All Articles Leadership Management You had me at hello: How hiring companies deter outstanding potential employees

You had me at hello: How hiring companies deter outstanding potential employees

4 min read


Companies have been hiring again — perhaps selectively and far more strategically than ever before, but the job market can definitely be described as robust.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in 2015 has averaged 198,000 per month with industries such as health care, information, and professional and business services trending upward. This is good news for job seekers and, of course, recruiters.

In these times of growth, competition for the best talent naturally increases. The most qualified and capable have choices. Furthermore, the financial crisis of the recent past has made everyone more prudent and risk adverse. Great employee prospects will likely be cautious and, as such, hiring managers and the companies they work for need to be mindful about what causes trepidation in those they are looking to hire. Being aware of some of the sources of seemingly “cold feet” can make a world of difference and ultimately lead to an increase in successful hiring.


Compensation is always a prickly subject. Conversations and revelations about compensation are fraught with stress, and oftentimes we follow some draconian protocol that is believed to be correct. We hesitate to bring up this issue on both sides of the table. Actually, it serves no one’s best interest to avoid discussing compensation.

It may shock you to learn that many of us executive recruiters discuss general parameters of compensation in the first conversation we have with a candidate. This is because we don’t want to waste anyone’s time. We all need to know whether we are in the same “ballpark.” Why spend countless hours courting each other only to learn that we can never meet the other’s expectations? Hiring companies would be wise to open up in some way about this early on in the recruitment process to minimize surprises and maximize productivity.

First impressions are lasting impressions as the saying goes, and this is very important in the hiring process. We are so focused on how we are going to assess a candidate in the interview and obtain essential information that we often lose sight of the fact that the most desirable and experienced candidates will also be making their own appraisal. They will be examining the office space, observing the receptionist and noting the quality and expertise of the interviewer. I was once interviewed by someone eating takeout pizza from a box — not the ideal show of professionalism.

Not only must interviews be well prepared for but the initial outreach to discuss interest and schedule this meeting should also be professionally handled and deliberate. The participation of the executive assistant should not be left to chance. Each “touchpoint” in the process reflects the company and can enhance interest or discourage it.

Another focal point should be the actual offer and delivery thereof. I have seen perfectly executed recruitment processes blow up at this critical juncture. Presumably, if you have followed any of the above, you attract and maintain the interest of stellar candidates. Further, if you have had some compensation dialogue, then your candidate has an idea of what to expect.

However the importance of getting the final specifics just right should not be underestimated. Some companies try to undervalue the initial offer with the thought that they can always raise it if rejected. Be careful with this strategy, for some people will bring no counter.

With regards to offers, be purposeful on who delivers it and how. The other element that is almost never given a second thought is how long the candidate is given to reflect and make a decision. Once a thorough and sometime exhaustive and exhausting search has been conducted, companies can be in a hurry to close the deal. This pressure should be paid attention to and managed on a case-by case basis. A few extra days of deliberation for the cautious and reflective candidate can be more than worth it.

The hiring process certainly has a particular purpose and objective. Done right, the desired candidate is more likely to say yes. Regardless of whether the hire is made, the image and brand of the company will be enhanced in the process.

Patricia Lenkov heads up Agility Executive Search, a boutique firm she founded in 2008. Agility provides bespoke search services to companies of all sizes globally. She was previously an executive recruiter with both Heidrick & Struggles as well as Spencer Stuart. You can connect with her at

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