Having trouble hiring top talent? Here’s what you’re doing wrong

Last updated:
December 15, 2020
December 17, 2021
min read
Brendan McConnell
Table of contents

Finding and hiring top talent is at the centre of what it means to be a successful recruiter. If there’s one overarching goal of a hiring team, it’s to snatch up the best possible hire before the competition does. And that’s no easy feat. The best hires are off the market in 10 days, meaning you have to work quickly and effectively to lock down the right person for the job.

Too often, however, recruitment teams are their own worst enemies when going after top talent. Issues in the hiring process, a poor candidate experience, or even just an off day for an interviewer can all have an impact on your organization’s ability to attract ideal candidates.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at common reasons recruiters lose out on top talent, the role that the candidate experience plays in this process, and share some best practices to put you back on the right track.

10 common reasons for losing top talent

Consistently missing out on top talent for your open requisitions is likely indicative of a wider series of problems in your organization or recruitment process. There’s usually a reason that quality hires aren’t choosing your organization, and it often comes down to variables within your control.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons recruiters lose out on top talent:

1. Failing to plan your requirements and strategy.

Trying to fill a job requisition without a plan or a clear list of requirements is a bit like trying to hit a target in the dark. It takes a deliberate strategy and a clear set of requirements to identify, attract, screen, and close the best talent for a given position.

2. A poor candidate journey.

Recruitment teams that don’t have a clear and consistent candidate journey ensure that they will undoubtedly experience headaches when trying to land top talent. A strategic candidate journey ensures that each touch point with the candidate has a purpose, and moves the applicant through the funnel as efficiently as possible.

3. Poor employer branding.

The best candidates will have a bunch of different companies and job options to weigh during their job search. One way to ensure that you don’t make the shortlist is to have poor employer branding, or an unclear message about what your benefits are to the applicant.

4. Using the wrong sourcing channels.

Spinning your wheels by looking for top talent in the wrong place is one of the best ways to ensure that you never find them. More important than sending tonnes of recruitment ads out into the world is taking the time to understand who your candidates are, and how you can reach them on their own turf.

5. Critiquing applicants based on the wrong variables.  

Subjective recruitment, or judging applicants based on personal biases, can cause recruiters to take a pass on otherwise highly qualified candidates. It’s imperative that you have a system in place to ensure that you don’t hire based on gut, but rather based on objective facts and variables that lead to success.

6. Not being diligent enough.

A thorough recruitment process usually means pre-screening, screening, interviewing, shortlisting, and performing background checks on each of your chosen candidates. It’s a deliberate process that requires diligence and commitment to a system. Failing to do your due diligence can lead to taking a pass on qualified candidates, or choosing someone who isn’t actually set up for success.

7. Providing a poor interview experience.

83% of applicants agree that a negative interview experience can change their mind about a company. It’s critical that each person you interview is shown the respect they deserve, and that your process is fair and thorough enough to help you make an informed decision. Being unprepared for an interview, or using the wrong techniques, is a great way to lose out on top talent.

8. Being too general.

Establishing a clear set of job requirements helps your team create a persona for an ideal candidate. This requires you to be very specific about what is needed to be successful in the job. Being too general will not allow you to focus your job search to find the best applicants.

9. Being too picky.

On the other hand, being too rigid with your requirements is equally problematic. There’s no such thing as the “perfect” candidate. So, it will be necessary for you to establish what job requirements are “must haves” versus “nice to haves” so that you don’t reject an otherwise solid candidate.

10. Taking too long to pull the trigger.

As mentioned earlier, the best candidates are often off the market within 10 days of starting their job search. That means you need to be fast on your feet, and ready to expedite the recruitment and offer process if a top candidate hits “Apply”.

You will likely notice a trend there. Each of the above points feeds into the overarching theme of candidate experience in some capacity. That’s because ensuring a positive candidate experience should be an ongoing priority for recruiters. Let’s take a look at why that is.

Candidate experience: the secret weapon for hiring top talent

In today’s competitive landscape, a great candidate experience is vital to hiring top talent. Job seekers have many options available to them when looking for their next career move, and are consciously weighing the pros and cons of each company they interact with. Simply put, the demand for top talent is currently higher than the supply, so it’s imperative that your company differentiates itself from the crowd.

If you’re having trouble hiring your ideal candidates, ask yourself a few questions related to the candidate experience. What type of experience are you providing your applicants? How is your company presenting itself to applicants? If you were in the applicant’s shoes, what would your impression of the process be? What is your employer brand saying about your company? Is that message appealing to your ideal candidates?

If your answers to any of the above questions are negative ones, then it might be time to start brainstorming how you can improve the experience for your applicants. Candidate experience goes hand in hand with employer branding. If one is poor, then the other will be as well. And while a great experience and branding alone might not seal the deal on every top candidate who walks through the door, it will certainly help ensure that you don’t lose out because of a negative first impression.

Now that we’ve established the importance of candidate experience, let’s take a look at some best practices that will improve your chances for hiring top talent.

10 best practices for hiring top talent

When thinking about ways to improve your ability to hire top talent, a good starting point is to take a look at the common reasons you might be losing out, and turn those of their head. This is a common technique for identifying and solving problems in project management. First, you identify that there is an issue, then you break down reasons for why that problem exists. Finally, you reverse or alter the actions that led to the issue in order to solve the underlying problem.

For this exercise, we can take the ten common reasons for losing top talent, and turn them into actionable steps for improvement. Here are the 10 best practices for hiring top talent:

  • Set clear expectations early. Establish your must-haves and nice-to-haves early on, and get buy-in from the hiring team on what success looks like.
  • Establish an efficient candidate journey and application process. Streamline and enhance each stage of your candidate journey by leveraging automation and feedback from applicants.
  • Actively cultivate a positive reputation. Make sure your career site showcases your team, culture, and vision using compelling text, videos, and images. Actively interact with reviewers on sites like Glassdoor to curate your online reputation, and guide your messaging going forward.
  • Know your ideal candidate, and talk to them where they are. Establish an ideal candidate persona, and think through where those professionals congregate. Meet them where they are and talk to them in a language that appeals to their career interests.
  • Use an objective, structured approach to screening. Adopt structured interviews and objective scoring to ensure that you limit bias as much as possible in your screening.
  • Create a clear and repeatable hiring process, and stick to it. Audit, tweak, and continuously improve your hiring processes to ensure that it’s efficient and providing a great candidate experience.
  • Establish a positive and enjoyable interview experience. Create a detailed overview of what interviews should entail, what techniques should be used, the tone you’d like to strike with candidates, and the expectations of the interviewer.
  • Be very specific about job requirements from the start. Meet with your hiring team and managers to identify what is required to be successful on the job. Use this as your guiding light for all strategy going forward on that specific job requisition.
  • Understand that the “perfect” candidate doesn’t exist. Be fair with your candidates. Top talent doesn’t necessarily mean perfect talent. Train yourself to identify potential, and don’t be afraid to give someone a chance if they’re almost what you’re looking for.
  • Don’t waste the candidate’s time. Everyone is busy today. Respect people’s time, and maintain clear and regular communication. Keep your team at the top of your mind, and the best candidates will notice your commitment to them.

Often at times, an inability to hire top talent has more to do with your process and candidate experience than what you’re offering. You can have the best team, compensation packages, and office space in the world, but if you’re not providing a positive impression for your candidates, then they’ll likely never know what you have to offer.

So take the time to analyze your candidate experience, and implement best practices that will help you lock down the best hires on the market.

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