11 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Losing Top Candidates

Many seemingly small problems can derail a hiring process. So when they’re competing for top talent, good recruiters take precautions and setup their hiring practices in such a way that they reduce their risk of a good candidate falling through the cracks. Here are several tips I’ve learned to minimize the chances of a good hire getting left behind by mistakes in the hiring process.

Reducing Risk of Candidates Not Applying

  1. Post ads in multiple places. If your ideal candidate cannot find you, they will never apply. Try different job sites and make sure to post on social media threads (like Facebook job groups). Also consider more traditional forms of advertising like print, radio, and billboards if your need justifies the expense. Finally, don’t forget to tell people in your personal and professional networks that you are hiring. Many of your best applicants will come through the people you know.
  2. Keep ads simple. The more information you include in an ad, the fewer the candidates who will apply. Keep your full position description internal and separate from your ads. Ads should be a high level summary, include the benefits of this position to the candidate, and list any hard requirements necessary for the position (e.g. a Class A CDL for a truck driver job). By keeping ads simple, candidates will be more likely to apply because they don’t doubt their ability to do the job.

Reducing Risk of Candidates Dropping Out

  1. Respond to candidates within a week of receiving their applications. You can always schedule the interview later if you are not ready immediately, but at least the candidate knows you received their application and are interested in meeting them. They will potentially delay accepting other positions to meet with you, especially if you are their best option.
  2. Keep your hiring process simple. The very best candidates will not remain available for long, so putting them through a multiple-step process over several weeks will increase the odds that they will accept another position instead of yours. If more than one manager needs to meet a candidate before an offer can be made, get all the managers into the first interview and skip the follow-up interviews.
  3. Follow up with a decision within a day after an interview. This may mean scheduling multiple interviews close together so you can make a decision in a timely manner. A good rule of thumb is that each day a candidate has to wait for your response, they will be 10% less likely to accept the position once offered (e.g. 80% chance of acceptance after 2 days, 50% chance of acceptance after 5 days).
  4. Discuss the possibility of a counteroffer if the candidate is currently working. Their current boss didn’t value them enough to give them a raise before your offer, so the odds are very high that his or her counteroffer is not going to change the underlying reasons the candidate wanted to leave in the first place. Four out of five employees who accept counteroffers end up leaving the company within nine months. Prepare your candidate for this by discussing it in your final interview.

Reducing Risk of Hiring Unqualified Candidates

  1. Clearly list hard job requirements on position descriptions. State if a degree is required, if a drug test is required, and if a particular type of criminal background is required (e.g. no criminal felonies in the past 3 years). In Illinois, you cannot ask about a candidate’s criminal background until a conditional job offer has been made. Let candidates who do not meet hard requirements screen themselves out. Then if they apply, make sure you actually verify the requirement you listed.
  2. Always check references, even if you have a good feeling about the candidate. Candidates should primarily have professional references, using personal references only when professional references are unavailable. Even former business owners should have references from their former customers. 56% of hiring managers have caught candidates lying on their resumes. Trust but verify what candidates say.
  3. Perform simple tests during the interview process. Sometimes experience doesn’t tell the whole story. Candidates’ proficiency is often better understood by conducting simple tests during the interview process. Observe how they assemble a device, have them take an online typing test, role-play a common scenario in your office, or ask them to write out a code for a short program.

Reducing Risk of a New Hire Quitting Immediately

  1. Ask questions about the candidate’s motivation for working your job. There’s more to an interview than just determining ability. A good hire matches for candidate motivation. Ask the candidate why they see this job being a good match. If they can’t articulate anything specific, they are likely looking at the position not for what it is but for what it represents to them. They may need a quick paycheck, which is fine, but they should also like other things about the job like the tasks they will be performing, the goods or services the company is producing, the professional growth the position will represent, or even the proximity of the job site to their home. If the candidate can’t tell you why they want to work for you in a way you can clearly believe, move on.
  2. Discuss the candidate’s other applications before determining a start date. Clearly state to the candidate that once they start you do not want them to leave immediately. Ask if there is any other job currently in the interview process that they plan to pursue in the next week or so. Work out a timeframe for them to reach a decision with you and hold them to it. Their hesitation or eagerness to work for you will tell you how likely they are to stay with you long-term.

My final advice is: always trust your gut. If your gut feels that something is wrong, ask the hard questions until you feel better. If you never feel good about the candidate, move on. You will rarely regret letting a candidate get away, but you very likely will regret making a bad hire.