To Snag the Best Candidate, Bring the Right Bait

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Here’s a question that every HR professional knows to ask a candidate and every DIYer probably never did:  “Have you thought

Which kind of candidate are you looking for?

If you’re looking to catch a big fish, you have to plan to catch a big fish. Minnow bait won’t work.

about what you’re going to tell your current employer when he asks why you’re leaving?” What!? You ask. What a crazy question! Why on earth would I expect the candidate to tell me that? That’s between him and his boss! Piker. What happens when his boss gives a counteroffer that’s slightly better than yours? You go through all that trouble to do background checks, assessments, interviews, agonize over the offer and it turns out the guy just uses you to get a raise where he already works.

Your big fish is gone and your line is empty. HR pros see it all the time.

If you want to get someone really good, especially in a hot market like Austin, you can save yourself a ton of headaches you never knew existed by doing preparation on the front end before you ever put your Help Wanted ad out there. Don’t go on your fishing trip until you’re sure you have the right gear and the right bait.

Before you even consider advertising the position, you need to write a thorough job description (what that AGAIN?) that covers everything the employee is going to have to do and know so the candidate can accurately compare your job offer to that of another company. You need a benefits summary in place that covers your medical plan, paid time off, what holidays you observe and whether you have any employee stock options so she can compare apples to apples. And you need to ask a bunch of questions that don’t seem important at the beginning of the process. But if you wait until the end, it’s too late.

For example:

  • Why are you interested in this job?

(Translation: Are you just trying to get a raise? Get away from your boss? Are we a stepping stone to something better? Does your girlfriend work here?)


  • What other opportunities are you looking at right now?

(Translation: Are we going to knock ourselves out trying to hire you only to find you’ve taken another job? What kind of job really attracts you? What do we have to do to win?)


  • What will be your deciding factor in terms of choosing a job, for example benefits? Pay? Culture? Flex time?

(Translation: We don’t want to enter a salary bidding war if your main priority is flex time).

Frequently, companies think only about their own perspective on the hiring. They look at a pool of candidates like fish in a barrel, just waiting for one of them to be chosen. But the truth is, every candidate probably has other prospective employers checking him or her out, too. You may be agonizing over the hire of a particular candidate while that candidate is signing papers with another employer.

So it’s really important that, from that first interview, you are clear about two-way communication between you and the candidates. Ask them, if something changes—they get their dream jobs or win the lottery—to let you know. Conversely, you have to let them know where they stand in the process. There once was a company that was recruiting for a senior developer position. One of the candidates wasn’t right for the senior spot, but would work well in another job in the company. Without discussing that shift with the candidate, they just sent him an offer letter for the other job. He said no, obviously.

So what do you say to the candidate who says she hasn’t thought about what she would tell her boss? You plant a seed. You say, “You know, your boss may give you a counteroffer that will look really attractive. So you need to think about why you want to leave that job. If you’re miserable and you hate the culture, even with a raise, you may be back here in six months looking to escape. Just think about that.”

The secret to a successful hire doesn’t come on the day that employee shows up for work. It starts a long time before that.

And if you want expert help from people who have seen it all..almost…call us.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.