Stop Wasting Time and Money on the Wrong Candidates!

I was speaking with a client this morning about a position they were trying to fill.  I was shocked by what I was being told because very little of it made sense and it was all completely preventable.

The gist of what I’m about to talk about is how to reduce wasted time and money in the recruiting, interview and hiring process and some simple steps you can take to save yourself that time, money and heartache.

The story:

This is a company that I have been working with for about six months. They made it very clear when we first came together that they would do everything in their power to save a few bucks and that started by chiseling the search fee. They also said, wisely I might add, that they would call me only when they had exhausted all their other options.

Well, they called about four weeks ago. They had two immediate needs for a highly-specialized profile and really needed my help. The candidates they needed are hard to find and are rarely unemployed. Lucky for this client, I have worked in their space for 15 years and knew several people who fit had the desired profile. I expected that I would have candidates quickly, maybe not a lot but some. I did. Within three days, I had talked about the opportunity with five strong candidates. Three were not available or not interested, two were. I was excited to call the client to let them know.

When I called my client just a few days after the initial call to start the search, I was informed that they already had four “great” candidates. In three days. I was blown away and really impressed! They asked me to call back in two weeks to see what happened. If they couldn’t land any of those candidates, they would “definitely want to talk to my candidates.”

Fast forward to today. I called to get that update as I was asked to do. They had conducted multiple phone interviews with all four candidates and flew all four in to meet with the sales and marketing leaders. Two were quickly eliminated from consideration. The other two were both going to be made offers. However, the client told me that they don’t expect either to accept the offer because there are circumstances with their current employers and neither can leave. It was also not clear that they would accept the offer terms even if those circumstances didn’t exist.


• First, two should have never been flown in. Candidates who were quickly eliminated in the face-to-face interviews should have been eliminated at the phone interview phase.
• Second, the other two should have never been flown in without exploring their ability and willingness to leave their current respective employers.
• Third, assuming they would leave, the money should have been qualified in advance of the face-to-face interview ever being arranged or taking place.

This client has engaged candidates who are not really candidates at all. In the process, they have wasted the hours of time with interviews and wasted thousands of dollars on travel, hotel and other interview related expenses.

Further, the opportunity cost of the time that the executive team put into the interview process is no doubt significant. All that time could have been focused on clients, closing new business or developing existing team members. Instead, they get to start this whole process all over again. It’s a total joke. It’s also completely avoidable.

If this has ever happened to you, arm your internal recruiting team with these simple questions to make sure it never happens again.

Your recruiting team needs to qualify candidates in multiple dimensions. Most recruiters only qualify on the ability to do the job dimension. Things like: has the person worked with the right companies, had the right titles and done the right kind of work. Those are the things that get the person into the process and for most recruiters, this is where qualifying stops.

Here are the candidate qualification dimensions that need to be explored.
• After every interview, even the initial phone interview, the candidate needs to be asked this question, “based on what you have learned in this conversation, are you interested in this job?”
• Before the first interview, money should be discussed. This is not a negotiation but the recruiter needs to know if the candidate is in the compensation range. If the candidate is reluctant to discuss specifics, then the recruiter should reveal the range to the candidate. “We have a salary range of $140k-$160k for this position. If this continues to go well, would you accept a salary in that range?” Then shut up and listen.
• Ask: “How many companies are you interviewing with?” You want to know what your competition looks like and if you really want to do yourself a favor, ask where you rank in that interview stack.
• Ask what matters to the candidate. This is critically important, especially for the candidate that has been recruited and has not come to you because he/she is unemployed or miserable. People want to join companies where it is a reciprocal relationship- where they give their time and expertise to a company and in return get paid, yes, but also get to learn, grow or expand their skills or experience and ultimately their career. People want to matter and they want to work where they feel like they will. Simply asking them what is important to them at the beginning of an interview process is a simple, subtle and profoundly powerful way to demonstrate to a candidate that they matter. Do not underestimate the power of this question.
• Ask, “Why is this opportunity better than what you have today?” They better have a great answer. If they don’t, move on. Or you’d get better at thrilling with your opportunity.

Those are all simple questions anyone can ask a candidate in the interview process. They are all questions that need to be asked early and often in the interview process (don’t make the mistake of only asking once- you need to ask after every interview- I can’t tell you how many times candidates will get a raise or promotion in the middle of my interview processes-ugh).

Anyway, the ability to do the job is generally easy to qualify. Your ability to acquire the talents of your top candidate is something entirely different. Knowing the answers to these other dimensions will help.

Good luck. Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or comments.

About the author:
Doug Johnson is the president and founder of Valor Partners, 16-year-old boutique search firm focused on building executive, sales and marketing teams for their clients.  Doug is also focuses on working with top women in tech and helps companies develop strategies to attract, retain, and promote high-achieving women to their companies. 

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