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How does a company recruit successful, well-educated, highly desirable executives? What can you do to make your company and leadership opportunity stand out in a hyper-competitive labor market? How do you stop losing your best candidates to competitors? The answers to these questions are found in the three rules of recruiting: Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!

You can take the sting out of recruiting in today’s hyper-competitive job market by focusing on building a strong relationship with prospective candidates right from the start. The stronger the relationship between you, your company and the candidate you want to bring on board, the easier it is to recruit, interview, negotiate and successfully close an offer. A strong relationship built from the beginning of the recruiting process will greatly reduce the threat of counter offers and the odds of rejection, and it will also ensure that those who ultimately join your leadership team will come into their first day full of confidence in their ability to make a significant impact at your organization.

1. Relationship Building Before the Interview

We’ve all heard the saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” By making the best possible first impression, you increase your chances of having a successful face-to-face interview while laying a good foundation for closing the deal at the end of the process. Whether it’s a search for a Chief Operations Officer, a Business Unit President, or a Vice President of Research & Development, put effort into the little details and make a favorable impact on every candidate. One way to build strong relationships with your candidates right from the start is to send the following information to candidates in advance of the interview process:

  • Welcome Letter – Signed by the hiring authority, the president or the most senior-level executive who’ll be involved in the interview process, this letter lets the candidate know that you are looking forward to meeting with them to discuss the possibility of them joining your team.
  • Position Description – Polish it up & put it on company letterhead. Put as much emphasis on selling the job and company as on describing the position. Consider writing your position description in the second person rather than the third (“You will…” instead of “The ideal candidate will…”) as this personalizes the position and helps candidates see themselves in it.
  • Organizational Charts – Show where the position fits within the overall organizational structure, especially those positions directly above and below the candidate is interviewing for.
  • Annual Report – Include any financial documents you make available to the public.
  • Company Information – You can send Corporate Brochures to share information that best describes the company as a whole, Division Brochures to showcase products and markets for the open position, or a custom marketing piece that includes all of this information.
  • Business Cards – The hiring manager’s business card and any other key interview contacts, so the candidate can easily reach out at any point in the hiring process. You may even want to include short bios on the hiring team and/or immediate superiors/subordinates in order to give the candidate a stronger picture of how they would fit into your organization.
  • Directions - To the site where the position is going to be based and where off-site interviews are going to take place; consider printing a color map. Depending on the size of your campus, in addition to driving directions, you may want to include information on where within your complex/building the candidate will need to go. If you do include a campus map, you should also highlight other areas of interest that the candidate will be able to consult in their first days on the job.
  • Community Information – If the position would require the candidate to relocate, you will need to sell the location as well as the opportunity itself. You can get this information from your local Chamber of Commerce and/or a local Realtor.
  • Realtor Contact – Get a business card and brochure of a realtor who understands your company and community and how to sell relocating candidates on the area.
  • His and Hers Packets – Send two of the company, community and realtor information packets so both the candidate and spouse have materials they can review.

2. Relationship Building During the Interview

Once you’ve laid the proper groundwork prior to your face-to-face meeting, your next focus is to keep the momentum going with a great interview. It’s a chance for you to sell the candidate on the company, the position, and the community (if it’s a relocation). But beware – the psychology of interviewing can get very complicated. Keep it simple and remember that your most important task is to continue “courting” the candidate and sell him or her on the opportunity to work for your company.

“Sell” the Company

Candidates often make decisions based on emotions and then defend them with logic. Think back to the last time you interviewed for a position. What information was most important to you? During the meeting, be candid and offer information that will help the candidate feel good about the position. It is also vital to allow the candidate equal time to ask questions that are important to them and to address related issues that may affect their spouse and family.

Take the time to think through the questions you are most likely to be asked during the interview. Be prepared to answer these following 10 most commonly asked questions:

  1. Why is the position open, how long has it been open, and why haven’t you filled it until now?
  2. How would you describe the company’s stability; are you for sale or reorganizing?
  3. What is the hot news on the street about your company, both positive and negative?
  4. How would you describe the corporate culture and/or political landscape here?
  5. Why do you like working here and where do you see yourself in 3 to 5 years?
  6. Describe your background, interests and management style.
  7. What is the greatest challenge you expect the new candidate will face in this job?
  8. What are the growth options in this job? Can you share any past promotional success stories?
  9. How do you feel about the interviewee as a candidate based on their resume and this interview?
  10. Where do we go from here and how quickly do you expect to make a decision/offer?

Be honest and straightforward when responding to any of these questions. If there has been negative press surrounding your company, address it head-on instead of sweeping it under the rug. If you are not feeling as excited about the candidate as you thought you would be, don’t string them along and make them think they are currently your top choice. You should also have a strong timeline in place for the next steps – ideally you want to move quickly or candidates may accept other opportunities while you’re still dragging your feet, but they will be more likely to be patient if they know when to expect to hear from you.

Behavioral Interviewing Techniques

After you’ve done your best to “sell” the company to the candidate, now it’s their turn to “sell” themselves to you. This is beyond the scope of this article, but be sure to check out our article on Techniques for Behavior-Based Interviewing to determine which candidate is the best fit for the job.

3. Relationship Building After the Interview

Making a job change is a complex decision, made even more complicated when it affects a spouse, in-laws, children, grandparents and close friends. After the interview phase is complete, don’t forget to leave a lasting, positive impression on each candidate. The better they feel about the job, the company, the position and you, the easier the decision will be for them. Below is a post-interview relationship-building checklist you can use to solidify your relationship with each candidate after the interview.

  1. If relocation is required, invite the spouse to visit the local area during the final interview, or immediately following, in order to get them excited about the move before asking a candidate to accept an offer. Offer two tickets to a sporting event, play or a musical so the trip has a break for fun, too.
  2. Take the candidate and spouse out for dinner with the hiring authority and spouse and another couple from the company.
  3. Are there any employees who grew up in the same area as this candidate, went to the same college, or previously worked for a same past company as this candidate? If so, try to work this employee into the interview process.
  4. Send a follow-up email or overnight express letter immediately after the interview (or after each interview, depending on the complexity of your hiring process). Thank them for their time, then outline how things went and your planned intentions and next steps. Make sure to personalize this, rather than having a stock letter into which you insert their name. (Most of the letter can be pre-drafted, so long as you make sure to include a personal touch.)
  5. If you can’t arrange to pay any interview expenses upfront, then reimburse candidates immediately! Unless, of course, you want to make your company look bad? Then make a candidate pay for his own interview expenses and make him wait for the reimbursement.

If you follow the principles of building the relationship with prospective employees before, during, and after the interview, you will be able to win over your Superstar Candidate!

What does your workplace DNA look like? Let us know in the comments, then share this article with your network of culturally savvy (or not-so-savvy) executives.