Candidate Matchmaking: Steps to Ensure Candidates “Swipe Right”

Kerri-Ann Nesbeth
February 28, 2019

Skeptical about finding the right person who is highly qualified for the role? Have you been putting your organization out there? Wish it was as quick and easy as swiping right?  Here’s how to set yourself apart and ensure you find your perfect match!

Gone are the days of the online dating stigma. Whether using Tinder, Bumble, The League, or eHarmony (yep, it still exists), many people view online dating as a great way to meet someone. The data backs this up with 40% of Americans using online dating apps. It’s also reported that about 20% of committed relationships have begun online. Thanks to technology and algorithms, over the years online matchmaking has proven successful.

The same can be said for recruiting new talent for your organization. With the advent of online job postings, applicant tracking systems and social media, putting your organization out there no longer requires putting an ad in the local newspaper (unless that’s still your thing, of course). Technology has made it easier to build professional networks and connect organizations to the right people to fill their talent needs. However, similar to online dating,  we often hear schools and education organizations mention common pitfalls that can make candidate matchmaking quite difficult. Remember when that highly qualified candidate stopped responding to come in for an interview? You were ghosted. What about that time you thought a candidate was invested in continuing the interview process, but you find out in the eleventh hour that they accepted another opportunity? They were seeing someone else. And how about when you officially extended an offer, excited for them to sign but they end up declining to join the team? It might have been something you said, or even worse… something you didn’t say.

The key to successful online “dating” for the recruitment of new talent for your organization is to advertise what makes you unique, uphold transparency, and ensure open lines of communication. The secret sauce isn’t really all that secret because the key to putting yourself out there is to be authentic. No one wants to be wooed based on fallacies that do not represent reality (stop using high school photos as profile pictures!). By pinpointing your unique identifier, or your Employee Value Proposition, you’ll be able to differentiate your organization in what often seems to be a crowded marketplace. Upholding transparency will remove space for gotcha moments, inaccurate assumptions, and sets the premise to prospective staff that your organization values clarity and trust. Lastly, ensuring open lines of communication throughout the recruitment process enables your organization and candidates to be on the same page and highlights the expectation that honesty and openness will be encouraged.

Defining your Unique Identifier

What makes your organization stand out amongst all others? Is it your compensation and benefits package? The culture and working environment? An abundance of professional growth opportunities? While you may be able to respond yes to more than one of the prompts above, the key is to identify and share what you offer that differs from other places that prospective (and current) staff could choose to work. By defining your Employee Value Proposition (EVP), you are naming your competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace.

In order to identify (or redefine) your organization’s EVP, you must understand the current lived experiences of your staff. Most organizations inaccurately define their EVP by naming their aspirations (insert high school photo here) and sharing their ideal norms – e.g. everyone ends work at 2 pm every day and we never work on the weekends. This leads to candidates being wooed based on what you hope their lived experiences will be versus what you know it will be.

Instead, complete the following steps to define your competitive advantage (click here for even more guidance from a previous Talent Talks blog post):

  1. Identify a subgroup of positions and staff
  2. Conduct staff conversations or a survey, asking:
    • What brought you here initially? What keeps you here?
    • What might help you stay here long-term?
  3. Identify trends
  4. Develop your EVP and key messages
  5. Routinely circle back to reconfirm and test

Once your EVP is defined and shared broadly, it should resonate with current staff and candidates should see key messages brought to life during their recruitment process – e.g. staff testimonies about effective PD on your website, the adult culture, and working environment brought to life during their in-person interview. This will set the tone that what’s being advertised is authentic and real.

Upholding Transparency

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” – Dalai Lama

Transparency removes space for inaccurate assumptions and sets the premise that your organization values clarity and trust. For current staff, this means being explicit in feedback conversations, setting clear development goals and ensuring that evaluations are aligned to organizational values and role-specific competencies. For candidates, transparency means setting clear expectations in order to avoid surprises or misconceptions throughout the recruitment process.

Earlier, I mentioned an example of finding out in the eleventh hour that a candidate accepted another opportunity (they were seeing someone else). In that scenario, the candidate successfully navigated the job market, but their ultimate decision wasn’t in your favor. But imagine if your initial conversation with the candidate set the foundation that you wanted the process to be as transparent as possible, where both parties shared an agreed upon set of norms.

Here is an example, where a recruiter sets the tone for what the organization’s recruitment process will look like while sharing some initial expectations:

Recruiter: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me! Your current skills and experience align well with what we’re looking for.

Candidate: Awesome! I’m excited to continue the process and learn more about your organization.

Recruiter: Before we continue the process, I want to commit to being transparent with you about next steps and our timeline. Does that sound good with you?

Candidate: Absolutely! It’s refreshing to hear.

Recruiter: Wonderful. We also ask that you let us know if there are competing timelines with other opportunities you may be exploring so that we can keep it in mind as we move forward.

Candidate: Sure. Currently, I am early in the process with two other organizations, but this opportunity is at the top of my list because it aligns well with my career goals.

Rather than assume alignment on expectations, in the example above, the recruiter sets forth some initial norms around transparency with the candidate – e.g. sharing next steps and timeline. This helps ensure that the organization’s values around clarity and trust are conveyed early on.

Ensuring Open Lines of Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw

In addition to broadly sharing your EVP and having transparency in your recruitment process, ensuring open lines of communication is also vital. It’s important to communicate often and effectively with candidates. You never want a great candidate to assume your silence means they aren’t a good fit or wonder for too long where they stand in the process. On average, your time to hire (from the day someone first applies to when they are hired) should be 30 days.

This means that as candidates meet the competencies defined in hiring profiles and you assess for non-negotiables against interview rubrics (more on hiring resources here) you move them through the process and aim to share status updates within 5-7 business days. By doing so, you set yourself apart from other organizations that have much longer hiring timelines – adding to your competitive advantage!

By defining your EVP, upholding transparency and ensuring open lines of communication you’ll avoid common pitfalls to recruitment, or candidate matchmaking. In addition to implementing the strategies listed above, we invite you to attend EdFuel’s annual D.C. Talent Summit where we will help schools, districts, CMOs, and other education nonprofits build capacity to think creatively and holistically about talent – which includes tools and resources for effective recruitment and hiring. Register here to save your seat by March 21, 2019!