The two most common reasons organizations cite for using a recruitment firm to manage their candidate search and hiring process are time and level of difficulty. And a candidate search that isn’t accurately set and maintained can dramatically increase both.

Have you ever completed a project only to realize that the results were drastically different from where you started and what you intended? That difference between your starting and ending points can happen for a variety of reasons but often it’s because of the culmination of several small factors. That same thing can happen to hiring managers and HR professionals conducting a candidate search. A successful hiring process is dependent not just on creating accurate search criteria but also on knowing when and how to proactively adjust the search to find candidates that qualify as your perfect fit.

Keep reading as we outline how to define your search criteria, the consequences of falling out of scope, and how to maintain an effective search process. We’ll also share a little insight into how AEBetancourt structures our candidate search process.

It’s hard to know when you’ve found something if you don’t know what you’re even looking for. By definition then, this means starting with a clear target or goal in mind.

In the context of the candidate search process, making an ideal hire will always be challenging if you haven’t first identified what that person looks like. What background and experience do they have? Where are they working now? What do you need them to accomplish or create within your organization?

While job descriptions are great, more often they serve as legal descriptions than helpful criteria for finding the talents and skills you need to select and hire great talent. Effective candidate sourcing is an evolving, ongoing practice throughout the search process, but there are solid guidelines for how to begin.

Ask the right questions

The first step is to ask yourself three critical questions:

1. What does this person need to do? Identify the specific responsibilities associated with the role and what the individual will be held accountable for.

2. What skills does this person need to have? Frame this from the perspective of firsthand expertise and knowledge that are either required to do the job or that would allow the person to be more successful.

3. What will success look like? Establish benchmark standards and goals to help both you and your new hire measure their progress and growth, particularly in the first year.

A good sourcing strategy should start with a defined profile of the role, a description of your ideal target candidate, and the parameters of the target market used to build your candidate pool. Finding your perfect-fit hire is about finding alignment between a candidate’s abilities, knowledge, and experience, and the priority of specific qualifications the position requires.

Clarify where the boundaries lie

While you won’t be able to identify every desired nuance, it is extremely helpful to clarify some of the more common variables you might uncover in your candidate search process. Typically, candidate recruitment strategies will begin by targeting the originally defined talent pools and then slowly expanding your search to include candidate profiles that appear to be “close” or “just outside” of the defined guidelines. However, it is helpful to identify just how broad your candidate search should go.

Some important questions to ask when clarifying these boundaries are:

  • What education, degrees, licenses, or certifications are required for this role?

  • Can experience level be considered instead of formal education?

  • Do you need and have the budget to hire an experienced individual in your industry?

  • Do you have the capabilities and resources to train someone with potential?

  • If you are hiring for experience, do you want direct industry experience, or could related, transferable experience be considered?

  • What personality and characteristics fit best with your team, organization, and clients/customers?

  • How will the location of a potential candidate come into play? How long is the average commute?

  • Can this person work remotely or in a hybrid capacity?

  • If you are conducting a wide-reaching search, do you have the budget to relocate an ideal candidate?

The key to a successful candidate search that results in making a perfect-fit hire is to start with a clear profile of who you are looking for with clarity around where you can make adjustments.

Consequences of Being Out of Scope

Initially, this may not seem like a problem if your candidate search is sliding out of scope, especially if your search is broadening. Aren’t having lots of candidates to consider kind of the goal? And if your search is narrowing, wouldn’t this just mean you have a laser focus on what you need and fewer candidates to evaluate?

Maybe, but not always. There are some real consequences of conducting a candidate search that is out of scope.

Missed opportunities for finding great talent

If your search for your next perfect-fit hire has become too narrowly focused, that next great hire may not even apply or be found in your search. Conversely, sourcing efforts that are too broad could easily result in overlooking ideal talent among a sea of unqualified candidates.

Increased time to hire

Whether you are conducting a candidate search yourself or have hired a recruitment firm, no one wants a search to drag on needlessly. If your candidate search is too broad you will waste time reviewing candidates nowhere near your ideal. However, a search that is too narrow can turn your search into the real-life version of finding a needle in a haystack.

Increased cost to hire

Many factors can add up quickly during the hiring process if you’re not paying attention, especially when the process is delayed needlessly. Let’s start with the cost of the unfilled position itself, then factor in the cost of your Human Resources department, hiring manager, or recruitment firm for delays in time or unnecessary work. Finally, there’s the cost of making a bad hiring decision if you don’t find the person you want and need to hire.

How to Maintain an Effective Candidate Search Process

Allowing your search process to flex between parameters that shift too far in either direction isn’t helpful for efficiently hiring new talent. So, what can you do to keep your search process on track?

Avoid common candidate sourcing mistakes

The desire to make the right hiring decision can quickly turn into pressure to make a hasty hiring decision. Yet, bad hiring decisions don’t just result in regrettable choices but also increased hiring costs. Just as troubling are missteps along the way that could steer your search process away from a great candidate instead of toward them.

Be careful to avoid these three common mistakes in your candidate search process.

1. Placing too much value on personality assessments

Many organizations use personality profiles to help them assess candidates. Unfortunately, too often the results carry far more influence than what was intended, especially if they are used as deciding factors for whether or not to interview a prospective candidate. These tools are designed to be a contributing factor to making a hiring decision, not the definitive factor. Too often the resulting information from these tools can be misinterpreted or inaccurate.

If you have concerns about conducting a face-to-face (or even a video interview) schedule a brief phone interview instead to talk through and clarify your concerns.

2. Only interviewing candidates that perfectly match your ideal

In a perfect world hiring organizations would be able to hire someone who matches their checkboxes with 100% perfection. While an understandable goal, the problem is that a candidate that completely matches “the mold” may not exist. And if they do, they may quickly grow out of the position you are now hiring for.

Instead, look for a candidate that can accomplish the job you want them to do. While you should aim to be close to your perfect-match qualifications and characteristics, don’t discount candidates who may be just outside of the mold you are looking for. This is especially true for candidates with a healthy hunger to succeed. Oftentimes, these employees will surprise you with the extra effort they contribute to prove themselves.

3. Relying too much on instinct

While intuition and gut feelings have their place in business, selecting, interviewing, or hiring candidates based on feel or personality alone could mean missing out on a great hire.

Placing too much emphasis on an HR professional or hiring manager’s feelings could allow for personal biases to cloud objective thinking. And while you want new employees to fit your current corporate culture, you don’t want your entire hiring decision to be based on one aspect alone.

We create a Candidate Scorecard to evaluate each prospective candidate against a predefined benchmark. Our interviewing method also follows a consistent process of candidates walking us through their resumes and career history from past to present. This is a modified version of what is called the A-method or top-grading interview style.

Combining these two practices allows us to interview and evaluate candidates based on their education, skills, talent, personality, and ability to perform in the role. This also helps us identify and address any red flags in candidate work histories such as patterns of terminations.

Recognize when your candidate search is out of scope

With so many variables involved in the hiring process, and with so much at stake, there are real potential risks for your candidate search to fall out of scope by becoming too narrowly focused or too broadly approached. The key is to notice the warning signs and understand what adjustments to make.

Signs your search is too broad

If your candidate search efforts (either passive or active) are generating a majority of unqualified applicants, your candidate search parameters are likely set too broadly. The most common cause is an incomplete or loosely defined profile for your ideal candidate. While less frequent, the same problem can also happen if your sourcing strategy isn’t properly defined.

Signs your candidate search is too narrow

Conversely, if you are struggling to receive applications or to find candidates when actively sourcing, your search is likely too narrowly focused. In this case, the problem typically stems from two possible causes. The first is a misalignment between your ideal candidate and the current labor market. The second factor could be as simple as using the wrong keywords, filters, and identifiers while sourcing candidates, so be sure to confirm how you have that structured as well.

To resolve a candidate search that has gone out of scope, return to your initial definition of who your perfect-fit hire is and whether your qualifying criteria are accurate. Again consider education, seniority level, and experience. Also review your geographic search area, compensation package, and work arrangements like remote or hybrid options. There are multiple levers you can adjust to bring your candidate search back on track so listen to the feedback and recommendations from your talent acquisition team on where you should make your adjustments first.

Regularly and routinely review your progress

As a hiring company, you should never wait for the warning signs, expanding timeframe, or creeping costs to make adjustments to your candidate search process. Whether you are working with an executive search firm or with internal departments or teams, communication is key. Plan frequent and consistent check-ins to evaluate your search progress and to make any needed adjustments.

Your key areas to evaluate should include:

  • Job posting activity and engagement. A job posting should be much more than simply listing a job description. Instead, it should be viewed as a marketing piece that encompasses your organization’s culture, mission and vision, values, position benefits, company perks, as well as growth trajectory for the role. Equally important, is where your job posting is placed. The audience and user profile of the platform or website used should mirror your ideal candidate profile.

  • Quality of candidates identified within the defined candidate profile and target market. Expand or contract the scope of your candidate search based on your findings.

  • Candidate feedback on the available opportunity. Pay close attention to how candidates are reacting to your opening. Do you have a positive company culture, competitive compensation package, flexible working arrangements, and/or opportunities for growth? Be prepared to make adjustments here too to ensure you are creating an attractive place for top talent.

Final Tips to Keep Your Candidate Search Process on Track

Conducting a successful candidate search process means evaluating and appropriately reacting to a wide variety of information and activity. It is essential to start with clear goals and objectives, realistic expectations, and a defined strategy. Then maintain regular and focused communication with your entire hiring team to properly evaluate progress and determine where any adjustments might be needed in your strategy or approach.

Our process at AEBetancourt begins with a tailored 360 Profile based on our clients’ needs, industry, market, and specific roles being filled. This profile becomes our roadmap for how we source, identify, and connect with target candidates. To verify the defined scope of the new candidate search, we compile Candidate Benchmark Lists using a diverse range of candidates at varying levels of experience and industry knowledge. Reviewing this with our clients allows us to align our search strategy and mutual goals.

Our Perfect-fit Process is designed to target the right talent in the right market to decrease both time and cost to hire. Plus our model provides dedicated Talent Development Specialists to your search to manage the entire project or any component you need assistance with.

Do you have questions about your talent acquisition efforts and hiring needs? Let us know how we can help.

a guide to the recruitment process