Blind Dating in the Workforce
I know it’s weird, but the analogy is accurate. Debriefing with candidates after their job interview is similar to asking them about their first date with someone they just met. “How did the call (meeting) go?” “What did you talk about?” “Did he/she say they will call you again?” The candidates nearly always begin by saying “I think it went pretty well.” But then, upon further probing, they open up and begin to describe all kinds of things about their encounter with the interviewer. I believe the word “candid”ate derives from this phenomenon – some people are very candid and honest with me about their experience. And to carry the analogy further, sometimes I get the intimate details about how well the interviewer prepared, their amount of listening and eye contact, and how long it lasted. From all this debriefing with candidates over the years it’s pretty clear that some interviewers need Cialis for Daily Use.
In 2019 great employees who are open to quitting their current job and accepting a new one are rare and hard to attract. They need attention, a feeling of connection, and maybe even some professional romance. This was not the case in the great recession of 2009. For every job opening there were 10-20 qualified, interested candidates, many of whom were laid-off and in active job searches, and employers could “select” from a list of A Players. Anyone paying attention has recognized that the job market has turned 180 degrees and if employers really want to attract a targeted, rock star candidate they need to compete for them. Once a candidate determines that they are open to making a career change, frequently because I called them and broached the idea, they don’t just pursue one opening – they pursue many. They think “If I go through the effort of updating my resume and preparing for interviews I might as well consider a range of opportunities.” They have to line up references, carve out time for interviews, and talk with their spouse about making a transition – this isn’t a cavalier decision.
All of this is great news for employees – we’re in a fantastic job market. However, it creates some challenges for hiring managers and those responsible for “recruiting” talented employees. In response to this changing dynamic organizations have developed a new mentality that’s best reflected in the phrase “Talent Acquisition.” It implies that hiring managers and HR teams need to work at attracting, vetting and landing high performing employees, rather than simply choosing among a pool of “applicants.” My experience as a third-party Search Consultant is that while the TA professionals understand the importance of attracting truly recruited candidates, that importance doesn’t always trickle down to the hiring managers, who often approach the process of “selection” as if they’re buying a shirt off the rack.
Many studies have been conducted over the years asking job-seekers about their motivation to change jobs and employers. Sometimes it’s based on relocation, more money, travel or lack of opportunity for growth and advancement. Very often, however, it’s based on management style, corporate culture, and “personal chemistry” with the hiring manager. This last variable presents an opportunity for a new employer, who is ostensibly “recruiting” to fill an opening, to win the so-called War for Talent. Like anyone on a blind date, a candidate wants to feel respected and engaged in the interview. They appreciate recognition for their prior accomplishments, and while they understand that they need to make a positive impression on the interviewer, they expect the same in return.
I used to think it was only interviewers at Fortune 50 companies who refuse to prepare adequately for telephone or live interviews – showing up late, reading the resume for the first time as they walk in the room or get on the phone, interrogating candidates rather than asking insightful, probing questions, and wrapping it up after 20 minutes. Now, however, I see this type of behavior at all types of organizations including those candidates have never heard of before, which is even more unfortunate. Other downers for candidates on the blind date: when the interviewer calls them for the first time on their cell phone while driving. Yes, sometimes that has to happen unexpectedly but good form would be to reschedule and provide complete attention. Candidates also complain when they don’t have the chance to ask any questions of their own during the conversation, particularly in later stage interviews as they’re trying to gather information to determine if the opportunity is good enough to consider quitting their current job and accepting a new one.
I met a VP of Marketing recently at a 60 person start-up. He left a global, multinational organization to become the first marketing employee at his company and to build a commercial team from the ground up. One of the first things he discusses in the initial interviews with candidates is why he made that change, the upside of the company, and the short and long-term benefits to the candidate of working there. He understands that “candidates” are only prospects at that point – they are gathering information as well as giving it, and he wants to make sure they are fully informed of all aspects of the opportunity – the good and bad. He’s been able to secure several high-quality people from large, well-known companies – who have had multiple promotions in short periods of time – who never would have considered his opening without that kind of recruiting approach.
Hiring is tricky – it is difficult to attract an A Player to a B opportunity, and all employees believe they are A’s and all hiring managers believe their opening is worthy of an A. As in dating, decisions are impacted by supply and demand as well as timing and urgency. In the end it is the hiring manager’s decision as to whether or not they want to carry a vacancy for a prolonged period of time, doing the job themselves while they wait for the circumstances to change for an A Player to want their job. The time-to-hire can be dramatically reduced by shifting the orientation from “selection” to “recruitment.”
Although the staffing dance can be difficult, I’m happy to report that many of these blind dates are very positive experiences for those A Player candidates. They call me right after the call or meeting to debrief and report that the interviewer was well prepared, engaged, and provided a lot of information about the company, the function, and their management style. If candidates express interest in moving forward, I always ask them why, and by far the most common response is because they really like the interviewer and felt a good connection. So the good news is that you don’t have to be a “Rocket Surgeon” to figure out how to attract good people, you just need some common sense, respect for the candidates, and a keen understanding that the job market has shifted dramatically over the past ten years and that we need to compete for talent. As always I welcome your questions and comments.