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Recruitment is a Sales Process Step #1: Finding Quality Candidates

Recruitment is a priority equal to all your other top business priorities. Like them, it requires a strategy. For years, we’ve advised companies that they should think of recruitment as a sales process. For most leaders, that takes a different mindset. In today’s competitive job market, where candidates have the upper hand and we’re challenged by the Great Resignation, we think it’s time to revisit how to find quality candidates, which is the first step in your recruitment process. The three overriding principles that should guide your strategy are:

  1. Treat every candidate with the same care you do customers, cultivating relationships that begin with your first ad and continue through onboarding. Integrate that same level of care into your culture because retention is part of your recruitment process.
  2. Be genuine and truthful in your communications, from employer brand to one-on-one interviews. Don’t just say it, be it!
  3. Remember, it’s not one thing, it’s everything you do that makes a positive impression on candidates. Pay attention to the small things.

Job seekers notice whether your job postings are enticing or boring. They experience how well you treat them through the interview and assessment process: do they feel like an afterthought, or do they feel respected and valued at every step of the way? They see on your website how you describe your culture and values and measure them against your reputation. Why do you do what you do—have you expressed it clearly? And what’s so special about your leadership—why should people have faith in you? Consideration of these things and much more is the foundation for a well-defined, and essential, recruitment sales strategy.

In the end, candidates decide to work for you for the same reasons they buy your products or services: largely because they’ve come to trust or like you based on how you make them feel. Like sales, strategic recruiting is a constant, every day, full-time effort. Keep the three principles above top of mind as you create a feeling of excitement and belonging that wins quality candidates to your team. Here’s how:

Before you do anything else, broaden your hiring efforts to include internal candidates who are already a cultural fit and can be trained to take on new responsibilities. Many are looking for opportunities to grow and you risk losing them altogether if they aren’t considered.

The majority of candidates check out your website before applying for a position. Make sure your employer brand is positive and comes across in a clear and compelling way. Check Glassdoor to make sure that company and employee messaging are consistent.

Don’t simply post ads in the usual places, use a mix of employment branding, marketing, and selling geared toward telling both active and passive candidates why they should want to work for you.

Instead of thinking of recruiting as a one-time thing, use a CRM tool and text messaging to drip-market to candidate pipelines, and allocate resources to contact candidates 8-12 times to get them engaged.

Keep the application process fast, flexible, and intuitive. In this tight job market, speed is critical. Candidates won’t wait for you or suffer the indignity of slow or no response after spending their time and effort applying. Promises of “we’ll get back to you” with no follow-up can make a mockery of your brand.

Don’t just hint at what your purpose and culture mean to you; tell it in a story so that candidates “feel” what it’s like to work for you.

Interview time is critical, and managers are usually terrible at it. Interviews should be a two-way street; make it a conversation and offer interviews outside regular hours.

Recognize and embrace the reality that the majority of today’s employees prefer to work in a hybrid mode, and a significant percentage want to work remotely. Offer candidates choices and flexibility whenever possible.

Embrace technology; automate but don’t replace the human touch. Eliminate technologies like chatbots that don’t provide answers and create endless circles of frustration; include an optional mobile application process. Tech tools are especially important in attracting younger generations.

Appreciate that lower-skill, hourly-pay positions are typically customer-facing roles. Employers who show they value their hourly people by enhancing both their recruiting practices and working conditions will be the ones that win and retain these essential workers.

Today’s top candidates want to know what you’re doing to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It has become a business imperative that your brand and reputation include a strong commitment to DEI as well as an employee base that’s congruent with your customers. Companies lacking diversity are losing both candidate interest and business opportunities.

Rather than waiting until you have an opening, build a pipeline of qualified candidates so you have a broad choice of “right” people for critical roles whenever the need arises. Use the many tools available to create strategies that add speed, quality, and diversity to your recruiting efforts.

Don’t stop with successful recruitment. Make retention part of your recruiting strategy and put equal effort into both finding and keeping your people. Replacing employees is much costlier than keeping them. The experience you provide candidates at all levels indicates to them how you’ll treat them as employees. When your process is respectful and personal, and communication frequent and thoughtful, candidates become excited about working for you over a competitor who hasn’t made a similar investment in building candidate relationships. That investment is in developing your recruiting strategy around a sales process.

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