Episode #118 – How to Handle Top Candidates When They Have the Leverage

Samantha: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, executive recruiter Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary employers hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be talking about how to handle top candidates in this current market when they have the leverage. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Samantha. As always, I’m glad to be here.

Samantha: Stacy, we’ve talked about the candidates’ job market in the past, specifically what makes a market a candidates’ job market. What are going to discuss today?

Stacy: We’re going to discuss strategies for dealing with and managing top candidates in this current job market. And I used the word “leverage” in the title of this episode for a reason. That’s because leverage is an important factor in any job market. Those who have the leverage have the most options available to them. In the case of a candidates’ job market, it’s top candidates who have the leverage.

Samantha: So I would guess that handling top candidates when they have the leverage is a much different situation than dealing with them when they don’t have the leverage?

Stacy: That’s right. And top candidates have had the leverage for some time now, a matter of years, in fact. And the Animal Health and Veterinary employers that handle these candidates in the best fashion are the ones that will ultimately have the most success when it comes to hiring them. I’d like to illustrate that with a hypothetical scenario, although this is a situation in which quite a few hiring managers have found themselves.

Let’s say you have an open position that you want to fill. You whittle your short list of candidates down to about five, although there are two you really want to hire. The problem is that those two candidates are not interviewing only with your animal health organization or veterinary practice. They’re interviewing with three organizations . . . apiece.

So your top two candidates have a total of six options combined. You, on the other hand, have just two options. You could include the other three candidates to give you a total of five options, but it would still be less than the six options that your top two candidates possess.

So let’s now say that you make an offer of employment to your top choice candidate. Now say they received an offer from one of the other organizations with which they were interviewing at the same time. They ultimately accept the other offer and not yours. Perhaps they accepted your direct competitor’s job offer.

So you make an offer of employment to your #2 candidate. Yet again, they’ve already accepted an offer from another organization and are no longer in the job market.

You’re back to square-one with zero options, although you still have your #3 choice. Your top two choice candidates, on the other hand, had the flexibility to choose between multiple offers. In the final analysis, who had the leverage in that situation?

Samantha: Those two candidates definitely had the leverage.

Stacy: That’s right. Which means they had more options from which to choose. And since that’s the case, employers have to think more closely about how they interact with these candidates during the hiring process.

Samantha, I imagine you’ve heard the phrase “talent acquisition” before.

Samantha: Yes, I have.

Stacy: Well, that phrase has been a buzzword of sorts in the employment marketplace for several years to loosely describe hiring. However, just like hiring is not like buying electronics, it’s also not like going grocery shopping. You’re not “acquiring” talent in the same way that you pick a piece of fruit off a tree. Top candidates do NOT grow on trees.

That kind of approach doesn’t cut it in this current job market. Instead, organizations must attract talent. Actually, there’s a step before that. You have to identify the talent first. But then again, that’s like going grocery shopping. You can certainly identify which piece of fruit you want in the supermarket, the same way that you can identify which candidate you want to fill your open position. But that’s where the similarities end. You just can’t pick up a candidate like a piece of fruit and carry them off.

As we’ve discussed before, this is why online job ads are not that effective when it comes to hiring top talent. The best candidates are not looking at job ads, so they won’t respond to job ads. In fact, even if they saw a job ad, they probably would not respond to it. These candidates have to be attracted. You just can’t acquire them by rolling out an online job advertisement.

But even that is not enough.

Samantha: It’s not? Why is that?

Stacy: Because once you successfully attract top candidates and convince them to enter your organization’s hiring process, you then must engage them and keep them in the process.

Samantha: So just because they enter the hiring process doesn’t mean they’re going to stay in the process?

Stacy: That’s right.

Samantha: So how should Animal Health and Veterinary employers engage these candidates?

Stacy: That’s a great question. The answer is to find out what motivates them and then use those motivators as tools of engagement. And we’ve talked before about what is important to today’s top candidates. Money is just one small piece of the overall puzzle. Candidates also want the following things. They want:

  • Opportunities for professional skills development
  • Opportunities for advancement through the organization or practice
  • Better work-life balance and schedule flexibility
  • Access to leadership and/or management opportunities

What hiring managers and company officials must do is emphasize these things during the hiring process. They should definitely emphasize them in the job description, during the phone screen, and during the face-to-face interview. That way, you can attract these candidates with the things that motivate them the most and then continue to engage them with those things all the way through the hiring process.

Samantha: And I imagine that you also use those things to close the right candidate at the end of the process.

Stacy: That’s right! The hiring manager or hiring authority must rely on these motivators when making the offer of employment. They must emphasize them once again and make them prominent parts of the offer package. Even if you make a generous offer in terms of salary, compensation, and benefits, you also have to make sure that the offer contains everything that would motivate the candidate to accept the offer.

Remember, top candidates have the leverage. They have more options. That means as an employer, you must present your option as the best option. It’s certainly not the only option. That’s why an employer must tap into what motivates these candidates and keep tapping into these motivators repeatedly. That’s how you approach and handle the best candidates in this current market.

Samantha: Stacy, we’re almost out of time, so can you summarize all of this for us?

Stacy: I certainly can. First, as we’ve discussed extensively, candidates have the leverage in this job market. This means that employers must approach them differently than they’re used to or maybe how they’ve approached them in the past. There are four main things that hiring managers, veterinary practice owners, or anyone else wanting to hire these candidates must do. Those four things are:

  1. Identify the top candidates in the market.
  2. Attract the candidates with what they want, or their motivators.
  3. Engage the candidates in a way that will keep them interested in the opportunity and the organization, once again using the motivators to help do so.
  4. Close the top candidate by making a compelling offer of employment, one that contains all of the motivators that apply to that particular candidate.

Samantha: So this is pretty much a blueprint for what Animal Health and Veterinary employers should be doing?

Stacy: A rough blueprint, yes, but it highlights the important steps of the hiring process and what organizations and practices should be doing during those steps. And there’s one more thing I want to mention before our episode is over.

Samantha: What’s that?

Stacy: Even if an organization is working with an Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter, they must stick to this blueprint. They can not expect the executive recruiter to do all of these things for them. Yes, the executive recruiter will definitely help the employer in every capacity possible as much as possible. However, the candidate is ultimately going to work for the organization, not for the recruiter.

Since that’s the case, what the candidate wants to see is the employer making the effort. They want to see the employer engaging them during the hiring process and making them feel wanted during the negotiation phase of that process. If the executive recruiter does it and the employer does not, there’s an excellent chance the candidate is still not going to feel as though the organization’s Animal Health job or Veterinary job is the next best option for their career.

Samantha: And when you’re dealing with candidates who have leverage and options, you have to make sure that your option appears clearly better to them.

Stacy: Correct. In fact, as an animal health employer or veterinary employer, you have to make sure that your organization’s job opening appears to be clearly the BEST option for them. And doing that requires everything that we’ve discussed here today.

Samantha: Stacy, thanks so much for joining us today and providing all of this great information.

Stacy: You’re very welcome, Samantha, and thank you. Once again, it’s been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health Employment Insider!