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Promises, Promises: The Wooing of Candidates

Humareso Blog Posts-6-PromisesThe wooing of talent takes skill, determination, availability…and a bit of luck. We don’t like that luck part. It’s out of our control. I can make myself available. I can improve my skills in rapport development, full spectrum sourcing, and job marketing. I can put the dedicated time in. But catching someone at the right place, right time and in the right mood? That isn’t in our control.

The default for some recruiting pros and hiring managers is to overpromise in order to manufacture luck. Creative career mapping opportunities are well-delivered but based upon no actual history of offering such options to existing staff. A commitment to knowledge deepening is espoused, but often there is no time or budget committed to this endeavor. Warm affirmations regarding the company values are wrapped like a blanket around the candidate, but the existing staff have yet to find that blanket.

The lies that are told (yes, I am calling them lies) lay a foundation that requires an all-or-nothing response from the candidate. You’ve given them everything you can – money, culture, opportunity promises – and that sets up extremes. If the candidate accepts these conditions and joins the team, only to then find out rather quickly that no such opportunities are ready to be presented (nor may they ever be), then the quick departure occurs. Hiring managers return to scrambling to fill the once-again open role (usually citing the previous person to be a “just didn’t fit” employee) where they will return to promising experiences unlikely to happen.

On the other hand, if the candidate calls the bluff and asks to speak to a current employee or two who are doing the same or similar work (yes, that happens at times), recruiters know they’ve been had. How could they let the candidate ask about these, at best, exaggerated opportunities to the current team? Won’t the staff finish that conversation with the candidate and march directly to the manager to ask when their developmental options will begin? The all-or-nothing is setup and it’s impossible to unwind.

Recruiters and hiring managers need to stand firm in following some basic principles of talent wooing:

First, speak the truth. Offer what is, not what you might hope will be, unless you clearly define the difference. It’s okay to say that, with the potential addition of this particular candidate, we hope to be able to expand our educational investment opportunities. We don’t have a timeline on that, but that is our clear hope, though not present today. Candidates appreciate the truth. They don’t want to feel snookered.

Secondly, anything that is offered in the interviewing process is up for grabs in the accountability game. A candidate should be able to ask when they might expect an update, should they accept a position with the organization, as to when these pieces hoped for are planned or are happening. Open-ended hopes will likely become closed-ended bitterness within the first six months of employment. By establishing timelines for check-in wrapped in accountable practices for delivery, the new employee has a clearly defined expectation to hold you to.

Thirdly, never underestimate the power of a realistic job preview. Offer the candidate to speak to employees who may not be part of the decision-making process. In fact, have the candidate speak to a champion as well as one who may not be overly enamored of the company (don’t tell me they aren’t in your company; they are). This is the most holistic view they can get. By putting those conversations forward as an option in the process, the candidate gets a strong sense that you’re not trying to hide behind something. Proactive transparency is attractive to candidates.

Promises aren’t the enemy; it’s the delivery and the follow-through. Can you confidently stand behind what you have just promised? Is it a real possibility or is it wishful thinking? You know which one it is; don’t lie to yourself, and certainly don’t lie to the candidate.


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