Interviewing and Recruiting Strategies to Attract the Best Applicants

Feb 25, 2016

Remember what business was like from 2008 to 2011? The economy was difficult, to say the least, and if you were one of the lucky companies to be hiring employees during this time, you were most likely inundated with a surplus of candidates. It was not uncommon to hear of 30, 50, 100, or more applicants for a single position. HR teams were lean and often overwhelmed by the response rate to their open positions. Recruiting strategies were different then.

The most challenging part of hiring a new employee during these years was wading through the endless supply of candidates to choose from. Each and every candidate perfected their sales pitch to illustrate why they should be the chosen person for the open role. It was not uncommon for seriously overqualified applicants to apply for lesser positions and lesser pay. Individuals and families were relocating all over the nation at alarming rates to find work.

In 2016, times have changed. The economy is doing much better, unemployment rates have dropped significantly, and jobs are rather plentiful. However, has your company changed your interviewing and recruiting strategies to reflect these economic changes?

As a Market Leader for one of the nation’s leading recruiting firms, I see firsthand the varying styles and philosophies companies use in regard to recruiting, branding, and interviewing. Companies who successfully implement and adapt their interviewing and recruiting strategies will undoubtedly attract the best applicants and ultimately be a step ahead of their competition.

Recruiting Strategies

All too often companies rely on the same interviewing and recruiting strategies they employed 10 years ago and “hope” for success in today’s market. While old school recruiting methodologies will continue to give results – maybe even decent results depending on a company’s brand, image, and reputation – it is those companies that are diversifying their recruiting platforms that are attracting the best applicants and winning the war on talent.

The type of recruiting strategy used should largely depend on the type of position being hired and the focus the position represents within the industry. Is the pool of ideal candidates tech savvy, do they rely on publications for industry related news and job openings, would peer groups and associations give the position the most exposure?

While there are no one-size-fits-all recruiting strategies, there are key elements that all successful companies understand such as brand recognition, well written job descriptions, prompt feedback, and exposure. The leading cause of frustration for job seekers is lack of feedback, lack of transparency, and companies lacking the salesmanship to convince a potential candidate on why to join their company.

Onboarding and branding begins with the recruiting phase. Your hiring managers, HR team, and recruiting professionals act as the face of your company and are often the first contact with candidates. Are the individuals that represent your company during the recruiting phase representing your company in such a manner that fosters excitement and interest within the market? Are they communicating efficiently and in a responsive and timely manner with candidates? Are they equipped with the knowledge to have technical career conversations with the candidates?

Educating the market is a common component of a successfully executed recruiting strategy. Is your company telling the market “this is who we are, this is what we do, this is what we are looking for, this is why we are better than our competition, and this is why you should join our company?” If not, it might be time to retool your recruiting strategy.

Branding Strategies

How is your company perceived in the market? This is your brand image. How you view your company might differ greatly from how external people view your company. Your recruiting strategies might be the best in the industry, but your reputation or your brand is how you are perceived in the marketplace, which may directly affect your chances of landing talent from the best applicants.

If you don’t know what people think of your company, find a way to get transparent feedback on the subject. You might be surprised what you find out. Don’t rely solely on online forums such as to gauge how others perceive your company. Let’s be serious, 95% of people that post reviews online are typically bitter and upset. Rather, you should illicit feedback through your interview processes, exit interviews, peer groups, and through trusted advisors. Do everything in your power to address these concerns and promote the positives to better influence job seekers in the future.

Companies brand themselves every day and in every conversation. For example, let’s assume you interview ten people for a position. Nine of the ten people will not get the job, however, if your team creates an environment of professionalism, transparency, eagerness, and every candidate walks away impressed by the process they are likely to market your company for you by word of mouth. Also, just because a candidate is not a fit for one position doesn’t mean they will not be a perfect match in the future for a different position. If each candidate that speaks with your company walks away impressed by your process and feels important in the interview process, then they will likely come back and consider opportunities or be more willing to refer friends and peers to you in the future. This alone is a huge untapped resource for creating a stronger brand, which greatly helps when you want to attract the best applicants.

Interviewing Strategies

Interviewing is often the most overlooked component of finding the best applicants. Since the economy is doing better, wages are higher, and competition is fierce, it would be wise to nurture any and every advantage you can over your competition.

Interviewing by definition is a way to evaluate an individual’s ability to perform a specific task or duty. Interviews are established to screen, evaluate, and ultimately select the best candidate for a given position. However, if companies are not careful, they will alienate the job seeker (candidate) in the process. Interviews can often become one-sided whereas the company is so concerned with evaluating and narrowing the list of candidates down to the chosen finalist, they forget to sell the candidate(s) on why they should join their firm.

Countless times I have witnessed companies narrow the candidate pool down to single person only to have that individual turn down their employment offer. Many companies expect final candidates to show a high level of eagerness and motivation to join their company. While it is fair for a company to want the candidate to be engaging, interested, and motivated, it can often hurt your chances of landing the best candidates if the company doesn’t portray the same motivation, salesmanship, and attraction to the candidate during the interview process.

The best candidates in today’s marketplace often already have jobs. They are individuals that are employed, but are open to better opportunities, if such an opportunity is present. Because these candidates are often happily employed and not seeking other employment, they need to be sought after. They need to feel special and valued to make a job transition. They need to feel that a change in employment is in their best interest because they have an awesome opportunity to grow in their career. The days of candidates begging and pleading for a job are over.

Interviews should largely be regarded as a tennis match. Both sides are volleying conversation back and forth to prequalify their interest in the other side. An interview itself is to establish mutual interest, not singular interest. A candidate must be competent, experienced, and capable of bringing value to the employer. However, the employer must meet the expectations of the candidate as well. Maybe a given candidate wants a better team atmosphere, more responsibility, better work/life balance, a more reputable company to work for, etc. But at the end of the day, the candidate wants the employer to like them, to want them, and to pursue them.

From the employer’s side a proper interview strategy will address and succeed in attracting a candidate’s interest while also prequalifying their ability to do the job at hand. Minimally, if the applicant is not the chosen candidate, they should walk away feeling confident in the employer and interested in future positions.

The Final Philosophy

Companies are devastated when the candidate they have been courting rejects their offer or pulls out of the race before a decision can be made. This occasionally happens during the interviewing process and is difficult to abolish completely. However you can certainly minimize the number of times you get turned down. It starts with aligning the company’s recruiting, branding, and interviewing strategies. Ensure that every candidate is in contact with a member of your company. Be sure each individual walks away from the process feeling impressed, empowered, and hopeful for future positions. With a little effort and planning, you can educate the hiring managers on interviewing strategies that will help you land the best applicants every time. Companies are as strong as the employees they have working for them. Imagine what this would do for your business if you employed this philosophy consistently for the next five years. Where would your company be?

About the Author

Justin Wilkins

Justin joined Kimmel & Associates in 2008, first serving in the mechanical and power industries. In December 2017, he was promoted to Vice President, and he now leads the Industrial and Energy Division, where he oversees renewable energy, sustainable infrastructure, high-voltage transmission and distribution, oil and gas, midstream, water and wastewater, and various other industrial niches. Justin works with investment funds, owner/developers, contractors, OEMs, and operations and maintenance providers.

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