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 can be duplicated by your competition. What they cannot duplicate are your employees, because it is your employees who bring innovative ideas to fruition. They are the ones who drive sales and profits. In order to hire top talent, you need to have a plan. Here are a few points to adapt to gain that competitive advantage.


Be open minded

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 that does not appear to be a perfect fit on paper results 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 benchmarking 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, and we agree, that cultural fit is just as important, if not more important, than the technical fit. Although you may find a candidate that on paper can do everything from A to Z, it does not mean that they will mesh well with the group or have the drive and energy to complete tasks in an efficient manner. Therefore, taking the time to speak to those candidates who “might” be right prevents you from missing a diamond in the rough. We often see hiring managers revise and mold their open positions to fit these fringe candidates because after speaking to them, they can’t imagine their department without them in it. Don’t waste the opportunity of speaking with someone just because you don’t see ALL the words listed on the paper.


Prepare for the Interview

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 get 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 them. You should be reviewing the resumes of all the candidates you interview prior to meeting them so you can make the most of your time. You need to be able to ask specific questions about their skills, their career goals, and what motivates them. Simply walking through their work history is a waste of your 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.


Put on your sales hat

Never assume that anyone is sold on joining your team prior to meeting them. 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 themselves, 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. It is the hiring teams’ job to clearly paint that picture for them and to provide the extra push that motivates them to make a move.


Do Not Hesitate

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 currently employed or when relocating, 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 onsite 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 he/she needs to see someone else for comparison. After a few weeks of looking that produce nobody better, they finally decide to move forward, 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 don’t 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 everyone understands what questions to ask to ascertain the fit. Sell every candidate on your position and company and don’t hesitate when you have finally found someone, make them an offer and strike while the iron is hot.

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