Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Care and Feeding of Prospective Employees: Part I Staying in Touch

The issue in recruiting, even in this terrible job market, is always finding the right talent. Because of the paucity of jobs, companies wrongly assume that they can hire anyone they want – if they wait long enough, the exact person they want will come along. As a result, those jobs that exist are very background specific. In essence, clients tell me, “Find me someone who has worked on moist cat food is left handed and who owns pets. And don’t send me anyone who has worked on dry cat food. And don’t forget, they have to fit into our culture.”
The search can take weeks, sometimes months. And when this person finally surfaces, they are often taken for granted. Days, sometimes weeks, can go by between interviews with no word in between events. Companies often wrongly assume that everyone who interviews with them wants to work for them. As a result, they believe candidates will simply wait until the company completes its interviewing process and makes an offer, This is where a good recruiter adds value to the interview process. Among the things that an effective recruiter does is to keep prospects enthusiastic and engaged, no matter how long the process takes. But these days many companies feel they can save money by bypassing recruiters and fill their jobs themselves.

So here is some advice when there is no recruiter.

Good talent is indeed hard to find . Treat candidates as you would want to be treated. That’s right, the old “Golden Rule” for all people who see your company. Candidates need to be courted, wooed, engaged and loved. All too often, hiring managers and others in the interviewing process forget that one of their functions is to make sure that good talent does not slip away. It is fair to remember that the people you see are interviewing you as you are interviewing them.

I recently wrote about a person who went through six interviews in a day at one agency. And then over a week went by (actually more than two), with no feedback. The candidate was turned off (and so was I). Feedback is essential. Hiring managers need to immediately insure that the people they have interviewed, especially those they like, receive immediate feedback. If there are next steps, applicants should be given a timetable and told about the process in order to manage expectations.

If the process is going to be very long, someone needs to be assigned to keep in touch with the candidate at regular intervals. Communication is critical.

The worst time is often after the final interview. Many agencies need to complete extensive paperwork and obtain numerous approvals prior to extending an offer. Often this can take a week or two and sometimes longer. Recruiters can keep candidates informed and excited, but when there is no recruiter, all too often candidates feel as if he or she has fallen into a black hole. When there is no communication, people tend to fear the last interview went badly and assume the worst. This is the time when a formerly enthusiastic candidate is vulnerable to other opportunities and, possibly, offers.

Companies tend to be corporate-centric. They cannot imagine anyone wanting to work anywhere else once they have been interviewed and often take their job applicants for granted. Managers need to understand that during the pitch process, a well placed phone call, email , lunch or drink can do wonders to maintain enthusiasm and loyalty. The entire hiring process needs to be treated like a pitch.

So when you finally find the left-handed person with moist cat food experience, who is perfect for your agency, stay in contact until the process is finished.

I would love to hear your stories about the interviewing process, both bad and good.


  1. I think it is also very important that when an agency is inteviewing a senior-level candidate, that the candidate be interviewed first by somebody at the agency who knows and appreciates what they have to offer. Too often I have been in interview situations where the person grilling me had no idea what I did. It was very frustrating and made me feel that the position couldn't be very important if an HR person, instead of the actual hiring manager or exec, determined the first cut.

  2. Nice to hear there's life on the "other side". The silo-mentality is alive and well in the USA! I sometimes wonder if I have 2 blond hairs too many for a senior position...
    and have recently discovered that Europeans actually respond to emails, no matter how busy...and do stay in touch!
    Same here with the no-clue grilling

  3. This is a fantastic piece...as someone who has been "interviewing" for close a year now; it still amazes me that people have no common courtesy. It's not until you hound someone for two weeks do you get an answer. And this is someone who has reached out to me. How difficult is it for a quick one line e-mail to say, "we are still interviewing", "the process is taking a little longer," or even, "thank you, but we've moved in another direction." I'd take any, even the last, if it brings closure.

    What also surprises me is I hope for their sake, they never have to be on the other side of the desk and see how they are treating potential candidates.

    I do realize it is a buyer's market right now, but are firms willing to go weeks, even months to find that "needle in the haystack" because he/she is out there. What about the client's needs, how long can you hold off a client when they ask for their new Account/Creative/Research person.

    I could go on, but I think everyone understands my point...feedback, good or bad is most appreciated and remember, the shoe might be on the other foot someday.

    Thank you.

  4. Thank you, Paul, maybe this will help.



I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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