Think of a time your expectations were surpassed – wasn’t it a nice feeling? When this happens, we often go on our way and forget about the encounter pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the reverse is true when expectations are not met. You are more likely to talk about a negative experience, carry the blah feeling you into the next interaction, and might actively avoid that experience.
Consultative recruiting is all about managing expectations. Stakeholder engagement both inside the organization and with candidates starts with setting and managing expectations and understanding who is accountable for what. Spoiler alert –much of the accountability lies with you!
Candidates and hiring managers are counting on you to set expectations and then manage them step by step through your processes. Hiring managers want to know you’re keeping track of each step outlined to attract and screen top talent. Candidates want to know where they stand in your talent pool and how long it will take to move through the hiring process. While setting up the expectations takes effort and careful planning, equally important is the action you take to keep high visibility on the plan – and this is where a lot of people fall short on best practice recruiting status.
There are three key starting points to expectation setting with recruiting stakeholders. There are similarities in the approach to expectation setting and should be applied to all of your stakeholders.
This short list is a starting point that many effective recruiter training and recruitment seminars share early on:
1. Bare all (information that is) – be crystal clear on the process you are facilitating, how long you anticipate it will take, and when each stakeholder can expect to hear from you. Is it after each step, or every other Wednesday? By baring all from the start and following through, hiring managers and candidates will have the information they need to continue feeling engaged in the process and understanding what comes next.
2. Be consciously curious – strategic talent advisors always come with a plan. The plan is not simply to bring a set number of candidates and hire within a set timeframe. An intentional plan uses conscious curiosity to learn about the roles, industry, and skills needed for each requisition. Using this info to be intentional about how you will then approach each search is the differentiating factor that ‘wows’ hiring managers and up-levels the kind of talent you will be able to find. Using this same intentionality with candidates allows you to better ‘sell’ the role, and form a meaningful and trust-based connection with everyone you speak to. As we’ve all learned, sometimes, you meet a great candidate for a different role and only learn about the fit through conscious curiosity and asking them more questions!
3. Focus on experience – there was once a local bakery with the most delicious fruit danish. As word of mouth (and social media pictures) spread, they had lineups out the door for this tasty treat. Unfortunately, one of their employees did not enjoy the busy, non-stop atmosphere and became rude, impatient, and made a lot of mistakes managing the payment process. Business slowed despite the recipe for the danish remaining unchanged. The same applies for hiring, even if the mechanics of the process remain top notch and recruiters are bringing in top talent, the hiring managers and your prospects will quickly slip away if moving through the process becomes difficult, filled with mistakes, or takes longer than necessary.
While these staples seem simple, letting any of them slip will have a big impact on your hiring results, and your reputation. While corporate recruiting strategies and HR process improvement can be set out once and refreshed, candidate experiences must be set and repeated multiple times, and scaled when hiring volumes change. Here are some things you may want to have in your recruiting toolkit for candidates specifically. Remember, your ability and intent to action these items are as important as the planning of them!
Three key ideas for setting expectations with Hiring Managers:
1. Joint accountability – contracting through the intake process or through training on their role in delivering on a positive candidate experience is key. Help them with checklists, a process workflow, or guidance on how to interact with each candidate, and how to consistently manage follow up.
2. Speed to hire – while recruiting drives the process and frequent follow up moments that are set out at the start of each hire, the hiring manager greatly influences the speed at which talent can be brought into the organization. If they cannot prioritize time for interviews and follow up feedback, it will slow the process down and decrease the candidate’s excitement to join.
3. What happens if…. sometimes tough love works. The entire candidate experience can fall if the hiring manager doesn’t show up well. This can be anything from not reviewing resumes before interviews, to not remembering candidates on multiple meetings, to rushing through interviews or expressing disinterest in the candidate as a person. Everyone needs to act as a brand ambassador for the company on every encounter.
Six Ideas for Setting and Managing Candidate Expectations
For candidates, the interactions are more frequent as they move through the hiring process. Setting and managing expectations for their experience means advocating for your organization’s employer brand, but also letting the candidate know you are their liaison to the company as well. Here are some ways to meet and exceed candidate expectations.
1. Explain exactly how the recruiting process works, the steps involved, when they happen and when you plan to be in touch with them for updates or with feedback. In advance.
2. Build trust by always following through on what you have said – this will also help you understand where a candidate might be in their interview process with other companies.
3. Remove surprises – no candidate wants the extra anxiety of the unexpected through the hiring process. If there is an assessment, share the details up front – include what it is, when in the process it will come, how it will be administered, from whom, what you are assessing, how long it will take them to complete, and when they will receive feedback on it before the next step.
4. Silence is not golden in this process. The biggest complaint from candidates – and the easiest one to fix – is staying connected. If you said they would hear from you after each interview, act! If you said you would provide pre-interview reading, act! If you said they would have an offer or decline within one week of the final interview, act! Even if you don’t have new information, touch base to say that, especially now that you can so easily reach people through email, text, phone, instant messaging. There is no excuse for anyone to feel ghosted through the process.
5. Be upfront with bad news. It is uncomfortable at times, but it is part of setting expectations and managing relationships. It’s part of the job to share good news and bad. Don’t wait until a Friday afternoon to share bad news because you have been putting it off, it’s not about you! That candidate may not be ideal for one role, but you narrow the open flow of communication and the potential to speak to them again if you drag out delivering any kind of news!
6. Set and manage expectations about the offer and onboarding. Yes, people are generally excited to receive a new offer, that is a fun part of the job. Understand that there is a lot of emotion involved in this process though – leaving their current role on good terms, getting ready to be successful at your company and meeting new people. Guiding them through this process is an important way to introduce them to your company on a positive note.
7. Be a dual advocate. You are a brand advocate for the company and attracting the best talent to keep building the organization you love! Setting this expectation up front signals to candidates that you are not out shopping to a ‘deal’ and will lowball their offer. They need to know your role is to balance the corporate talent budgets against their fair value in the market. Threading that needle will save time up front, during negotiation, and help the candidate feel more secure in sharing what it will take for them to join your organization.
At the end of each hire, if you were to ask if you’ve met the expectation of the hiring manager and the candidate, what do you think they would say? If they said you acted with intention to keep everyone updated, provided information before it was requested, and reduced anxiety for both the company and the candidates because everything was so clear, wouldn’t that be amazing? Most people show up to work wanting to do a great job and be recognized for it. The role of bringing top talent into an organization is not rocket science, but it can be busy, intense, and hard to navigate. If you can add one or two actions from this list into your talent acquisition process, it is guaranteed that you will see improvements – just act!
About the Author:
Jeremy Eskenazi, SHRM-SCP is the founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique talent acquisition optimization consulting firm. Riviera Advisors does not headhunt, it specializes in recruitment training and strategy consulting, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent. From best practice recruiting, to improving speed to hire, to candidate experience, Riviera Advisors is a go-to place for strategic talent advisors.