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Best Practices for Recruiting Top Talent: Avoid these Common Mistakes

In our quest to help early-stage, high growth technology companies find the talent they need to grow their businesses, we hear it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly of recruiting talent in a candidate’s market. We’ve seen some searches drag on for months, and exceptional candidates drop out at the offer stage. We’ve also seen organizations bring exceptional talent on board quickly and effectively when they embrace a few best practices. 

Here are a number of common mistakes we’ve seen organizations make in their attempts to attract and hire great talent, and some strategies for avoiding them: 

 

The Requirements are too Narrow

In a perfect world, you want to hire people who have already solved the problem you need solved, in your industry or vertical, within a reasonable distance of your location. They’ll have deep subject matter expertise, a stellar track record, and be open to making a move. 

The challenge with this approach is two-fold: first, it means that your candidate pool may be extremely small depending on your criteria. Second, most candidates don’t get excited about lateral moves. They want to grow their careers, learn new things, and take on bigger and more complex challenges. If they’ve already done it, they don’t necessarily want to do it again. 

Make sure you are crystal clear on the problem the candidate is being brought in to solve, and then look for ways to relax your requirements. If you have a great deal of subject matter expertise in-house, can you relax those requirements? What is the geography you’re targeting? Can remote work or flexible work arrangements broaden your search area? Make sure you’re clear on what is absolutely required, and what’s just nice to have. 

You may need to open up your requirements to attract the candidate you need. We recommend that you focus on hiring the person who can solve the problem you need solved—not someone who checks every single box on a list. 

 

You're Not Selling the Mission or Vision

Unless you happen to be one of the handful of “hot” tech companies that everyone wants to work for, chances are that your brand reputation alone isn’t enough to attract top-tier candidates. Even if you’ve gotten some great press lately, it can be dangerous to believe that your company is so great that of course everyone wants to work for you. 

We understand the impulse—you know that your company is a great place to work, and it seems obvious (to you) that everyone would be lucky to work with you. But this assumption can prevent you from effectively painting the vision of your organization in a way that will attract your ideal candidate. 

We recommend that you include someone who is great at selling the mission and vision of the organization early on in the interview process—the Founder/CEO, a top sales executive, or the leader of the department the new hire will be joining. They should take the time to help the candidate envision a successful future at your organization, and get them excited about the opportunity. If you’re asking a candidate to do a ton of screens with HR, a skills interview, and a work sample before they get excited about the opportunity, you’ll likely end up with lacklustre candidates, or a high level of drop offs. 

 

Your Process is Too Slow

If a candidate is active in the market, then it’s safe to assume that they are interviewing with other organizations. If you’re slow to move through your interview process, you can expect that some of your top candidates will accept another offer and drop out of your process. Are you ok with that? 

Some roles are more urgent to fill than others, of course. If you know that your interview process will be a bit slow for a less urgent role, communicating that to candidates proactively can go a long way. Don’t let more than a few days go by after a call or interview before you inform them of next steps—even if your next steps are to sit tight for a few weeks while a key decision maker goes on vacation, or while you interview for other more urgent roles. 

And for those mission critical, “need someone in the role yesterday” positions, be flexible about your interview process. Are you willing to fast track someone who you’re excited about? 

And most importantly—when you’re ready to make an offer, don’t wait. If it’s taking a week for HR, the hiring manager, and the leadership team to hammer out the details and draft a formal offer letter, you risk losing that candidate.

Your Compensation Isn't Competitive

You’ve likely seen articles online that argue that compensation is no longer the most important reason candidates decide to make a move—this is true, but only up to a point. If your base salary and bonus structure aren’t competitive with the market, you’re going to have a very hard time landing top talent. Perks only go so far. 

If you’re regularly losing candidates after the compensation discussion, it’s worth taking the time to evaluate your comp structure. Reach out to your network, check out our series of Salary Insights, ask for a consultation with a recruiting firm that specializes in your industry, and check to ensure that you’re offering attractive salary. 

If you’re hiring for a cash-strapped startup and have a cap on salary, look to things like equity, health benefits, flexible work arrangements, and other perks to make up for the difference—and then commit to bringing comp plans in line with the market as soon as you possibly can. 

While many employees factor things like the mission and vision of the organization, the length of the commute, the opportunity to work with a great team/leader, etc. into their decision making, a low-ball offer will pull them out of the process all together. We’ve noticed that for candidates, compensation is an emotional subject—it speaks to their value. But for organizations, compensation is just a cost of doing business. Remember that exceptional candidates will generate far more value for the organization than their salary, and make your offer accordingly. 

 

With all the growth happening in the tech industry, early-stage high-growth companies are struggling to compete for top talent. By avoiding these common roadblocks and embracing some best practices, you can increase your chances of hiring the calibre of candidates you need to drive your business forward.

Are you ready to grow your team? Book a brief consultation with our friendly and knowledgeable team of recruiting professionals today!