Secrets to Attracting the Best Candidates

Are you a leader who is plagued with an ongoing battle to attract quality applicants? Do you spend an unnecessary amount of valuable resources to replace people who are leaving…over and over again? Does this confuse you when it seems like your organization has everything to offer that an employee could want?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you – like millions of others – are unknowingly letting highly qualified candidates slip away. The rules of engagement for attracting and hiring candidates has changed drastically in the last handful of years. Employers who were previously lulled into a false sense of comfort in knowing there were more candidates than jobs to fill, are now facing a harsh reality check with the changing economy.

Candidates have the upper hand in the job search, and employers are fighting a brutal war on talent to attract the best people. In fact, professional recruiters and savvy human resource executives will tell you that the current job market is overwhelmingly candidate driven. That means you don’t pick the candidate anymore. The candidate picks you.

Fortunately, it is never too late to have a new beginning and you can change your fate when it comes to hiring the best. Consider trying these best practices to find and hire the best people despite the talent drought that is occurring nationwide.

Look at your organization through the eyes of a candidate

Take the time to see what they see when deciding if your organization is worthy of a closer look. Try to remain objective. What is your organization’s reputation? What message does your website send to prospective employees? What type of vibe is your organization sending out through your presence (or lack of presence) on social media; especially on reputable business social media platforms like LinkedIn? Recent research released by LinkedIn shows that more than 75% of job seekers will do thorough online research about your organization’s reputation and employer brand before applying. Employers with a bad reputation or lack of awareness regarding the reality of their reputation, will struggle to attract candidates. Compare your job postings or ads to those of your competitors. Navigate your career site to find and apply for a job. Visit one of the many “rate your employer” websites to see what your current or former employees are anonymously saying about their experience at your organization.

Stand out and they will come!

Product differentiation is a basic marketing concept that applies to effective recruitment practices. It is based upon how a product distinguishes itself from others to make it more appealing to a target market. If you can do this effectively, you will have a competitive advantage over those who don’t. Tell candidates what makes your opportunities different from the countless others they’ve come across during their search. What is different about your organization? What makes your culture unique? What would be different about your organization versus what they are doing now? Why would they want to work at your company? Don’t overlook the criticality of developing a recruitment marketing strategy. Gone are the days of only needing to worry about how to market your product or services.

Make the candidate experience a top priority.

Recruiting is sales. Each candidate is your customer. This is a lesson I learned early on in my career, and it has served me well. The good news (for you) is that most companies are neglecting their candidates throughout the hiring process. As a result, they are losing out on talent each time someone has a bad experience applying for a job with their company. This gives you the perfect opportunity to stand out when trying to attract the best! In a recent CareerBuilder survey of more than 800,000 workers nationwide, 15 percent of job candidates reported having a worse opinion of the employer after they were contacted for an interview.

Make your candidate’s experience positive. Have the courtesy to tell applicants exactly what they can expect during the interview process. Then, follow-through on providing them with the experience you’ve laid out for them. Put yourself in their shoes and be sure to keep them in the loop if there is a delay in decision making. Provide them with a transparent picture of your organization, the position for which they’re being considered, and the team with whom they’d be working. Tell them about your culture, and where you see your organization headed. Candidates who have had a positive experience throughout the entire recruiting process are more likely to accept your offer, stay with your organization longer once hired, and refer others to work at your company. Don’t allow your recruiting team to be rude and inconsiderate to any candidate during the interview process. Ensure a high level of responsiveness in returning emails or phone calls to applicants. If you are partnering with an executive recruitment firm to handle your hiring, make sure their commitment to the candidate experience matches your needs. In the eyes of your candidate, the recruiters and hiring managers who are representing you are your organization.

Don’t let qualified candidates slip away.

Process streamlining is an operational practice that efficient organizations do well. It should also be a focal point of your hiring efforts. Do you have a career site that is functional and easy to navigate? Are there drastic time lapses in your application process? Are you creating unnecessary hoops for candidates to jump through just because it’s always been done that way in the past? Are you showing candidate insensitivity by inviting your top candidates back for an additional interview four, five, six or more times instead of efficiently scheduling interviews with the key stakeholders earlier on in the process? Remember that these impressions give candidates a true glimpse at your organizational culture. It is important to avoid creating frustration, which will result in a negative experience. Often times, your top candidates may drop out of the process entirely and never return. Or, they may be snagged by other employers who have a more organized and efficient interview process.

Hire smart!

Don’t make the age-old mistake of being overly rigid with what you are requiring when there is room for flexibility. For example, if you are requiring “10 years of experience,” don’t automatically disregard candidates with less. Instead, focus on the kind of experiences they’ve gathered in their career. Some candidates may have gathered what you are looking for in a shorter time. Others may take longer. Take a fresh look at your absolute “must haves” and what you can live without. Never forget that you can always train the right candidate.

Above all else, remember that the best recruitment strategy is retention. Happy hiring!

Elizabeth P. Cipolla is an executive consultant specializing in the areas of regulatory compliance; organizational development; strategy; executive coaching; leadership development; executive search, and organizational communication for nearly 20 years. She brings leadership experience from various industries including aerospace, apparel, e-Commerce, education, government, human services, insurance, manufacturing, media, and nonprofit. To contact Elizabeth, email her at