Recruiting a candidate is a bit like romancing somebody for a first date. Maybe there is some third party introduction. A couple emails get exchanged. Maybe a phone call or two are traded. The goal is to sit down face to face and discuss a possible future together. If things go well, then the candidate can meet the rest of the “family” and see if they approve. Those first few interactions will go a long way in determining whether this relationship will succeed or not. If we think of recruiting as a relationship dance, then maybe we should see the candidate experience as we would a first date.
Everything we do behind the scenes as recruiters and hiring managers should be about the tone of those first interactions. With a little forethought and very little investment, the first date can be a huge win and even if we don’t seal the deal long term, the candidate can still walk away from the experience feeling better for having been through it.
Here are four things that a company – regardless of size or influence – can do to create a winning candidate experience:
- Be polite when you write. Be sure and use a candidate’s first name in an email. Invite them to a conversation. Be professional, but not impersonal. Don’t assume they know who you are even if your company is a household name. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you say you’re going to call as a follow-up to the email, then call. When you call – be charming. It really does set the candidate at ease.
- Bring a gift. I met with a company once that had very little money and was struggling to get their hiring right. When I showed up, they had a little reader board at the reception desk that said, “Welcome, Scott, to XYZ Company!” (There were other names on there for other visitors as well). The receptionist led me to an interview room. On the table was a bottle of water, a file folder – again with my name on it – and a small box of mints, a notebook and pen. Inside the folder was an agenda, the Linkedin biographies of the people I was meeting with along with some highlights about the company and so forth. I felt quite at ease and welcomed. My meetings were great and that first “date” went off without a flaw. On my way out, the recruiter gave me a coffee mug with their corporate logo and thanked me for taking the time to come in.
- Make eye contact. Don’t stare down the candidate. Make direct eye contact when you first meet them and shake their hand. Direct eye contact will help a candidate feel less anxious and more welcomed.
- Reach out the next day. Candidates don’t want to be left wondering. They want to feel appreciated and respected. Call them or send them a personal email even if you have no news to share. Give them a quick update. Let the candidate know again that you appreciated their interest and their time and set the expectation about next steps and stick to it.
The first interactions with a candidate will have far reaching effects – good or bad – on our ability to successfully recruit in the future. A little forethought and planning on how we treat and communicate with these prospects during the initial phases of hiring can build a positive recruiting brand, yield great hires and improve the candidate experience for all concerned.