How to Snag Your Dream Candidate Without Going Broke: Speed, Fit, and Focus

Recruiting is a numbers game, but that doesn’t mean the only number that matters is the one with a dollar sign in front of it. Many organizations wonder how they can land top candidates without paying above-market compensation, and without getting into costly bidding wars for talent.

The answer is complicated: different candidates want different things out of a job offer.

Some people are highly motivated by financial compensation and will be reluctant to sign on with your company unless your offer exceeds any other. Some candidates are dealing with cultural fit issues at their current company and are more eager to make a move, even if the money is a lateral move. Other candidates are motivated by learning experiences and future growth opportunities available to them in the new position that you’re offering. Some candidates are motivated by a combination of all three. And some candidates have personal reasons for wanting to take a new job — moving closer to family, getting a more flexible schedule, or becoming part of a company with a more compelling mission.

Your company cannot control the many variables and personal motivations that go into whether or not a candidate accepts your job offer. But what you can control is your recruiting and hiring process: how quickly, efficiently, and expertly you find, engage, and match the right candidates with the right positions at your company. If you want to successfully hire more of the best people before they sign on with a competitor, take a closer look at your process, and adopt a strategy of Speed, Fit, and Focus.

Here are some specific examples and actionable insights on how to do this:

Speed — hone your hiring process: Even if you can’t quite compete on salary, you can compete on how quickly the job offer arrives. Get your hiring process down to a science so speed is second nature. Candidates respond more favorably to companies with efficient hiring processes, instead of companies that drag out the process, that fail to reply to emails and phone calls, and otherwise make it feel like the job offer is never going to come.

Just like buyers often respond to the first vendor that submits a project bid, job candidates will view your job offer more favorably if it’s delivered more promptly. Especially if the competition is quick to make promises to candidates, but slow to act.

Fit — Develop a detailed questionnaire for cultural fit: Cultural fit is often a mysterious and misunderstood concept — or worse, is thought of as a way to exclude promising candidates who don’t look or act like “the usual suspects.” But the truth is, evaluating cultural fit — done right — is one of the most important ways to predict future success and employee retention. If employees feel good working within your company culture, if they feel like your company shares their values, if they feel like they can bring their best selves to work everyday and learn and grow, then they will be more likely to thrive on the job.

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One way to land more of your top candidates is to create a detailed cultural fit questionnaire — unique to your company — to use during the interview process.

The questions might be straightforward or esoteric, or both, but have deep conversations with your candidates before you extend a job offer to find out more about what makes them tick, what they really want out of the job, and what their hopes are for the future. Then, with more extensive data in hand, you can use this cultural fit information to sell your top candidate on why your company is going to be a great fit for them. Show your candidates that you know why they’re more likely to succeed at your company — and that you care about their comfort and success — and you’ll get more of them to accept your offer.

Focus — align your recruiting team with specific roles. There are some tricks of the recruiting trade that are applicable to hiring for all sorts of professional disciplines — but specific roles have unique challenges and cultural idiosyncrasies that can make recruiting more complicated. Your recruiting team needs to be able to speak to the specific concerns of candidates in each role — whether it’s sales, marketing, IT, product development, or executive roles. As part of the process of building trust with candidates, your recruiters need to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk in a way that resonates on a deep level with the concerns of candidates in each role.

Taking a fresh look at your overall hiring process is one of the best ways to land more of your top candidates, without having to shell out more money on salaries and counter-offers. Creating a faster, more efficient hiring process, making cultural fit a major selling point, and aligning your recruiting team’s skills and communication around the concerns of specific roles are all ways to show your top candidates that your company seriously values them and is thinking about their futures in ways that are often more meaningful than money alone.

Carolyn Betts is the Founder & CEO of Betts Recruiting, a global recruiting firm with office locations in San Francisco, New York, Austin, and Dublin, Ireland. She is a sixth-generation Bay Area native and is actively involved in the community, serving as a board member of the UCSF Partners in Care, an officer of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, and a member of Young Presidents Organization.

Betts Recruiting focuses on fast-growing, innovative tech companies to build out revenue generating talent roles to include sales, marketing, and customer success at all levels. Betts has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses, and was named one of the Best Places to Work and Fastest Growing Companies in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times.  


3 Comments on “How to Snag Your Dream Candidate Without Going Broke: Speed, Fit, and Focus

  1. “Many organizations wonder how they can land top candidates without paying above-market compensation, and without getting into costly bidding wars for talent.”

    You can’t, or at least you won’t retain them. Another way to write this sentence would be, “Many organiztions wonder how they can persistently get more from their labor than they’re willing to pay for, without consequences.” It still amazes me that people honestly think the labor market is the one market on the planet where the law of supply and demand doesn’t hold sway, or can somehow be negated with BS Sales! talk. And while the speed, fit, focus framework would be useful if implemented, the simple fact is the vast majority of companies won’t do so.

    With regard to speed, the majority of companies still feel as if the world should be beating down their doors to work there regardless of what’s on offer, salarywise or otherwise. Until this attitude changes, speed will never be their concern. With regard to cultural fit, once more it won’t happen en masse because few companies have a clue what their culture is. More often than not, when they’re even aware of corporate culture, they will have an idealized view of what their cutlure is that is so divorced from the reality of what it is that any ‘fit’ assessment will be useless. For example, if the company is poorly managed and persistently changing direction due to managerial incompetence, they will classify themselves as ‘entrepreneurial.’ If they’re loaded with abusive micromanagers they won’t disclose or acknowledge that, nor will they test for it. And as far as focus goes, companies need to actually value their candidates before they see the value of allocating time a resources to understanding them. Companies barely value their employees, for the most part. Value candidates? Good luck.

    The law of supply and demand applies to the labor market just as much as any other market. Without a healthy dose of luck you will not beat the market. So, stop trying. If you’re the CEO of a crappy company that pays people crap and treats them like crap, you’re far better off acknowledging your true nature and taking what you can get at a price you can afford, than trying to compete for labor that is out of your league. And recruiters need to stop BSing their almighty clients with Sales! and start giving them a dose of reality.

  2. Cash is king in the bay, everyone has a great opportunity. Having a great job opportunity isn’t unique or special. The candidate has five ‘great opportunities’ in front of them, what is something that will help that candidate decide? Here is a clue, $$$$$.

    1. Cash is king everywhere, for the most part. Every recruiter and every company claims to have a Great! Opportunity!, but 999,999 times out of a million they can never actually articulate why it’s such a great opportunity, which means it isn’t. The reason this kind of approach is pushed because people think BS Sales! can substitute for substance. Most companies out there would rather listen to people who tell them they can sell on Opportunity! and not have to pay, than to hear people tell them they have to pay, because their ‘opportunity’ is just like everyone else’s ‘opportunity,’ and that means they have to compete on money. The word ‘opportunity’ itself is so overused in recruiting it’s essentially meaningless, may as well just say you have an open job, because that’s what it is. Once more, the invasion and domination of the profession by standardless, smoke blowing Sales! people destroys the profession little by little. God forbid someone say, “Listen, Client, you’ve got an okay company with average benefits and pay, and I’ve got an okay person looking for just that who can do the job you need done, won’t blow your socks off, but will be reliable and not screw up.” Because the client, the almighty client, then says, “No! we want the best of the best of the best of the best of the best!” To which a real recruiter would respond, “Is your pay the best of the best of the best of the best of the best?” To which the client says. “No…” To which the real recruiter says, “Then you’re not getting the best of the best of the best of the best of the best, you’re getting what you can afford and retain reliably. If you want the best, pay for it, otherwise you don’t deserve it.”

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