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Avoiding Candidate Illusions

For an awfully long time now, I’ve been a proponent of the idea that obtaining clarity regarding a job prospect’s core motivators is one of the most important aspects of an effective recruiting process. As recruiters, we must have the ability to quickly acquire and triage exactly what is motivating a candidate to consider making a job change in the first place. Then, of course, we must determine whether the individual’s goals and objectives can be realized by affiliating with our company (or client company).

Most of the time, the process of identifying an individual’s motivators is very straightforward. Issues of consequence are readily identifiable and make sense – maybe the individual is maxed out in his or her current role – there’s little or no growth available – or maybe there’s organizational dysfunction driving them to want to leave their current firm – or maybe a quality of life issue is the key driver – too much travel or too much commuting or too much overtime. Or, maybe it’s an issue that’s grounded in the candidate’s perception that they are under compensated.

While acquiring a candidate’s motivators is typically a straightforward proposition, there are times when we inevitably encounter specific objections to one or more aspects of our opportunity. In essence, we find ourselves dealing with Pulls and Pushes – aspects of our opportunity and environment that might draw or pull a candidate into wanting to affiliate with our organization, versus other qualities and attributes that are pushing an individual away from our opportunity and environment. In short, recruiting can be fraught with ambiguity which can undermine our efforts to steward a candidate forward in our process.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, you will need to watch the above video so that you can complete a short visual exercise (You will see a series of images that appear on the screen – you will be able to view each image for just a few seconds. After viewing each image, you will want to write down what you see before you).

If you completed the exercise, you recognize that you were viewing a series of illusions – some people immediately see one specific image, while other people see something entirely different.

So, what’s my point? Well, it’s relatively simple: As recruiters our day is comprised of a series of fast-paced candidate interactions and other activities. What’s most important is that we see people with clarity – that we see them in totality. This means that we need to always be focused on asking the right questions – this means that we need to make certain that we not only strive to understand a candidate’s motivators, but also that we understand potential issues/concerns, or hesitations that could conceivably surface. This means that we must have an effective qualifying process that goes into a reasonable degree of depth so that we don’t encounter surprises deep into the recruitment lifecycle.

I’ll close with this thought: Effective recruiting relies on our ability to utilize a thoughtful and thorough qualifying process, one that assures that we are seeing individuals accurately and completely. By taking the time to appropriately assess a candidate’s motivators and hesitations, we are far more likely to steward a candidate across the finish line, while eliminating potential illusions along the way!

Wishing you ongoing success –

Paul Siker

9 Essential Branding Messages Candidates Want To Hear


Brand: A five-letter word that prompts many people to picture images of cereal boxes, soup cans, and automobiles. While marketers have long been preoccupied with branding products and services, in a tightening labor market, talent acquisition professionals are increasingly recognizing the importance of being able to articulate an employment or talent brand that is designed to resonate with prospective candidates. Because talented job seekers have more employment options than ever, effective employment or talent branding has seemingly taken on greater degree of significance than ever.

Every organization should be regularly asking themselves, “What are we conveying to applicants and prospective candidates about the merits of affiliating with our organization?” “What messaging are we using and do they connect with the intended audience?” What are some messaging areas worth paying attention to? I would argue that recruiters of every persuasion (in-house, or 3rd party) should be trying to build selling messages around the following 9 themes:

  1. Growth Potential-Meritocracy
  2. Organizational Competence/Professionalism
  3. Opportunity for Diverse Experiences
  4. Development Opportunities
  5. Work/Life Balance
  6. Likeable Peers/Managers
  7. Innovation/Excellence
  8. Fulfillment/Job Satisfaction/Recognition
  9. Equitable Compensation and Benefits

Now, if you look at this list in its entirety, you will see that it forms the acronym “Good Work Life,” which at its very essence is the message that we are trying to convey – affiliate with our company and you can have a tremendous career experience. And, what the heck, I’ll throw in a 10th theme, which is: Market Reputation. It’s been well documented that people assign great value to what others think about their employer. Companies with great reputations tend to have a much easier time hiring the best talent. Companies with questionable reputations have a much more challenging time.

In my experience, just about every candidate will assign a reasonable degree of importance to the characteristics that I referenced earlier, regardless of whether they have consciously considered these attributes or not. I would argue that if you put my list in front of a candidate and asked them which two or three attributes they could live without, I expect it would be a very difficult decision-making process. What are they going to say? “No, I don’t need to actually like the people that I work with,” or, “You know, work/life balance is something that I regard to be way overrated,” or, “I would prefer not to be developed – growing my skills just isn’t that important.” I think not.

Now, in advocating that firms should craft selling messages around the themes that I referenced earlier I’m not suggesting that we want to stretch or sugar-coat the truth about our organization’s brand – naturally, we don’t want to embellish.

My list is intended to serve as a rough guide on potential selling messages that might be worth considering and that might serve to burnish your firm or client firm’s employment brand. If you can build great messaging that speaks to each of the themes that I’ve referenced, and then get comfortable articulating these to candidates, you will find that it really makes a difference relative to how your firm is perceived.

Again, in a talent constrained marketplace where people have more employment options that ever, it’s only natural that candidates are going to formulate a decision-making hierarchy that helps them to identify the very best employer and job opportunity. This fact is ultimately why employment or talent branding has never been more important.

This is Paul Siker wishing you ongoing success.

How Low Can Unemployment Go? 4 Near-Term Impacts to Employers

On Friday, June 2nd, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that American companies had created approximately 138,000 new jobs and that the Unemployment Rate had dropped to 4.3%, a level not seen since May 2001. Unbeknownst to many is that the U.S. was in the early stages of a recession back in the Spring of 2001. In fact, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), what many commonly refer to as the dot-Bomb recession started in March of 2001 and ended in November of 2001.

I remember that timeframe well. Sales at a variety of firms whipsawed over the course of the Summer. Good months were intermingled with rough months. Getting traction was challenging and the general business climate felt slippery. Many companies put the brakes on spending. Tragically, 911 unfolded, and further inhibited an already wobbly economy.

In our current economic climate, the 4.3% unemployment rate has yielded a general sentiment among many economists that hiring demand is going to slow for several reasons: 1) A general lack of quality workers, 2) Scaled back corporate growth goals (attributable to a basic lack of talent), and 3) an unsettled political climate where the likelihood of growth being fueled by government stimulus programs looks less realistic, at least in the near-term.

In considering the 4.3% Unemployment Rate, I started to wonder, “How low can it go?” After all, unemployment was 9.9% in 2010, and has been trending downward for over seven years. Has the unemployment rate hit rock bottom? I’m taking a contrarian view – barring something unforeseen, I believe that the overall rate can still trend a bit lower even though some economists argue we are now at “full employment.” On Tuesday, June 6th, the Business Roundtable released its Q2 economic outlook for CEOs, which reflected heightened confidence regarding the outlook for both sales and capital spending. While there was a modest dip in sentiment regarding new hiring, firm’s that anticipated a decreasing their workforce also dropped.  Beyond questioning whether the unemployment rate can go lower, I think it’s valuable to understand what a progressively tightening employment market may mean for recruitment in the near-term. I expect that we are likely to see some semblance of these four near-term impacts:

  1. Companies will do more to focus on talent retention. The cost of turnover (losing an experienced employee and hiring/training a replacement) is only getting more expensive. Smart companies will increasingly adopt practices (i.e.: sign-on and retention bonuses, mentoring and career development programs, and other incentives) to lock in talent and make the process of departing more challenging.
  2. Companies will work harder to further streamline and enhance their talent brand and the overall recruitment process. The recruitment experience will become an increasingly better choreographed affair, with firms striving to distinguish and differentiate themselves to prospective candidates.
  3. For those skill sets that are in acute demand, expect to see ongoing wage inflation and more counter-offers. In an era of specialization and sub-specialization, mission-critical talent is just that: mission-critical. Companies will be forced to pay more for key players.
  4. Finally, I think that more companies will begin to invest, or increase their investment in growing and developing their own talent reservoirs, if only as a means of more reliable source of talent. Internal training programs may also serve as a retention mechanism and could help to reduce attrition.

In summary, I believe that unemployment can go lower than 4.3%. As a result, employers will have to get ever more creative – not only with respect to their pursuit of talent to fill new positions created by growth, but also in terms of how they hold onto and preserve existing talent. The firms that figure out how to accomplish these objectives are likely to enjoy a true competitive advantage in both acquiring and sustaining a dynamic and responsive workforce.

This is Paul Siker wishing you ongoing success.