Are Your Red Flags Turning Away Good Job Candidates?

It is now a job seekers’ market, so to continue to attract the best talent, a company must build on practices that develop a strong reputation as a good employer.

With a strengthening economy and expanding job market, the hiring pendulum is swinging back in favor of job seekers. According to an article in Fortune, “the jobless recovery has breathed its last breath.” The “best of the best” are especially hard to hire, as these candidates may have multiple opportunities before them.

This is true in regards to the executives I recruit. Within the last year I have seen a clear shift in candidates’ optimism and a rise in their standards and expectations for potential employers. Approximately half of job seekers see their current position as temporary, even if they are happy, according to one survey, suggesting that candidates are actively looking around.

What does this shift in power mean for HR executives and hiring authorities? One thing is for certain: It is an opportune time to reevaluate hiring processes. This doesn’t mean wholesale changes or outrageous salaries but rather subtle shifts that may send candidates positive vibes rather than red flags. Here are some points to consider:

Avoiding Red Flags: Hiring Processes

  • Communicate early and often. The most common complaint job seekers have about the search and interview process is “crickets” after the first or second round interview: What does this mean? Are they dismissing me? Checking my references? Am I still a candidate?

No candidate, especially an executive, wants to be left in the dark. Every step of the process needs to be clearly communicated, even if there is nothing to report. Let them know when they will hear back, if they should expect another interview, when the final decision will be made, etc. Not doing so can quickly sour a company’s reputation among job seekers, which is not a good idea in a tightening talent market.

  • Respect candidates’ privacy. Especially in high-profile job searches, executives and other job seekers will not want to reveal their candidacy to current employers. This is to be expected; why create possible tension in the workplace without the guarantee of a new position? Hiring authorities must be sensitive to this issue, especially early in the recruiting process. During the early stages of recruitment, only a candidate’s on-list references should be contacted. Once the interview moves into the final stages, more in-depth referencing can be expected. Respecting candidates’ confidentiality is an essential hiring practice.
  • Be ready to act. I counsel clients to make an offer to the chosen candidate as soon after the final interview as possible, ideally that same day. This means that, before that interview, the hiring executive or committee must anticipate terms of employment, scenarios that may occur in final negotiations, and a plan for offering. The likelihood of a candidate accepting an offer diminishes as time passes.

Avoiding Red Flags: Your Company

  • Be transparent about turnover. This is a time of transition for many companies, especially in industries with major disruption, such as health care and higher education. CEO turnover is at record highs. Several factors influence this trend, including the large-scale retirement of Baby Boomers.

What is more important, however, is how executive and staff departures are perceived by potential candidates. It could signal a struggling company and could turn away individuals who are looking for stability and a place to reach their career goals. Confront turnover, real or rumored, head on with candidates and make clear how the company is working to retain its best executives and employees.

  • Bridge the age gap. How does your company look to different generations of outsiders? Are you “old school” and unappealing to the Millennial (or Generation Z) workforce? Do you put too much emphasis on technology and turn away those Baby Boomers who appreciate more traditional business practices? Do employees of different generations get along? It is a delicate balance and one that requires special attention, especially in a time when, as Pew Research Center points out, the framework of the U.S. workforce is shifting.
  • Maintain the message. In the news or on social media, or on career sites such as GlassDoor and LinkedIn, plenty of opinions are shared about strengths—or weaknesses—of employers. No matter what is being said about your firm, or how it is rated, be proactive in responding to criticisms and making sure your voice as an employer gets heard. “It’s time for leaders to focus on strengthening their organizations’ employer brands,” urged an article in the Harvard Business Review. No reputation is spotless, but potential employees respect an organization that defends itself fairly.

This is a job seekers’ market, to be sure, but the power ultimately rests with the hiring authority. To continue to attract the best talent, be sure to build on practices that develop a strong reputation as a good employer. Create a strong pipeline of leaders for years to come, well after the pendulum swings again.

David Boggs is practice leader of WK Advisorsa division of Witt/Kieffer offering mid-level and senior-level executive search consulting services. WK Advisors provides a high-quality solution to recruiting administrative and clinical department directors and assistant vice presidents. Boggs identifies leaders on behalf of hospitals, health-care systems, academic medical centers, medical schools, and managed care companies. He is based in Louisville, KY.

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