Don’t lose out on excellent candidates. Adopt these strategies to gain a competitive advantage in hiring the best.

By: Adam Kaner and Megan Driscoll

In such a competitive industry, every company is looking for a way to get ahead. You may have the newest equipment or the most cutting-edge technology, but these are things that your competition can duplicate.
What they cannot duplicate are your employees – your employees are the ones who bring innovative ideas to fruition. They are the ones who drive sales and profits. To hire top talent, you need to have a plan. Here are a few points to adopt to gain a competitive advantage.

Every hiring manager wants to find a superstar who can do it all from soup to nuts. However, sometimes the resume is only half the story. Hiring managers.who refuse to speak to a candidate who does not appear
to be a perfect fit on paper result in jobs that stay open and unfilled for 6 months or longer. There are always specific technical skills that are required when evaluating candidates, but it is typically the intangibles that separate a good candidate from a great candidate. When reviewing a resume, there are a few things to remember. Candidates need to be compared to the job requirements, not to each other. By bench-marking candidates against one another by comparing who looks the strongest on paper, you are going to miss those who may be a better overall fit. Hiring managers often say that cultural fit is just as important, if not more important,  than the technical fit, and this is true. Although you may find a candidate who on paper can do everything from A to Z, it does not mean that the individual will mesh well with the group or have the drive and energy to complete tasks in an efficient manner. Taking the time to speak to those candidates who “might” be right prevents you from missing a diamond in the rough. Quite often, hiring managers will revise and mold their open positions to fit these fringe candidates. Because after speaking with the candidate, the hiring managers cannot imagine their department without this individual in it. Do not waste the opportunity to speak with someone just because you do not see all the right words listed on paper.

Before any candidate interviews, everyone on the interview panel needs to be on the same page about who, what, and why you are hiring. Determine the must-have technical skills and make sure everyone understands these. It is difficult to gather consistent feedback when debriefing if everyone on the interview team is looking for something different. Your interview team also needs to understand the scope of the position. It is a sign of poor internal communication when each interviewer is describing a different set of responsibilities. This is a big red flag and the reason a lot of candidates ultimately decide to not move forward. Along with knowing the role and requirements, each interviewer needs to prepare for the interview. This does not mean glancing at a candidate’s resume for the first time 30 seconds before meeting the person. Everyone should review the resumes of all candidates they interview prior to meeting them so that the interviewers can make the most of their time. They need to be able to ask specific questions about the candidate’s skills and career goals, as well as what motivates the candidate. Simply walking through the candidate’s work history is a waste of everyone’s time. Employ the process of behavioral interviewing. The premise is that past behavior is a predictor of future behavior and getting a candidate to describe situations from their previous roles will allow you insight as to how they would handle similar situations at your company. Always keep in mind that you are not trying to hire the candidate who can interview the best; you are trying to hire the best candidate.

Never assume that anyone is sold on joining your team prior to meeting the team. What is often forgotten is that an interview goes two ways, and you need to impress every candidate who walks through your door. Just as a candidate has to sell him- or herself, the interviewers must effectively sell the company and position. Candidates want to know what makes the company exciting today, where things are going in the future, and how they will play a part in that success. Hiring managers should spend time outlining the 2-5 year plan for the role. Candidates want to see upward mobility and feel like they will be a making an impact if they choose to join your company. It is the hiring teams’ job to clearly paint that picture for them and provide the extra push that motivates the candidate to make a move.

A slow and drawn-out interview process is the number one reason why organizations lose candidates. Making a decision to accept a new position, especially when the candidate is currently employed or when relocation is involved, can be emotionally driven. Understanding this and using it to your advantage can be the difference in hiring an “A” player and having to settle for a “B” player. Acting quickly at each step of the process whether it is scheduling a phone interview, an on-site interview, or making an offer is the best way to build up positive momentum in the hiring process. This is how the top-performing companies consistently hire the top talent. When there are long delays between each step, it sends the message that you are not serious about hiring and results in candidates losing interest in the position. Often times a candidate is technically and culturally a fit but the manager decides that he or she needs to see someone else for comparison. After a few weeks of looking that produce no one better, the manager may finally decide to move forward with the original candidate-but it is often too late. The original candidate has either accepted another position or lost interest, resulting in the need to start the search over again. Save yourself the time and disappointment and do not be afraid to pull the trigger. Keep these tips in mind the next time you have an open position. Speak to candidates who are a close fit on paper in the chance that you find a superstar. Take the time to prepare for interviews by thoroughly reading through a candidate’s resume and working with your interview team so that everyone understands what questions to ask to ascertain the candidate’s fit. Sell every candidate on your position and company. And do not hesitate when you have finally found someone-make the individual an offer and strike while the iron is hot.

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