I received disappointing news this week. Since my recruiting team and I were having difficulty filling our client’s IT opening, we asked to meet with the team lead this week in order to understand how we can improve our search for them. During the meeting, the team lead shared feedback on how our interviewees fared against the job requirements. And then he said, ‘Your first candidate we interviewed was perfect. We recommended hiring him, but our higher ups said we can’t just hire the first person we meet. Later, when we learned he was off the market, we were upset knowing we missed out on a rare find. Can you see if he’s interested again, or find a way to clone him?!’
Ouch! On our end, learning this now really hurt because we originally did not know how excited they were about this candidate. The only feedback we received after that first interview was, ‘He was good, and we’d like to see more.’ We did know our candidate was a great match for their unique technical environment and soft skills needs, but had we known he was ‘the one’ we could have been a better partner scheduling next steps with other candidates at a pace that did not end up in this lose-lose-lose (client, candidate, and agency).
Unfortunately, I’m not really surprised at dealing with upsets like this. Over the course of 15 years doing IT staffing sales, I’ve experienced this scenario all too many times. Enough times that when we know we have an a-player for a new job we may talk about whether we should wait on submitting that candidate until we’ve sent one or two others that we’re less excited about. But in this crazy fast and competitive market, that can be risky and waiting can also ensure negative outcomes.
The funny thing is that we all fall into the decision making traps that great is not good enough, in fear of missing out on finding better. In hiring, shopping for a car is often a popular analogy. Once we’ve come to terms with desire of type of car, versus fear of not spending too much, we go shopping. We walk around the lot, consider options and confirm value of certain add-ons, and then we do test drives. It’s not uncommon where one of the first cars we see is the best option. It meets all our needs. The price is right. You’re comfortable with the sales person and don’t feel pushed into a decision. BUT, we just have to feel good about our decision, so we tell that sales person we have to go visit a few other dealerships, often returning disheartened that someone felt that same way about this quality find.
The important reality to consider here is candidates aren’t cars. While the buyer decision making is similar, the products are entirely different. This is why many agree staffing sales is so difficult; because people are your product and your product is unpredictable. So how do we avoid falling into the trap of losing our best car option when it comes to candidates? A few ways can be;
Strategic time investment: Spend some extra time up front with your staffing partner to clearly define your needs, timeline, process, etc. Often, by investing this time on the front end, saves you time in dividends on the back end dealing with unhappy surprises due to unspoken expectations.
Gather intelligence in order to know how long a great car may stay on the lot, I mean great candidate stay on the market.
- Ask your recruiting partners how the market is on this skill set.
- Do they think the pay is competitive to lure appropriate level of skills/candidate value?
- Where are they looking and what they’re finding?
- Where is this advertised and is anyone responding?
- What are candidates saying about the opportunity?
Keep the feedback flowing regularly: The more a manager gives feedback on their likes/dislikes with candidates, the more a staffing partner can refine their process and share what the market offers.
Creative financing: Is there a ‘lease with the option to buy option’? If you think you have that good enough candidate for a permanent job, should you consider a contract to perm on boarding model in order to feel assured s/he is the right candidate. The try before you buy model helps give this peace of mind and ensures you didn’t miss out on a best option.
Purchase only lemon law: If has to be a permanent hire, do you feel good about the guarantee in order to pull the trigger at the right speed?
Trustworthy staffing partner: this can be so important at decision making times like this. If you can trust that your staffing partner puts your needs first, collaborate with them and brainstorm to understand best options. They’ll want what you want – for you to make the best hire, feel great about it, and minimize risk.
The list can go on and on, but hopefully this is a good foundation to making sound decision and avoiding pitfalls.