Do You Know What Candidates Want?

Do You Know What Candidates Want?

Author: Laura Mazzullo

In Talent Acquisition, the most rewarding Hiring Managers to partner with are those that are nimble, flexible and open to evolving their hiring techniques to match the trends in the market.These Managers will curiously say: “We want to hire the best talent available. What can we be doing better in order to secure them? Are there ways we can improve?”

The short answer for most: yes, there are ways you can improve! Becoming a stellar Hiring Manager starts with fully understanding what candidates want, gaining a greater empathy towards their point of view, and taking action that provides them with an exceptional candidate experience. The market is changing rapidly, and candidates are becoming harder and harder to secure.

The biggest disconnect I see exists between what some hiring managers do vs. what candidates want. These hiring managers are making it more difficult for themselves to secure top talent, and are creating unnecessary obstacles. Just ask: “What does this candidate want?” and then adjust actions accordingly.

A few common mistakes I see:

1) Action of the Hiring Manager: Brings a candidate in 3-4 times to the office for interviews vs. What the candidate wants: To come into the office the fewest amount of times possible.

  • Think about this from the candidate’s point of view. They are potentially working a demanding full-time job and must find excuses to leave the office multiple times. For most HR candidates, this can feel like a betrayal/disloyalty to their current job and is very stressful for them. They want to have a thorough interview process with your firm, but they are seeking convenience. Potential solution: you can have a cap on how many times someone comes to your office. One of my clients has a rule (for all levels of hiring), that the candidate should not have to come into the office more than 2 times. If there are additional interviewers, they can talk via telephone or skype/video conference at times that work for the candidate. Many firms are also considering a more streamlined interview panel, as opposed to including every single person. It can be tempting to have everyone on the team involved, but is that what a candidate wants? It will likely start to feel annoying to them and as if you are doubting their candidacy. So many candidates in this situation frustratingly say “They need me to come in again? Really? Are they having doubts about me? They’re really making this process inconvenient for me” This is a way to improve your reputation as providing a strong candidate experience!

2) Action of the Hiring Manager: Overly formal and cold during the interview process vs. What the candidate wants: To feel welcome and approached in a kind, friendly way.

  • Many Hiring Managers were taught that being formal, stiff and intimidating on an interview is a great way to gauge a candidate’s ‘thick skin’ and ability to ‘handle pressure’. This may have worked in past hiring markets, but this is now considered a very old-school style of interviewing that quickly turns off most candidates. Today’s candidate wants to have an authentic, genuine conversation with interviewers. They are looking for chemistry and rapport and they are strongly assessing cultural fit. A new approach is to be yourself and have a sense of humor; you can still dig into difficult questions/address concerns, but allow the approach to come from a kinder perspective. So many candidates in this situation frustratingly say “I really liked the firm, but wouldn’t go back. The interviewer was so cold and aloof. I can’t imagine working for him/her.” This is a way you can improve your employer branding efforts!

3) Action of the Hiring Manager: Present a candidate with the same job they are doing elsewhere vs. What the candidate wants: To continue learning and embrace new intellectual challenges.

  • This often starts with the job-description, which too often reads as a list of ‘what the Hiring Manager wants’ (basically implying: we want a candidate doing this exact job at one of our competitors. The Hiring Managers think: the candidate will already know the industry, the role and will require less training time). During the interview process, Hiring Managers probe candidates to determine if they’ve done everything required for this role currently/previously. Here’s the challenge: today’s candidate won’t be likely to move for the same job elsewhere! They are seeking new adventures in their career. Hiring Managers must understand the candidate’s point of view, and consider their own list of (potentially unrealistic) must-haves and areas that can be trained. Potential solutions: Ask candidates what they are looking for. Write job-descriptions that attract candidates to your brand/firm. A role can evolve for the right person, so ask them about their goals. So many candidates in this situation frustratingly say: “I really liked the firm, but am not interested in pursuing the role further. It’s clear it would be more of the same for me. I’m looking for some new challenges and new things to learn.” Providing candidates what they want in a role is a fantastic way to ensure strong employee retention down the line!

These are 3 areas for Hiring Managers to consider as they continue to court top talent in this market. Subtle changes in approaches can make a huge difference in securing the talent you want. When in doubt about how to take action, ask yourself: What do candidates want? Better yet, what would I want if I was a candidate? This will provide you with stronger empathy and a real opportunity to be a more successful Hiring Manager.

Laura Mazzullo is founder and owner of East Side Staffing, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in the placement of Human Resource Professionals. More information can be found about Laura and East Side Staffing at

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