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Who Thanks Whom?

A recent article penned for Inc by Suzanne Lucas made the bold statement: “Dear Hiring Manager, Perhaps You Should Write the Thank You Note.” She continues: “The traditional thank you note is from candidate to hiring manager. That’s wrong… Just what are you exactly thanking the manager for? Taking the time to talk with you and consider your application for the job, right? But, what were you really doing? You were taking your time out of your day (and often using vacation time from your current job to do so) to try and solve a problem for the hiring manager.”

At first glance, most would read statements and think “thank goodness this wasn’t a candidate I interviewed; seems quite entitled.” However inverted of a perspective this author seems to hold from standard interviewing protocol, there is an underlying message communicated by her article.

It may be time to evaluate your hiring process through a new lens.

If we assume it is the candidate’s responsibility to pen the thank-you note, doesn’t that inherently mean that we also assume it’s the candidate’s responsibility to be thankful for being granted an interview to begin with?

You may have this mindset and not even realize you have it. A few questions to consider:

  • How much time do you expect a candidate to prepare for the interview with you? How much time do you spend preparing for that same interview?
  • You likely have asked the question “so why should we hire you” without batting an eye – how receptive are you when a candidate questions “why should I come to work here?”
  • Checking candidate references from past employers is a probable interviewing step; candidates volunteer these regularly. What would your reaction be if a candidate asked to check references from those who had worked under your supervision in the past but were no longer with the firm?

These are just a few scenarios to help challenge your paradigm. Lucas ultimately summarizes this mental shift: “When we think of all the things we demand of job candidates, we should realize that they are the ones doing the hiring managers big favors. You need that position filled, and these people are graciously helping you to do so.”

Start with Motivation
Secure more insights than exist on paper. Schedule time with your recruiter to go beyond more than “the individual is looking to take that next step in his career” and instead have a solid understanding of what the candidate does not have currently yet is looking to have within your organization. Know what is most important for this candidate to learn from your initial meeting as it relates to what he is looking to accomplish in this career move. Additionally, make sure you know “why your firm” – why this candidate wants to talk with your firm as opposed to others. What is it that initially sparked their interest, and how you can expand on that to have the candidate walk away with their own motivating factors addressed? Finally, know “why not” – any concerns this candidate in areas such as the cost of living (if relocation is involved), or stability, or any other detail no matter how large or small. This is the opportunity to address them, either openly or candidly, throughout the interview.

It’s the Little Things
Small things stand out, especially when candidates are in a thriving economy and may have the opportunity to interview with multiple organizations. Take a moment and look at your physical office space through a new lens. What does someone entering your space see and experience? Is your boardroom, interviewing space, or personal office dated and could use some modernization? Do you have anything on the walls that showcase your organization’s accomplishments, or highlight your culture? Think through the impression you make as it relates to your physical office space.

When the candidate arrives, give them bottled water without them having to ask or accept it. When the candidate leaves, consider an exit gift of some sort – a small item with your logo on it or something personalized based on what you know about their interests or background.

The Sell
Take some time to craft concrete answers or success stories around questions such as the following:

  • What are the primary reasons someone would join your organization instead of another firm?
  • What is the specific and measurable career path?
  • What in-house resources do you have that give people a competitive advantage? What external resources?
  • How does your company differentiate itself from other competitors in your niche, and what would this mean to someone joining your firm?
  • What is the tenure of your senior staff? What benefit does that provide a new associate?
  • What future growth plans do you have for your firm? What opportunity does that create for someone?

Even if the candidate does not ask the direct question, you want to remain confident that you are articulating “why you” just as much as you are trying to determine “why them.” If, during the interview, a light bulb switches on and you have the revelation that this is the exact person you need to hire, the better you can articulate your true value proposition the higher the chance that candidate will want you as much as you want them.

—Karen Schmidt

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