How to Snag Your Dream Candidate Without Going Broke: Speed, Fit, and Focus

Recruiting is a numbers game, but that doesn’t mean the only number that matters is the one with a dollar sign in front of it. Many organizations wonder how they can land top candidates without paying above-market compensation, and without getting into costly bidding wars for talent.

The answer is complicated: different candidates want different things out of a job offer.

Some people are highly motivated by financial compensation and will be reluctant to sign on with your company unless your offer exceeds any other. Some candidates are dealing with cultural fit issues at their current company and are more eager to make a move, even if the money is a lateral move. Other candidates are motivated by learning experiences and future growth opportunities available to them in the new position that you’re offering. Some candidates are motivated by a combination of all three. And some candidates have personal reasons for wanting to take a new job — moving closer to family, getting a more flexible schedule, or becoming part of a company with a more compelling mission.

Your company cannot control the many variables and personal motivations that go into whether or not a candidate accepts your job offer. But what you can control is your recruiting and hiring process: how quickly, efficiently, and expertly you find, engage, and match the right candidates with the right positions at your company. If you want to successfully hire more of the best people before they sign on with a competitor, take a closer look at your process, and adopt a strategy of Speed, Fit, and Focus.

Here are some specific examples and actionable insights on how to do this:

Speed — hone your hiring process: Even if you can’t quite compete on salary, you can compete on how quickly the job offer arrives. Get your hiring process down to a science so speed is second nature. Candidates respond more favorably to companies with efficient hiring processes, instead of companies that drag out the process, that fail to reply to emails and phone calls, and otherwise make it feel like the job offer is never going to come.

Just like buyers often respond to the first vendor that submits a project bid, job candidates will view your job offer more favorably if it’s delivered more promptly. Especially if the competition is quick to make promises to candidates, but slow to act.

Fit — Develop a detailed questionnaire for cultural fit: Cultural fit is often a mysterious and misunderstood concept — or worse, is thought of as a way to exclude promising candidates who don’t look or act like “the usual suspects.” But the truth is, evaluating cultural fit — done right — is one of the most important ways to predict future success and employee retention. If employees feel good working within your company culture, if they feel like your company shares their values, if they feel like they can bring their best selves to work everyday and learn and grow, then they will be more likely to thrive on the job.

One way to land more of your top candidates is to create a detailed cultural fit questionnaire — unique to your company — to use during the interview process.

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The questions might be straightforward or esoteric, or both, but have deep conversations with your candidates before you extend a job offer to find out more about what makes them tick, what they really want out of the job, and what their hopes are for the future. Then, with more extensive data in hand, you can use this cultural fit information to sell your top candidate on why your company is going to be a great fit for them. Show your candidates that you know why they’re more likely to succeed at your company — and that you care about their comfort and success — and you’ll get more of them to accept your offer.

Focus — align your recruiting team with specific roles. There are some tricks of the recruiting trade that are applicable to hiring for all sorts of professional disciplines — but specific roles have unique challenges and cultural idiosyncrasies that can make recruiting more complicated. Your recruiting team needs to be able to speak to the specific concerns of candidates in each role — whether it’s sales, marketing, IT, product development, or executive roles. As part of the process of building trust with candidates, your recruiters need to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk in a way that resonates on a deep level with the concerns of candidates in each role.

Taking a fresh look at your overall hiring process is one of the best ways to land more of your top candidates, without having to shell out more money on salaries and counter-offers. Creating a faster, more efficient hiring process, making cultural fit a major selling point, and aligning your recruiting team’s skills and communication around the concerns of specific roles are all ways to show your top candidates that your company seriously values them and is thinking about their futures in ways that are often more meaningful than money alone.

Carolyn Betts

Carolyn Betts is the Founder & CEO of Betts Recruiting, a global recruiting firm with office locations in San Francisco, New York, Austin, and Dublin, Ireland. She is a sixth-generation Bay Area native and is actively involved in the community, serving as a board member of the UCSF Partners in Care, an officer of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, and a member of Young Presidents Organization.

Betts Recruiting focuses on fast-growing, innovative tech companies to build out revenue generating talent roles to include sales, marketing, and customer success at all levels. Betts has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses, and was named one of the Best Places to Work and Fastest Growing Companies in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times.