Are you Placeable? What Most Recruiters Might Not Tell You

As recruiters, our goal is to do right by our candidates in helping them find the next opportunity to build their career.  That said, we are often put in the hard position of making judgments on which candidates to invest time in and put in front of our clients.

As much as we would like to, we cannot immediately place every candidate we speak with.  Despite that reality, we strive to treat candidates with respect and always build a relationship, as today’s candidate may become tomorrow’s candidate or client.

Why are we not able to place every candidate? In many cases, timing and client need are the issue. Our clients are looking for a profile of candidate whose personality, track record, and skills are highly specific, and this filter eliminates a large majority of candidates.

Putting that aside, the other part of the equation is you, the candidate. Candidates come in all shapes and sizes, and from a recruiter’s perspective, candidates are not created equal. Certain candidates are inherently more attractive than others.

What makes you attractive to a recruiter? Here are the key areas by which we judge candidates:

Granted, the list above is a long one, and you can’t fault us for being picky. But we hope this window into our minds is helpful to you when you connect with us to talk about your next step.

More Tips

Beyond the factors listed above, there are some “dos and don’ts” for candidates when it comes to managing their career and pursuing new opportunities:

A Look Back at Recruiting in Q1

With 2013 already in full swing, we are optimistic that it will be another great year in the world of tech. In our quarterly newsletter, Chief Operating Officer John Simonelli shares his take on the current market conditions, our recruiters share choice insight into running a successful process, and we take a look back at a few of our recruiting accomplishments from Q1. Read our full newsletter below and join us as we continue our push into the year.

It’s A Courtship, Not A Gauntlet

Every startup knows how important it is to hire great talent.  We have countless clients who are obsessed with how to rigorously evaluate engineering candidates, whether it be brainteasers, code challenges, or some other test.

Those evaluations are important, and I’m not here to debate the merits of qualifying candidate abilities.  The problem is that hiring is not just about evaluating. It’s about promoting your company, opportunity, team, and role to a candidate.

Just as much as you, the hiring manager, are evaluating a candidate, they are evaluating you from the minute you begin the courtship we call “recruiting.”  Many of our clients fail to recognize this reality, and as a result, they do not spend enough time upfront in the hiring process wooing candidates, waiting until the offer stage to do so.

At that point, it is too late. Passive candidates effectively become active through the recruiting process. They are courting multiple firms that, in return, are trying to excite the candidate about their respective opportunities. When you wait until the offer stage, you are squandering multiple opportunities to build trust and rapport that essentially serves as a “down payment” on closing your candidate later.

The cost of not wooing candidates early in the hiring process is substantial. Not only do you risk losing a hire, but you ultimately hurt your team’s productivity from excessive interviewing, a prolonged hiring cycle, and disruption in the team’s ability to scale by not hiring fast enough.

Here are a few reasons companies fail to actively promote earlier in the interview process:

So now that we’ve convinced you this is important, what specifically do you promote? Many of our clients will tout their founders, the source of their funding, and the pain point they are solving in the marketplace. That is all good, but it’s just the starting point.

When it comes to offer stage, the factors that motivate the candidate to accept are the same ones that we heard when we first talked to them. They want an exciting, challenging, and rewarding opportunity to advance their career. Yes, they want free food and other perks, but when push comes to shove, they want to join a great team offering an exciting role with impact and influence in an exciting industry. They want real opportunity. How you communicate will vary with each candidate, which is the subject of another blog post (“Candidates Are Not Sold—They Buy.")

With one client, we had more than 11 offers rejected over the course of six months. In almost all of the cases, the candidates uniformly bought into the client’s team, the funding, the market opportunity, and company business model. But,  to varying degrees, the candidates did not truly understand what their role would be, nor did they see their role as having impact tied to the company’s mission.

In your case, the role may not be the issue, but the point is that you have to promote multiple attributes and hone in on the ones most relevant to the candidate with whom you are speaking.

The bottom line is that evaluating and promoting go hand-in-hand. Getting a candidate excited about your opportunity needs to start the moment you begin interacting with them.  In fact, the more senior or higher caliber the candidate is, the more important this step is, especially if your employer brand awareness and perception lags behind your competitors.


Teamwork Makes the Dream Work, Baby

Steve Jobs is generally known for creating fantastic things.  So, as usual, Steve pretty much said it best: “Recruiting usually requires more than you alone can do, so I’ve found that collaborative recruiting and having a culture that recruits the “A” players is the best way.”  It’s that simple.

As with any solid process, successful recruiting requires ongoing interaction and communication. It’s easy for recruiters to become too “busy” and metrics-focused to connect with the business, but it’s imperative to keep the channels of communication open between the company and the search firm.

So, it’s the responsibility of both parties to keep one another apprised of what’s going on.  If a recruiter understands the future of the company, changes in business strategy, human capital trends, press coverage and PR trends, and cultural shifts or observations, that recruiter can help the company address these issues in ways the company may not traditionally expect.

It could be ascertaining people the company will need down the road, or it could be identifying training, talent development, or coaching resources for the client. This hasn’t always been the case.  Recruiting has evolved over the past couple decades from a reactive function tasked with filling immediate needs to a proactive one where companies strategize on and forecast their talent requirements to move their businesses forward.

And companies don’t need to go at it alone. The best recruiters and search firms are those that help their clients align talent acquisition with overall corporate objectives. A recruiter’s job is to help the company get the right people in the right place at the right time.  The variables in this equation can change with circumstance, but this is the end goal.

From a candidate perspective, the only way to know the best potential people for the position is to get to know the candidates and their motivations.  What gets them excited?  What’s their situation, and would this opportunity have a positive or a negative effect on that?  Why did they get into this business in the first place?

Today, people can build, maintain, and expand relationships faster and easier than ever before.  So, it’s easy to think that algorithms and analytics can magically create best-fit matches.  Discerning the sound from the noise becomes important to serious candidates, and it’s incumbent on recruiters to help by understanding that talent acquisition is not a means to an end, but an ongoing process that should result in a positive experience for both companies and clients.

Systems help. But recruiting is, and always will be, about people.  Clients are people, candidates are people.  And people operate better working with people they have grown to trust.  The relationships recruiters and companies build with candidates are essential for creating mutually beneficial opportunities.

If you’re a company hiring a person, you want to hear that a candidate truly finds the opportunity relevant, interesting, and challenging.  Otherwise, you run the very real risk of a person lacking appropriate engagement if they come on board.

If you’re a candidate, and you’re on the phone with a recruiter, you want to know that there’s a clear connection between what you’ve done and what you could be doing, why it’s a great fit for you individually, and what the opportunity for growth is for you.  You want to know that the recruiter  "gets” you, that they actually care about you, and that there’s a good reason you’re speaking with them about that particular prospective path in life.  You always want the benefits and drawbacks shown, and never want to be sold anything – not a job, not a person, not anything.

Exceptional companies realize the value of exceptional people, and they are working harder than ever to attract, hire, and retain top performers.  We’re lucky to work with companies that truly believe that constant communication and teamwork is worth the effort, to get these exceptional people.  We hope this is the case with you, too.


About the author: Sam Wholley  is a Principal at Riviera Partners. He leverages a diverse background of managerial, operational, advisory and technical roles to build the retained search practice at Riviera.