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I'm A Recruiter. Here Are The Questions I Hear Most Often From Job Candidates

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With unemployment near 17-year lows, we’re continuing to see a very hot market for skilled job candidates. But an element that’s essential to finding and hiring great talent is failing many organizations. Simply put, employers are not hitting the mark with their descriptions of job openings. These listings describe the position, but fail to entice prospects to want to learn more. In addition to outlining required skills, job descriptions also should provide a glimpse into your company’s culture, its mission and purpose, and the role itself. Details of the job just aren’t enough today.

The people you want to hire are likely already employed. They may be open to considering a new role, but they need to be convinced that your opportunity is worth pursuing. Here are the questions I get asked most frequently by prospective candidates after they read your job description or first hear about your open role:

#1 What’s the salary range? Candidates raise the compensation question very early to make sure it’s a fit with their requirements. Savvy hiring managers don’t waste applicants’ time–or their own–by waiting until late in the game to disclose salary. Money isn’t the only consideration in changing jobs–or even the top consideration for many–but people want to know a ballpark range before they move forward.

#2 What’s the team really like? This question hits squarely on corporate culture. Are prospective coworkers collaborative and friendly, or is it a competitive group? What kind of tenure does the team have? How has the team changed and grown over time? People want to see how they would fit into your culture, and how the group aligns with their own style. Short tenure and constant turnover can indicate a challenging work environment.

#3 Who’s the boss? Candidates can search for the manager’s name on LinkedIn, but they want to know more than what is available on an online profile. They’re looking for signs of a great leader, as well as red flags that indicate their new manager may be difficult to work for. Their questions are often designed to determine the boss’s management style and reputation. Did she get promoted from within? Have his hires advanced in the organization? Candidates know their direct supervisor has a huge impact on their success and happiness in the role. A great starting salary and wonderful colleagues never make up for a bad boss.

#4 What’s the career opportunity? The job opening is one thing; the overall career path is another. Job seekers look at the big picture to see if this position opens new doors that are not available to them currently. Does the firm offer the chance to learn new skills, move up and around the organization, or work for a greater purpose? What’s the organization’s reputation? Would making the jump help raise my overall profile and marketability?

#5 What’s the hiring timeline? When does the firm want someone on board? Do they have an efficient hiring process? Candidates in this market don’t wait around for indecisive companies. In a recent survey of 1,000 office workers conducted by my recruiting firm, Robert Half, 39% of workers said they lose interest and pursue other roles when faced with a long hiring process; 32% of job hopefuls question the organization’s ability to make other decisions.

#6 What else about the organization makes it a great place to work? Are flexible schedules, telecommuting options, and progressive benefits offered? Does the firm contribute to community and philanthropic causes?

Think of these questions the next time you open a new role so you can craft the right strategy to promote it. Remember that writing a great job description, while essential, is only one way of attracting great talent. Check your firm’s digital presence (including your website, social media presence, company reviews, and your online hiring process). Is your firm consistently presenting itself as a great place to work? Also, task everyone on the team to look out for new talent, and provide referral bonuses. Your most talented and engaged workers can be powerful recruiters. Their excitement for the company and its purpose can help attract great people.

Improving your recruiting process also means taking a hard look at things that don’t work. We see too many organizations focused on finding the “perfect” candidate who’s a 100% match with the job description. In this market, you may be trying to find someone who simply doesn’t exist. Put a higher premium on soft skills and corporate culture fit, and be open to training on technical skills. The best person for the job may not the best resume writer, and may only meet 75 percent of the requirements. As you work with your colleagues on your hiring strategy, commit to taking an open and flexible approach. You’ll be surprised at what can happen–and who you’ll find–when you do.

Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half.

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