Handling employed job candidates

Mar 15, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 2.05.08 PMUnderstanding the nuances of a Happily Employed Job Candidate can boost your ability to hire the best people. I recently received an email from a client who was in the middle of arranging an interview with a candidate that we presented to them about two weeks prior. The client sent us the conference call instructions and then asked for the candidate to fill out an employment application. My colleague, who had recently started working on the search with me, asked if the client was joking. I told her I wish they were, but they were all too serious about getting that application filled out before speaking with our candidate. They had done it for each of the previous candidates we sent to them. Never mind the fact that we had sent a resume and our profile, which gave an in-depth review of the candidate, their background, and skill set. They wanted to see a filled out employee application. Now I'm going to say this one-time: Candidates who are not actively looking for a new job should not have to fill out these applications at any time before determining that a firm wants to hire them! They are happily employed candidates for a reason. In most cases, they are taking a meeting with you, whether on the phone, via videoconference, or in person, based on our ability as a recruiter to get them to hear about another opportunity even though they may be in a great job situation. That's the challenge of a recruiter today. A lot of the good candidates are currently employed, and we have to cajole, convince, and sometimes coerce (only half joking) an individual to speak with our client. Unfortunately, a majority of our clients don't understand this concept, acting as if the candidate came in off the street to apply for a job. This situation couldn't be further from the truth. A "not actively looking for a new job" candidate shouldn't go through the same hoops that an employed job applicant or unemployed candidate does. While you need to treat all candidates with dignity and respect, you need to understand the motivation of a "Not actively looking for a new job" candidate before you raise the hiring bar. A good recruiter can convince even the most engaged employee to consider other options if you frame the opportunity and the client firm. As recruiters, we get cut off at the knees when we have to go back to these job candidates and ask them for a completed employee application. For some, it can be a humiliating request. Here are some thoughts for firms that find themselves in this position. First, go into the interview with as much anecdotal evidence as you can find out about the candidate. This may or may not include a resume, and maybe some social media and online research. Remember, happily employed candidates may not have an up-to-date resume or CV. Not everyone in our industry needs to have a current resume unless they are selling work and need to keep an updated CV to attach to job proposals. Don't get bent out of shape when a candidate tells you that they have to "dust off" their old resume and update it. We hear that all the time, which is why we present a complete profile to our clients which includes work history, accomplishments, education, professional licenses, if any, salary and benefits info, future expectations, and some observations based on our conversations with them. How much more information do you need to determine whether the candidate is worth a call or a meeting? The design industry has a tight labor pool and you sometimes only get one bite at the apple. This is why you need to act as if the candidate is doing you a favor by talking to your firm even if you don't feel that way. Think about when you go to buy a car. Do you expect the car salesmen to treat you with contempt and act as if they are nice by showing you a car and taking you out for a test drive? No one asks you to fill out a credit application the minute you walk into the showroom. They try to show you a car and take you out for a test drive. They do everything they can to make you feel like you made the right decision by coming to visit them. The recruitment process isn't much different than that. Don't worry about all the paperwork, just get the candidate on the hook by selling the features and benefits of working with your company. The other stuff will work itself out. I know some of you are probably saying, Randy, we hire people for federal projects, and there is always a certain amount of paperwork involved. I understand, but when dealing with "Not actively looking for a new job" candidates, that paperwork can wait until you've got them on the hook and they are totally interested in seeing where this opportunity may end up. Lack of a cohesive recruitment process is one of the biggest hurdles we see to hiring "not actively looking for a new job" candidates. With a little practice and understanding, you can go a long way to having success hiring the right people in a challenging employment market like the design industry. Randy Wilburn is Zweig Group’s director of executive search. Contact him at rwilburn@zweiggroup.com. Want more recruiting advice? Check out the Becoming a Better Recruiter Seminar.

This article is from issue 1139 of The Zweig Letter. Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.