Candidates are the lifeblood of a recruiting firm—without them placements don’t happen. And for companies that are looking to grow their teams, the difference between an ok candidate and an exceptional one can have a real impact on future growth. Good recruiters should strive for a trusted advisor status with their clients and cherish the relationship of trust and credibility they have built with their candidates. And yet, I continually hear stories from candidates about recruiters neglecting the candidate experience.
There’s an easy way to differentiate yourself from the competition in the recruiting industry: be nice to your candidates. Yet, all too often I hear stories from candidates, some of them shockingly bad, about recruiters who neglect the candidate experience and leave them in the dark with no feedback, no follow up, and no professional courtesy.
For CEOs and Founders of growing startups, this creates a troubling challenge. The experience of candidates—from when they are first approached about a position through the interview process—creates a perception of their brand in the market. A great candidate experience can create a positive buzz that attracts top talent to a growing organization, just as a negative experience can sour exceptional candidates from even considering a role.
If you are the C-level leader of a growing business, you need to engage recruiters who not only share your story with the market in a professional manner, but also treat people as you would want them to be treated. Your recruiting partner needs to consider themselves an extension of you and your team. They need to go to market with the mindset that they are representing you with every interaction. What they do reflects on you, good or bad, and they need to accept this solemn responsibility and embrace it.
Your recruiting partner is the first person most candidates will talk to about your company. The message that you want to share with the market will come through their voices. Having a recruiting partner that is tightly aligned to your vision, values, and ethics is essential. They also need to be respectful and professional. In an industry with no barrier to entry, any jerk with a phone and an email address can call themselves a recruiter and go fishing for business. But only the very good ones take the time to differentiate themselves from the pack, with not only professional courtesy and effective engagement but also a consistent message that reflects your values and culture and will not tarnish your brand.
So, when you’re selecting a recruiting partner, how can you be sure that they will represent your brand accurately and professionally?
Look for partners that have a clearly defined niche. Recruitment firms often focus on particular industries and verticals, as well as particular roles. This allows them to focus their efforts and become true experts on the talent landscape. A specialized recruitment partner can double as a consultant—they will understand the skills and experience required for the role and how that compares to the talent pool, as well as the type of compensation package that will be attractive to these candidates.
Look for partners that have a clearly defined process. A recruitment firm should be able to walk you through their process for conducting a search step-by-step. Watch out for generalized firms that use a “post and pray” approach—where they post the ad to various job boards, have a look at their existing database, and hope that the right candidate will show up. A recruitment firm that cares about candidate experience will work to craft a compelling message about the opportunity, research and reach out to candidates, and diligently respond to each individual as their questions and concerns arise. They will also work with you through the interview and offer process, making sure that candidates are informed about the timeline and next steps, and answering any questions that arise—ultimately ensuring that when you’re ready to extend an offer that you’ll have a qualified and excited candidate ready to accept.
Pay attention to the questions they ask about your company. In order to accurately represent your organization in the market, they need to have a deep understanding of your company: the mission and vision of the founding team, the story of where you’ve been and where you’re headed, the dynamics of the team and the company culture. A recruiting firm that rushes you into an agreement, or isn’t interested in understanding your business, is likely approaching candidates the same way—without understanding their experience and qualifications.
In a candidate’s market, talented and in-demand employees have a lot of options. They can pick and choose the recruiters they want to work with out of their inboxes, and ignore the rest. They can also choose to tell their networks about an experience being recruited for a new company—which can be a great boost to brand awareness, or sour the market to working with you before you even get started.
I am always delighted to read the words “I usually ignore these InMails from recruiters but yours was intriguing.” This is a validation of what I am attempting to accomplish on the client’s behalf—I have told their story in a compelling way and attracted interest. The real test of a good recruiter now begins with how they manage the candidate experience—how they prepare the candidate for each interview and make themselves available for feedback. I take great pride in managing this part of the process as I know this quality candidate experience will reflect only good things on my clients in the short-term and my ability to network opportunities with that candidate in the future.