Episode #7 – How to Be a Top Candidate in Today’s Market

How to be a Top Candidate in Today’s Market

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. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help 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 how job seekers can make themselves top candidates for jobs in the market. Hello, Stacy.

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

Sharita: You’ve worked with a lot of professionals during your career as a recruiter, is that correct?

Stacy: Yes, that is. I’ve worked with thousands of professionals over the years, and I’ve seen many of them try to position themselves as the top candidate during the hiring process.

Sharita: Do you believe that professionals have a firm grasp of what it takes to a top candidate?

Stacy: I would have to say overall that they don’t. Unfortunately, some assume that they’re a top candidate when they really aren’t. Others don’t approach their job search or the hiring process in the correct fashion and they misrepresent themselves. Others don’t do a good job of promoting their candidacy or emphasizing what makes them a great candidate.

Sharita: It seems like it’s a complicated process.

Stacy: Actually, it isn’t that complicated, and that’s because employers all basically look for the same things when they hire people. While everybody brings different strengths to the table and suffers from different weaknesses, the motivation for hiring officials remains constant.

In fact, there are three main reasons why a hiring official would make you an offer of employment:

1. They believe that you’re going to make the company money.
2. They believe that you’re going to save the company money.
3. They believe that you’re going to add value to the company.

Of course, the best-case scenario from the employer’s perspective is that you would accomplish all three things once you became an employee.

Sharita: If this the case, then what can job seekers do to position themselves better during the hiring process?

Stacy: They should take their past accomplishments and tie them to the three points I just mentioned. They should do this both in their resume and then during the face-to-face interview. Specifically, you should show three things:

How you made your current and past employers money
How you saved your current and past employers money
The value that you added to your current and past employers

When you do this, though, you have to remember to use specific examples with quantifiable data. For example, what exactly did you do to make what amount of profit for a company? What exactly did you do to save a certain amount of money?

Sharita: So are you saying that if a professional focuses on these three things and can tie their past accomplishments to these three things, it makes them a top candidate?

Stacy: Actually, it’s just the first step. That’s what gets you in the door. There’s a lot more that’s involved.

Sharita: What else is involved?

Stacy: As I said at the top of the podcast, there’s often a disconnect between what candidates believe they have to offer and what employers believe they have to offer. That’s because candidates overestimate what they have to offer in the way of skills, experience and expertise.

Let’s say that as a candidate, you’ve demonstrated a history of making your employers money, saving them money, and adding value. Even if that’s the case, there’s a chance that other candidates in the process have also demonstrated that history. I tell professionals all the time that they’re not applying for a job in a vacuum. They’re competing against other people, and there has to be a way for hiring managers to choose between them. At the end of the day, only one person receives an offer of employment.

Sharita: So how do hiring managers make that determination?

Stacy: Well, there are three things that a professional needs to be considered a top candidate by a hiring manager. The first has to deal with skills.

A professional should have, at minimum, 80% to 85% of the skills required for the position. Obviously, 100% would be better. However, sometimes a top candidate is hired with less than 100%. It depends on the situation and what else they bring to the table in terms of their candidacy.

Think of it this way. If the job description includes a list of core skills, you should not be missing any more than one of those skills. If you’re missing two or more of those core skills, then you will not be considered a top candidate—no matter what else you’ve done.

Sharita: That makes sense. What about the second factor?

Stacy: Second, the candidate must be willing to accept a salary in the range offered by the company. Now I will say that landing a new job does sometimes bring with it a bump in salary and other compensation. In fact, that happens quite often, especially for top candidates. However, the employer is not going to hand a candidate, even a top candidate, a blank check.

The employers starts the search with a salary range. Yes, they’re willing to pay a top candidate at the upper part of that range. But if a candidate attempts to land a salary that’s far out of the upper part of the range, that rarely flies. Sometimes a company will pay a top candidate more than the range they set, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. And if you’re asking for a salary at the upper part of the range, you’d better have close to 100% of the skills required for the position.

Strangely enough, money also plays a part in the third factor.

Sharita: What is that third factor?

Stacy: The third factor is that the candidate must be motivated by something other than money?

Sharita: By something other than money? I thought we just discussed candidates attempting to get a salary above the accepted range.

Stacy: That’s true, but we’re talking about their main motivation for wanting a new job. That’s an important distinction.

First, though, let’s talk about why making money your primary motivator can be bad in the eyes of a hiring manager. If your primary motivation for doing something is money, then you’ll go wherever there is more money. That means in a hiring situation, you’re a higher risk for accepting a counter-offer from your current employer. When it comes to the risk of a candidate accepting a counter-offer, employers want to eliminate that risk altogether. If a hiring manager thinks that you might accept a counter-offer, then they probably will not consider you a top candidate.

Sharita: So a candidate’s main motivation for wanting to change jobs is very important, not just for them but also for the organization that might hire them?

Stacy: That’s correct. That’s because when you get right down to it, a top candidate to an employer is not just a candidate that measures up in every way. It’s a candidate who will accept their offer of employment and actually work for them.

Sharita: Now that we’ve talked about what professionals should do to stand out as a top candidate, are there things they shouldn’t do?

Stacy: There are plenty of things they shouldn’t do. Unfortunately, I’ve seen candidates commit some of the same mistakes over and over.

Sharita: What are some of those mistakes?

Stacy: If a recruiter reaches out to a candidate about a new opportunity, the candidate should work with the recruiter and not try to go around them. Candidates sometimes think to themselves, “If I could only speak directly with the hiring manager, I could convince them of what a great candidate I am.” This is misguided thinking.

I have an example of this. A while back, a candidate called the hiring manager of one of my clients on their cell phone after hours. The hiring manager was not happy about this. In fact, they called me and said that they were not going to consider the person anymore.

You have to remember that companies rely heavily upon the judgment of the search consultants they hire. If you go around the recruiter that the client trusts and contact the client yourself, you will likely not be considered for the position. Not only that, but the recruiter will also take you off their list of candidates to contact for future opportunities.

So it doesn’t matter how many skills you have or how much experience you have. If you make mistakes like this, you won’t be considered a top candidate. In fact, you probably won’t be considered a candidate at all.

Sharita: What other mistakes do professionals make that hurt their candidacy?

Stacy: Candidates make a lot of mistakes during the interview process that do a lot of damage.

I once had a candidate who interviewed with one of my clients only because he wanted to take his wife on a trip to see New York City. Obviously, I did not know this before he flew to New York for the interview. Needless to say, I was not happy when I found this out, and neither was my client. Doing something like that damages your reputation, and you never know when it will come back to bite you.

I had another candidate who flew to one of my clients for an interview. Then, when he flew back to his hometown, he had a $200 dinner at a restaurant in his hometown. Then he tried to get my client to pay for it! This kind of behavior is unacceptable, and if you expect to be considered a top candidate for any job, you can’t engage in behavior like this. These two examples are not the norm which is why they stand out in my mind.

The interview stage can make or break you, and I look forward to talking about the face-to-face interview in upcoming podcasts.

Sharita: Stacy, thanks so much for all of this great information today, and I look forward to talking about the interview stage, as well.

Stacy: Thank you, Sharita!