We know the hiring market is tough right now. Compensation expectations, job mobility, recruiting costs, and opportunity costs for unfilled positions are all high. How do you attract the talent you need to your company when you’re not a household name with billions in the bank?

The answer, while simple, is also hard: at each stage in your hiring funnel, clearly communicate the organizations’ needs and how by meeting them, a candidate can achieve their own goals. We’ve written previously about understanding what our team needs in a new hire, so this post will elaborate on thinking about what a strong candidate needs in order to consider your organization.

Every person is unique, and will have different priorities and preferences; but the vast majority of candidates care about the four following things in some degree:

  • Personal recognition and value
  • Professional development
  • Work environment
  • Competent management

Lead With Value

In your hiring process, show how you value your team members. While compensation is certainly a part of this, it’s also more than a dollar amount. How will the future employee be valued? How does your team or department show appreciation? Candidates care if organizations will value them and their work. This can come through both by communicating early on about their financial compensation, and also by sharing what is done today to make teammates feel valued, appreciated, and recognized.

Emphasize Career Development

Some candidates want to have more flexibility in their career, switching between spending time as a practitioner then as a manager and back again. Others want to focus on either their production or organizational skills. In every case, we need to anchor on what the candidate wants out of their career. Some are motivated by technological novelty, living on the bleeding edge. Others want to see a product mature into something that works incredibly well for it’s customers. Others care deeply about reliability. Take the time to learn about a candidate’s interests, and share where you see the overlap within your job opportunity.

One word of caution: no matter which priorities a candidate has, make sure to be clear about what growth opportunities are available and which are not. A candidate that loves to do greenfield work will become disaffected if they don’t get opportunities to start new projects. Conversely, a tinkerer who enjoys working with existing systems will get frustrated if they keep having to learn yet another teams norms or tools every nine months.

Clarify The Work Environment

People want to know what they’re getting into. Not just from a “we have brick walls and a micro-kitchen” way, but in a “here’s how we work around here.” Do you do code review? Are your teams integrated, or do product and engineering have different people making compensation and promotion decisions? Does your entire organization, management and leadership included, get training for how to avoid microaggressions and reduce social toxicity? How much time do team members get to self-direct their attention vs working down a task list?

There are no “right answers” to how a work environment should operate (though there are many ways they shouldn’t). Be honest about who you are so that the candidates who will thrive in that environment can recognize you. Better a few strong matches than a hundred poor ones!

Demonstrate Competent Management

The hiring process is the first touchpoint a new hire has with your organization. When you demonstrate empathy for candidates throughout the hiring process you show that your organization values employee feelings and happiness.

If you can show this empathy consistently throughout the entire process, from sourcing to job posts to scheduling interviews, you’ll improve your ability to attract, hire and retain strong candidates. People leave managers, and showing your organization has thoughtful, understanding managers engaged in the day-to-day work is a powerful persuasive force.

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Empathetic Hiring: Understanding What Candidates Want
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