Recruiting? Make Your Candidates Look Good!

I’ve been thinking about the process of recruiting talent into an organization.  In close to 20 years of recruiting it is the rare organization that puts the human equation before all else when it comes to recruiting.   Ironic as it may seem (because it is), the focus all too often for recruiters, human resource leaders and hiring managers is to create a process that works best for them and for their organization, without much thought for the candidates they are seeking to hire.

I was very glad to come across this article in the Wall Street Journal, “Building a Process for Recruiting the Best” by Scott Weiss.  Although he is describing a recruiting process for startups, I think Weiss’ suggestions apply to any organization that wants to create the conditions for successful recruiting of top talent.

Too often organizations have an arrogant posture throughout the interview and recruiting process.  The performance of the interview team is analogous to conversing with a person who is “all about me” — and we all know how difficult it can be to spend time in conversation with someone who disregards “the other”.

It’s important to ensure that in every step of the recruiting process the candidate feels welcomed.  Too often I’ve seen hiring managers and other interviewers keep a candidate waiting beyond the scheduled time for the interview.  Of course the underlying message that is being sent to the candidate is, “I have more important things to do.”  Having the right talent in leadership roles is critical for a company’s success yet the process that is often put in place doesn’t conform to the need.

Recently a client told me about an interview he had with HR that consisted of what he experienced as “trick questions”.  Creating an interview process in which the goal is to trip up a candidate rather than bring out the best in her/him is an example of what I see as an “arrogant / all about us” recruiting process.

Here’s where using emotional intelligence and having the ability to create a space for  intimate conversation comes into play.  By intimate I mean creating a conversation that goes somewhere unexpected, perhaps the interviewer shares something from her/his work experience that didn’t go well as a way to ask about times the candidate has failed and what s/he learned from their failure.

A smart organization is thinking about which managers are in the best position to create a thoughtful and efficient interview process that allows the team to really get to know the candidate.  Not everyone has the capability to do this.  Some interviewers will sneak a peek at their emails while interviewing, will take a call or even step out of the room and leave the interviewee sitting there dumbfounded.  I’ve heard this kind of feedback from candidates more times than I’d like to think possible.

Creating and training a talented interview team is key to good hiring.  Not only do interviewers have to know the right questions to ask, perhaps the more importantly, they have to work on their performance during the interview.  Simple things like a strong handshake, eye contact and a smile can make all the difference for the candidate.

When putting together an interview team some questions to ask might be: Does this interviewer have a high level of emotional intelligence? Will this interviewer make a candidate feel comfortable? Is this interviewer an active listener?  Can s/he create a conversation that might very well go somewhere unexpected? Can s/he frame questions that help the candidate do her/his best at conveying their unique qualities, experience, creativity and ability to add value to the organization?

How can organizations create a better recruiting process?  By putting themselves in the shoes of their candidates.  As one of my recruiting mentors used to say, “It’s simple, treat people the way you want to be treated.”  Put your focus on “the other” — be giving.  A good performer always makes her/his fellow actor look good.  Make your candidates look good and see how that changes your recruiting process.