How Recruiters ‘Close the Deal’ With Job Candidates

There's a power shift going on in hiring markets today. Candidates are more in charge than you think and this requires a change in employer thinking.

March 22, 2017 – With an economy that just keeps rolling along, many employers are faced with a difficult workplace challenge: How to attract talent in a candidate-driven market.

In any business cycle, whether it’s up or down, the initial connection with a prospective hire is the easy part. Getting them on board, especially when markets are this robust, is much more difficult. And the transitional period between first contact and final offer, what recruiters commonly refer to as ‘closing the deal,’ is now the most challenging stage in what used to be a highly choreographed routine.

A simple job offer is no longer enough to attract the best talent to any organization. Job seekers at every level know their skills are in demand, therefore they’re more selective than ever before, and many interview with multiple employers simultaneously. Candidates, in essence, manage the hiring process end to end.

Power Shift

This shift in power requires a change in employer thinking, as well as among recruiters who are on the front lines identifying the candidates at the outset. To ensure an organization can secure the talent it needs to remain competitive, all parties involved in hiring and onboarding — from talent acquisition to human resources to the hiring manager and the recruiter — need to approach the process with one mindset.

“It only takes one bad experience to change a candidate’s mind about an opportunity they were once excited to pursue,” said Jesse Siegal, vice president of recruiting firm The Execu | Search Group. “That’s why it’s so important to impart consistency into the hiring process. Trust is the foundation of all strong connections, and consistency is key to building it.”

New Candidate Profile

It’s become clear over the last several years that the job market has been not only recovering, but transitioning. Consequently, the latest changes wrought have given way to an entirely new type of candidate profile. Interestingly, working professionals themselves are leading the way — and they’ve become all too aware that the current candidate-driven job market puts them in a ‘power position’ where they can be more selective when making career decisions. They now have a wealth of resources at their disposal to determine whether their current employer is offering them benefits or opportunities that are competitive with current market trends. For them, that knowledge is translating into control ….. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.

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In order to make the decision to accept an offer, candidates need to feel that they have been shown an authentic, well-rounded view of the role as well as the company, Mr. Siegal said. “It’s impossible to do this if the candidate is receiving mixed messages or inconsistent information at each touchpoint of the process.”

To effectively ‘close the deal’ with a candidate, he noted, companies need to ensure all hiring decision makers are on the same page in these key areas:

1) The Role

The first step to building a structured interview process is ensuring all relevant parties have a full understanding of the role and what it entails. If the job description varies from person to person, this can be a major red flag that there is no clear definition of the position. Without fully knowing what to expect, candidates might fear that the job they originally applied to might turn out to be something completely different, and as a result, bow out of the process altogether.

To eliminate any miscommunication about the role, said Mr. Siegal, make sure everyone meeting with the candidate is aligned on these basics: the title, the department, the manager, primary responsibilities, and potential growth opportunities.

2) The Vision

Similarly, all interviewers need to be able to speak to the company’s mission and how they envision the role or particular individual complementing it. Professionals in today’s market want to work for a purpose, so helping them understand how their unique skillset and contributions will fit into the big picture is a key — yet often overlooked — step in the interview process.

To convey a united message about the vision of the role, all hiring decision makers should debrief each other on: the business’ objectives and how they relate to the role; how this person would contribute to the company’s bottom line; the challenges the role will be addressing; and how the role will help the company make an impact on the industry, the world, it’s stakeholders, etc.

3) Company Culture

Working for an organization with a unique and attractive identity has always been important to professionals, but today, it matters even more. In fact, an increasing number of professionals won’t even entertain an offer unless they feel confident that they fit into the company culture. As a result, it’s not enough to simply say you offer the elements of a great company culture. Instead, you have to prove it by giving the candidate an accurate view of what it’s like to actually work for the organization.

That’s why culture is another area where consistency is critical, said Mr. Siegal. Everyone, from the chief executive to any prospective team members, need to be selling the same message about the company’s beliefs and practices. In sum, you’ll want to be able to highlight all the unique reasons why someone would want to work for you, while speaking to the candidate’s specific qualities that make them a great fit for the organization.

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The above practices can help hiring leaders develop an interview process that leads to a more positive candidate experience, improves the offer acceptance rate, and ultimately helps build organizational reputation. Although it’s always important to strive for consistency, the human element of interviewing does allow for a margin of error.

That’s why it’s also important to be open to candidate feedback. In the case where the prospective hire might have received conflicting information or didn’t feel the interview went well, a quick follow up call with their main point of contact can help clear up any confusion, while reinforcing the trust they have in the organization.

Executive Recruiter’s Perspective

Douglas K. Anderson, founder of executive search firm Anderson & Associates, said recruiters play a vital role in helping keep a client’s message consistent and in serving as a bridge between the company and prospective hire. 

“Most of the time that we’re doing a search, we’re trying to recruit somebody from what is already a good situation, and our client just happens to offer a potentially better opportunity,” said Mr. Anderson. “If in the probing and thorough evaluation by the candidate they sense that there are some differences of opinions and they’re not healthy ones, then the candidate is not going to make a change.”

A good recruiter, said Mr. Anderson, will always be on the lookout for potential problems in the message a company is sending to a candidate, and resolve it, if possible, before it becomes an issue. “By and large, we’re working for a hiring executive – in most cases it’s the board of directors or the CEO – and they’re the company’s representative,” he noted. 

But, he said, “if we pick up things in discussion with the CFO, for example, or the chief operating officer, or the chief marketing officer, that are different than what the CEO is espousing, then we’re going to bring that to the CEOs attention so that we can try to get them on the same page. You don’t want the candidate picking these things up if indeed they’re fixable. It may be that the company, or a couple of key executives, are not on the same page, but the candidate needs to know that.”

It might be that the CFO believes one thing that’s slightly different than the CEO, he said. “It’s important that we do know these differences and can speak to those differences to the candidate.” The better recruiters look at the hiring process as a long-term marriage between the company and the search firm, with candidates front and center, he said.

“We want to make sure candidates understand our client company and all the important nuances that company has, so there are no surprises,” he said. “But that’s not always the case when you do recruiting. There are some recruiting organizations that are interested in making a match and that’s the end of it. It’s a transaction,” he said. But with top line search firms, it’s all about the relationship. “There’s a big difference,” said Mr. Anderson.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor — Hunt Scanlon Media

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