Boston Hiring Managers Share Tips On How to Thrive in a Candidate-Driven Market

You don’t need an elaborate pitch or LinkedIn InMail to hire great talent.

In fact, what candidates want is much more simple.

Candidates want you to understand them. They want to know they’re important to you -- not just one of many candidates on your prospect list. They want to know the ins and outs of the process and to be updated every step of the way. And they want you to be honest with them.

A growing economy, paired with high demand for specific skillsets means today’s hiring market is candidate-driven. To be successful as a hiring manager, you have to map your approach to the needs of modern job seekers. 

We sat down with a few of Boston’s most experienced hiring managers to get their perspective on adapting to the candidate-driven hiring market. Here’s what they recommend:

Look Beyond the Checkboxes

Hiring is far more an art than a science. Any hiring manager can compare a resume to a job description, but a checklist approach doesn’t always lead to a fruitful match. To be an effective hiring manager, you need to be able to determine which candidate is best fit to do the job, even if they don’t match your checklist to a tee. However, “many don’t take the time to carefully select the right candidate profiles,” explains Laura Sullivan, Talent Acquisition Lead at Monotype.

“If I was hiring for a role where the candidate needed to use Ruby on Rails, for example, it may matter less that they know Ruby on Rails and more than they have the aptitude to learn. While a candidate with Ruby on Rails experience would probably be able to get up and running fast, a candidate with similar experience, or with a side project built on Ruby on Rails, could be equally qualified,” says Larry McSheffery, Director of Talent Acquisition at DrugDev. “Technology evolves and things change fast, so more than anything we need someone who can evolve and change with us, not check off boxes,” he continues.

Customize Your Outreach

Candidates’ LinkedIn inboxes are bombarded by recruiters to the point that many have turned a blind eye to the right-hand corner of their LinkedIn pages.

Candidates are turned off not by the mere fact that recruiters are reaching out, but that they’re doing it  impersonally -- using drag and drop templates rather than tailored messages.

So how do you come across as more human?

Do Your Research

Begin by getting to know a candidate before reaching out to them, recommends Ashley Ryall, Social Selling Coach and Founder of UntapSocial:

Find out everything you can about them. Whereas many recruiters will simply skim a LinkedIn profile, the best ones will look at everything from the candidate’s personal website, Twitter profile, github account, publications, projects, awards, and even hobbies. Comb through every line.

Reconsider Your Template

Should you ditch your outreach template completely? Yes and no. Smart candidates can sniff out a generic template from a mile away, so it’s unlikely  that reusing one without any personalization will catch the attention of a desirable candidate. Templates give the impression that you’re too busy to craft a thoughtful message. So as a candidate, there’s little to no motivation to take the time to respond back. McSheffery explains that you can leverage templates to an extent, but first, “put yourself in their shoes.” He adds, “You need to craft a message you know will sift through the noise of their inbox.”

Show Your Personality

A great way to stand out is by letting your true personality shine. “I consider myself a funny person,” adds McSheffery, “and sometimes I use humor in my messages. I know that they’re being bombarded by other recruiters, so I try to stand out with my sense of humor.” Ryall adds, “The more genuine you can be in your outreach, the higher the response rate.”

Get to the Point

Hiring in a candidate-driven market means that, as a hiring manager or recruiter, your initial outreach has to be very “concise, clear and to the point,” explains Sullivan. If all of the above sounds impossible to achieve in one message, take heart --  if you do your research and approach your candidate outreach thoughtfully, you can nail it like McSheffery did:

I was interested in recruiting a software engineer to DrugDev. Because he had worked in healthcare before his current job in the finance industry, when I first reached out to him I basically said, ‘Don’t you want to come back to what you were doing in the good ole’ days? We’re getting drugs to market quicker, and given your background in the industry, I think you’re a great fit.’ That, plus some humor I threw in, immediately grabbed his attention. He could tell I was conveying a genuine message.

Often the best candidates are already employed, so be mindful, too, that once you bring them into the hiring process, their time is limited. “Streamline the process to be sure each step is clearly laid out and everything happens on time,” explains McSheffery. “When we’re interviewing engineers, for example, I explain to them upfront that there’s a design portion of the interview, a technical exercise and a cultural deep dive so that we can plan the schedule accordingly.” 

Be Transparent

There is a level of transparency and vulnerability hiring managers and recruiters need to be comfortable with, says McSheffery. 

Candidates appreciate that I paint a very realistic picture of our culture and what we’re looking for. Once we begin talking about the position and company, I tell them the good, the bad and the ugly.

If I’m hiring for a technical role, for example, I’ll explain to them that our technical onboarding process isn’t great right now, but we’re a small company moving fast and need people like him/her to help make us better.

By painting a realistic picture of the job and company, you gain trust and respect from the candidate. 

Over-Communicate With Candidates

To increase the effectiveness of your communications with job seekers, McSheffery recommends putting yourself in the candidate’s shoes. Imagine applying for a job and not hearing back for months. Or, imagine applying, having a phone screen, and experiencing radio silence. How would you feel?

Always consider the candidate experience,” Meg Barss, Senior Recruiter for Education First says. McSheffery adds, “I try to give them an amazing experience because they could go anywhere. There are a million opportunities in Boston right now, and I want to come across as genuine and caring as possible to catch their attention.”

The most successful hiring managers and recruiters keep candidates up to speed every step of the way. “Over-communication is a must. It’s important to never leave someone waiting for feedback,” Sullivan points out. “Always be prepared and follow up,” adds Barss. Besides displaying empathy for what a candidate is experiencing, staying in constant contact paints your company in a positive, professional light - and keeps job seekers engaged.   

The modern job seeker has a lot of options. The longer you keep them waiting, the higher chances are that they’ll go elsewhere. Even if the decision is going to take longer than expected, be sure to communicate that. Or if you ultimately decide they’re not the right fit, let them know as soon as possible so they can move on with their job search.

Lend a Listening Ear

Aside from learning as much as possible about a candidate upfront, continue to dig into their requirements to really understand what they’re looking for: 

  • Do they want to work fewer hours?
  • Have a shorter commute?
  • Be home at a certain time to spend more time with their kids? 

Getting to know them at this level can help ensure a great fit for the day-to-day reality of a role— or not. And candidates appreciate this.

“I find that most people want to work for someone who actually listens to them and appreciates all of their qualities, good and bad. This is true in all human relationships. Candidates want to work for someone who inspires them, has their best interest at heart and that they can learn from,” concludes Barss.

Even if a candidate isn’t ready to join your company today, if you give them a genuine experience they will be far more likely to refer a friend or colleague when they are looking for that next job.