How to Attract Top Talent in a Competitive Market

Posted by Vicki Marlan in SelectInternational blog
Recruiting Top Talents

After years of reading headlines and hearing news reports about the bad economy and high unemployment rates, it should come as welcome news to job-seekers that the numbers of job openings are at record high levels. Even though manufacturing jobs are still not above pre-recession levels, many industries have increased hiring in recent years, or at least sought to replace employees leaving due to turnover. With more competition for job openings, companies that were once “the only game in town” now need to stand out to job applicants who now have a greater pool of positions to apply to. To do that, organizations might need to try a bit harder than they had to in the past to attract top talent.

Attracting top talent doesn’t need to be some mythical “pie in the sky” goal for companies. However filling positions with qualified and motivated candidates is certainly a process that can take some time and planning. To do so, it’s important to first understand the motivations of many job candidates. Sure, there are some candidates who are just looking for a steady paycheck. But to others, finding a good fit is critical, which is a differentiator for staying in a role for one month versus ten years.

People spend more than half of their waking hours at work, so it’s natural for a job applicant to want to find out what their prospective employer’s environment and culture is like. Companies can do this by providing candidates with an accurate overview of what the day-to-day tasks and requirements of the job will be, however, the method by which this is done can make all the difference. Read on to find out the best ways for companies to attract top performers and stand out from other employers.

Provide a face-valid pre-employment assessment or job preview.

This means that if at all possible, provide candidates with a way to self-select out of the hiring process. Simulations, videos, or assessments with content that mirror the work that the candidates will do on the job are a great way to provide candidates with a glimpse into the day-to-day work at their prospective company. Giving candidates a sneak peak of the company and role is good for all parties involved; even if the candidate decides the job is not for them, they will likely be grateful that they found out before starting the job, and the company’s bottom line will be positively affected by not hiring candidates who will immediately turn over.

A realistic job preview (RJP) can also be opportunity for a company to share its perks or quirks with candidates; this is information that a candidate would like to know about your organization, that sets it apart from competitors. Of course, an on-site spa or free lunch sounds impressive to prospective hires, but even something like free parking or maternity/paternity leave that extend beyond legal requirements are great benefits to provide in an RJP, or even include in the job advertisement.

Avoid creating red tape, and respect candidates’ time.

If there is a way to streamline a company’s hiring process, it’s beneficial for the employer AND applicant. Sometimes, there isn’t a logical need for candidates to fill out both a paper application and an online application. Using a web-based system can allow candidates to apply to a position on a company’s website, and then complete screening questions that can automatically remove the candidate from the hiring process, or progress him to the next step. An online application can free up hours from an HR professional’s day that can be better used interviewing viable candidates. It is also a positive from the candidate’s perspective because they don’t have to waste time or gas going to fill out a paper application.

Additionally, if your company has not recently taken a closer look at each position’s hiring process and identified areas to streamline it, I would recommend that you do so. If the organization deems it necessary to invite a candidate to interview with five different people, hopefully, that process does not equate to the candidate being invited to interview on five separate days. Out of respect for the candidates—particularly those who are top tier and already employed, therefore likely needing to take time off of their current job to interview—it’s best to coordinate interviewer schedules to eliminate multiple interview visits, if possible. Particularly when recruiting for technical or in-demand positions, your company could lose out on qualified candidates to a competitor if the hiring process is lengthy, or if the individual feels it is not worth their time to jump through the multiple lengthy hoops presented to them. Additionally, even if your company’s culture and perks are awesome, candidates who are unimpressed with the hiring process may not choose to accept an offer of employment.

This last point leads us to another important related suggestion attracting (and retaining candidates) throughout the hiring process.

Keep candidates informed.

Particularly because bad publicity spreads fast via the Internet, but also because it is the right thing to do, respecting your job applicants’ time and efforts is important. This means that even if you decide not to offer a candidate the position, it is good form to notify them. A phone call is not necessary; a simple mail merge email will take maybe 5 minutes, which will allow you to send an automatically-generated email to all rejected candidates. This can translate into goodwill for your company, as candidates will know that their application did not go unnoticed, however, it can also save you time because you will probably have fewer candidates calling about the status of their application. Bulk emails are not appropriate for all candidates, though. For higher-level candidates, and arguably all candidates who attend in-person interviews, a personal email might be more appropriate. Using a softer touch to “let them down easy” can be a good idea, especially for candidates who might be considered for future roles (and if that is the case, feel free to let them know).

To ensure that your company gets first pick from the candidate pool in your community, examine your hiring policies. Is your company standing out from your competitors by having a streamlined hiring process that provides applicants with a clear idea of what your workplace is like? If not, think about incorporating some or all of the above suggestions, and hopefully your company’s pool of top-tier candidates will increase.