make that extra phone call.
More than two years after the pandemic began, candidates are still searching for purpose and community in their workplaces. Three-quarters of companies say employee resource groups help them with retention, according to a study last year by Salesforce.org and the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals. Some 55% say ERGs help employers recruit and hire.
Anisha Nandi is the CEO and co-founder of Verbate, a platform that helps companies manage and grow their employee communities, from single parents to Black engineers to veterans. “Especially in a hybrid or distributed work world, companies say that these communities are incredibly effective at demonstrating to recruits that they’ll experience authentic connection and belonging in their workplace,” she says. “We’re approaching the point where there’s an ERG that speaks to the experience of every employee at your company.”
If the candidate has shared information about their identity or identities during the recruitment process, Gordon says it’s a great idea for the head of a resource group to make a phone call and answer any questions on creating community or belonging.
She also encourages hiring managers to call candidates after they’ve received an offer to reiterate enthusiasm and opportunities for development. In some cases, a call from the CEO or a well-known employee can also go a long way. Gordon calls these “a confidence call.”
Lay out the 30-60-90 plan.
It’s not too early to expose candidates to your company’s onboarding process. A 30-60-90 document—which lays out a roadmap for the first three months on the job—allows them to envision themselves and get comfortable with the potential change. “Painting a picture of what onboarding will look like quells the anxiety of the unknown,” says Gordon.
Most companies have given little thought to these all-important transitions. Showing more of how thoughtful and organized you are as an employer can truly help clinch a decision in your favor—and lay the foundation for a long and mutually fruitful relationship.