A recent article penned for Inc by Suzanne Lucas made the bold statement: “Dear Hiring Manager, Perhaps You Should Write the Thank You Note.” She continues: “The traditional thank you note is from candidate to hiring manager, and that is wrong.”

It is an interesting shift…that happened years ago.

Any owner, hiring manager, HR leader, or recruiter reading this knows that we live squarely in a candidate’s market.  They have the power and we (those that need their skills) must kiss the ring.  If your firm wants to win the war for talent it may be time to evaluate the power paradigm, and your hiring process, through a new lens.

So where to start?

Put yourself in the candidate shoes:

Candidates have choices, many choices, as they look for new work.  Firms are battling not only each other for top talent but the firm that employs the candidate.  Your firm needs to be on-point with each interaction you have with candidates.  You must have a clear message about your culture, your goals, the position the candidate is interviewing for and the future potential this candidate has at your firm.

Consider this:

  • How much time do you expect a candidate to prepare for the interview with you? How much time do you spend preparing for that same interview?
  • You likely have asked the question “so why should we hire you”. How receptive are you when a candidate questions “why should I come to work here?”
  • Checking candidate references from past employers is a probable interviewing step; candidates volunteer these regularly. What would your reaction be if a candidate asked to check references from those who had worked under your supervision in the past but were no longer with the firm?

These are just a few scenarios, but it does help to demonstrate how the power has shifted.

Make a plan, work the plan:

Secure more insights than exists on the candidate’s resume. Schedule time with your recruiter to go beyond more than “the individual is looking to take that next step in their career” and instead have a solid understanding of what the candidate does not have currently and is looking to have within your organization. Know what is most important for this candidate to learn from your initial meeting as it relates to what he or she is looking to accomplish in this career move.

Additionally, make sure you know “why your firm” – why this candidate wants to talk with your firm as opposed to others. What is it that initially sparked their interest, and how you can expand on that to have the candidate walk away with their own motivating factors addressed?

Finally, know “why not” – any concerns this candidate has in areas such as the cost of living (if relocation is involved), or stability, or any other detail no matter how large or small. This is the opportunity to address them, either openly or candidly, throughout the interview.

It’s the Little Things:

Small things stand out, especially in a thriving economy and candidates have the opportunity to interview with multiple organizations. Take a moment and look at your physical office space through a new lens.  What does someone entering your space see and experience?  Is your boardroom, interviewing space, or personal office dated and could use some modernization?  Do you have anything on the walls that showcase your organization’s accomplishments, or highlight your culture?  Think through the impression you make as it relates to your physical office space.

This also goes for your interview team.  Are the team members passionate about your firm?  Can they demonstrate that passion and excitement in the interview process?  Are they able to answer the complex questions a candidate might have?  An educated, prepared, enthusiastic hiring team is a critical component of a successful hiring process.

Be a good host.  When the candidate arrives, give them bottled water without them having to ask or accept it. When the candidate leaves, consider an exit gift of some sort – a small item with your logo on it or something personalized based on what you know about their interests or background.

The Sell:

Take some time to craft concrete answers or success stories around questions such as the following:

  • What are the primary reasons someone would join your organization instead of another firm?
  • What is the specific and measurable career path?
  • What in-house resources do you have that give people a competitive advantage? What external resources?
  • How does your company differentiate itself from other competitors in your niche, and what would this mean to someone joining your firm?
  • What is the tenure of your senior staff? What benefit does that provide a new associate?
  • What future growth plans do you have for your firm? What opportunity does that create for someone?

Even if the candidate does not ask the direct question, you want to remain confident that you are articulating “why you” just as much as you are trying to determine “why them.” If, during the interview, a light bulb switches on and you have the revelation that this is the exact person you need to hire, the better you can articulate your true value proposition the higher the chance that candidate will want you as much as you want them.

The war for talent is real as are the consequences to your firm’s productivity, work/life balance, and bottom line.  And there is no end in sight to the battle.  To win, DON’T be what you are not!  You don’t need to be like firm “X” or company “Y”.  Just do a good job of showing who you are and what you value!

Now gear up and good luck!