Episode #39 – What Top Candidates Want (and What They Don’t Want)

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

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about what top candidates want and what they don’t want. Welcome, Stacy. Thank you for joining us.

Stacy: Hello, Sharita. I’m glad to be here today.

Sharita: In our last podcast, we tackled the topic of what employers want and what they don’t want. Today, we’re going to discuss the same topic, but from the candidate side of the equation.

Stacy: That’s right, Sharita. What top candidates want in the marketplace is just as important as what employers want. I believe it’s crucial to talk about both sides and not just one.

Sharita: Why is that? Since employers are the ones with the open position, shouldn’t what they want and not want hold more weight?

Stacy: As we’ve discussed many times, we’re in the midst of a candidates’ market. There are two main rules concerning a candidates’ market. First, candidates in general have more options available to them. Second, the top candidates have the most options and the best options.

Sharita: So if an Animal Health or Veterinary organization wants to hire the top candidates, then they should know what those candidates want and what they don’t want.

Stacy: That’s right. If an organization does not care about the quality of the candidates that it hires, then its hiring officials should not concern themselves with what candidates want. But as we all know, just about every company in the marketplace wants to hire top candidates. It would be crazy not to.

Sharita: So how would you like to approach today’s topic?

Stacy: Well, It’d like to break it down into two segments. First, we’re going to talk about what top candidates want in a new employment opportunity. Then we’ll discuss what they want during the hiring process.

Sharita: So both of those are equally important?

Stacy: Yes, as an employer, you must have knowledge of both areas. If you only have knowledge in one area, you could fail to attract and hire the talent you want. The margin for error is very thin when it comes to hiring in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession right now. Talent is in high demand. That’s why it so important that employers are aware of these things.

Sharita: Okay, let’s start with the first segment. What do top candidates want in an employment opportunity?

Stacy: First and foremost, top candidates generally will not even consider an employment opportunity unless it’s clearly better than the one they currently have. Keep in mind that this is strictly from the candidate’s perspective. It doesn’t matter if the employer thinks that its opportunity is better than the one the candidate has right now. It matters if the candidate thinks so.

Now there are instances in which a lateral move makes sense, which is something that we’ve discussed in a previous podcast. More often than not, though, the bottom line is that the candidate must be convinced that the opportunity is better or they will not consider it.

However, there are some common things that top candidates want in an employment opportunity. These things can be further broken down into two categories—the Animal Health job or Veterinary job itself and the organization.

Sharita: You mean the candidate considers these separately?

Stacy: Yes. For instance, the candidate could love the job itself, but have serious doubts about the organization. If that’s the case, then the candidate is ultimately not going to want the job. To top candidates, both of these elements are important.

Sharita: Okay, let’s address the first category. What do candidates want in a new employment opportunity?

Stacy: The first thing is that they want challenging work. Since these are top candidates we’re talking about, that makes sense. These types of Animal Health and Veterinary professionals want to be challenged. They thrive on it. So if they make a move for a new opportunity, they want the same type of challenges that they get with their current position.

Second, these candidates more than likely want a new title that reflects the fact that they’re moving up in their career. Top candidates are all about career advancement. They want to be continuously moving up the career ladder.

Third, and this one probably does not surprise you, these candidates want more pay, more compensation, and quite possibly better benefits, as well. Employers need to understand that this is especially the case in today’s market. If you’re an employer and you want a top candidate to make a move and come work for you, then you’ll need to motivate that candidate with an attractive offer package.

Sharita: I imagine that you’ve seen this situation play out numerous times, is that correct?

Stacy: That’s right. I’ve seen Animal Health and Veterinary employers try to hire top candidates with an underwhelming offer package and their offer gets rejected. Or the candidate accepts an offer from another organization instead. These days, you can not “low-ball” an offer to a candidate, even if that candidate does not have a lot of experience. I’ve seen recent graduates and candidates with only two years of experience receive very attractive offer packages. In fact, I’ve seen them receive more than one at the same time.

Sharita: Stacy, let’s move on to the second category, the organization. What are candidates looking for there?

Stacy: Many top candidates want to work for an industry leader or an organization that is well known within the field. These types of organizations are called “employers of choice,” and that’s because there are a lot of candidates who would like to work for them. This certainly isn’t a prerequisite, though. You don’t have to be perceived as an “employer of choice” to hire top candidates.

Second, candidates want a great company culture. This has become increasingly important to candidates during the past several years. Candidates want to know that they will fit into the culture, that the culture will fit them, and that they will excel within the culture. In instances where a candidate is being offered two positions with the same pay and compensation, many times they’ll accept the offer of the organization that they believe has the best company culture.

Sharita: What else are top candidates looking for when it comes to the organization?

Stacy: Candidates are looking for an employer that will provide them with further opportunities for advancement. Once again, these are professionals who are striving to move up the career ladder. They’re always looking to move forward, so they want to work for a forward-moving and forward-thinking organization. If there aren’t opportunities for further professional advancement, then they won’t be as interested in the job.

Candidates also want the chance to increase and grow their skills, so they’re also looking for an organization that will invest in their career by providing them with skills development and training. When top candidates are considering employment opportunities, these are the things they evaluate and these are the things that affect their decision.

Sharita: Now that we’ve talked about what candidates want in an employment opportunity, including the job itself and the organization, what do they want in the hiring process?

Stacy: The thing to keep in mind about top candidates and the hiring process is that if you’re an employer, you must keep them engaged in the process. Remember, top candidates have options. If you don’t keep them engaged, then they’re more likely to drop out of the process.

I can tell you what candidates absolutely do not want in the hiring process. They do not want to feel as though they’re being neglected.

Sharita: What does that mean, neglected?

Stacy: I have some specific examples of that. If you’re an employer and you don’t give feedback following the telephone screening or the face-to-face interview, the candidate could feel neglected. If you don’t let the candidate know where they stand in the hiring process and what the next steps are, the candidate could feel neglected.

If you repeatedly reschedule face-to-face interviews with the candidate, then that candidate could feel neglected. In fact, I had a situation where a candidate was interviewing with an organization and company officials did not allow the candidate to take a lunch break, despite the fact they had been putting the candidate through group interviews for the entire day.

Sharita: Really? That actually happened?

Stacy: Unfortunately, it did. It might have just been an oversight, but the candidate did not see it as an oversight. They saw it as neglect, and when a candidate feels neglected, they’re not going to want to work for your organization.

Top candidates are conducting a confidential job search. That’s because they’re already employed. Not only that, but more than likely, their employer does not want to lose them. So if a candidate is exploring other opportunities, they do not want their current employer to know what they’re doing. Because of that, organizations that are considering these candidates for their open positions should be considerate of the candidate’s confidential search. They should not break that confidentiality and they shouldn’t put unrealistic interview expectations on the candidate.

Sharita: What kind of expectations are those?

Stacy: As I stated a minute ago, companies can’t keep rescheduling face-to-face interviews with candidates. These candidates have a job and they have a personal life. With as many options as they have, they’re not going to think they should be at the “beck and call” of an organization just because the hiring manager wants to keep rescheduling interviews.

Employers also can’t expect to conduct interviews that last all day long, especially if they’re not going to provide lunch for the candidate. In addition, they can’t expect to call the candidate in for three, four, or five face-to-face interviews. Right off the bat, if they’re a top candidate, they’re probably interviewing with other companies. So if you’re the employer in that situation, then you’re moving too slowly. You can’t drag out the process like that.

In the end, what candidates want in the hiring process comes down to just two things.

Sharita: What’s that?

Stacy: They want the confidentiality of their search to be considered and they want their time to be respected. If you show top candidates consideration and respect during the hiring process, then you’re more likely to keep them engaged and actually hire them.

Sharita: Stacy, thanks so much for all of this great information today.

Stacy: Thank you, Sharita. I look forward to our next podcast!