Your candidate will screen you now! Questions organizations need to ask themselves in the new war for talent

Mathew Sweezey Profile picture for user matthewsweezey July 7, 2021
How well is your company positioned to win the new war for talent? Salesforce's Mathew Sweezey and Karen Mangia have some useful questions to ask yourself.


Hiring is the new housing, and it’s a candidates’ market.   A record 4 million people in the US quit their jobs in April alone, a phenomenon referred to as The Great Resignation.  As NPR reports:

People are leaving their jobs in search of more money, more flexibility and more happiness. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time.

That means the design criteria for what constitutes “a great job” has fundamentally shifted.  Pre-pandemic salary + benefits + perks packages now have the curb appeal of a 1970’s tri-level home to many of today’s job seekers.  The new blueprint for success requires a solid competitive foundation and the addition of a new room.  A new gathering place that’s easier to construct than you might realize. 

Here are three key questions to ask that will help guide your design.

(1) How will the culture feel to them?

Meet Kelly. A recent university graduate on the search for her first ‘real job’.  And she wasn’t just looking for any job.  She was looking for the best job fit, and a big part of that ‘fit’ was culture. She used Glassdoor to help decipher the nuances of company’s cultures - similar to 69% of job seekers.  Companies with poor ratings were instantly eliminated from consideration. 

Glassdoor wasn’t her only culture clue.  She studied her interviewers closely as well. Particularly their initial reaction to her pink hair and tattoos. She knew she may have to change her look to fit into the corporate world, despite “Bring Your Whole Self to Work” claims.  When a recruiter complimented her “look,” though, Kelly thought she was on the right track.  Even though they had good reviews on Glassdoor, and the interviews went well, she still wasn’t sure whether the company was a fit.

Although companies answered her questions thoroughly, Kelly wanted to know more:

There were some questions I didn’t feel comfortable asking. I know what the work looks like, but I wanted to know what fun looks like”.  Other nagging questions went unasked simply because she did't know how to ask or if asking would disqualify her from further consideration.  Being a first generation graduate only added to her angst.

Kelly represents one persona - a new university graduate.  What other questions go unasked among parents, LGBTQ+, and remote or hybrid job seekers?  Today’s candidates want to know what’s behind the Glassdoor.  Not just what it’s like to work at your company, but what it will be like for them to work at your company.

(2) How does the company function?

Retention rates are the rear view mirror of best candidate match effectiveness rates.  Angie Blum, Director, People Business Partners at Nutanix, quantified the challenge of matching candidates to culture:

More than a third of our employees who left on good terms - regrettable attrition - left their next employer within twelve months. Which means what candidates think they are getting into is rarely what they are getting into from a culture perspective.

She suggests that expectation setting during the interview process is a possible culprit.  At its core, she believes candidates need to understand more about how the company functions.  Specifically:

  • How decisions are made.
  • How functions collaborate with one another..
  • 'A day in the life' of your role.

While these aspects can be addressed in the interview process, many candidates want to dive deeper.  Blum asserts that clear expectation setting in these three areas is strongly correlated with reducing first year churn:

'Day in the life' videos helped me choose a role at a previous company. Because I gained a much deeper understanding of what to expect on a daily basis.  As a result, it was much easier to assess if I would succeed in and enjoy that role.

(3) How will you showcase your culture in a virtual world?

Pre-pandemic, companies used lobbies and break rooms as tools to convey culture.  Now that most candidates are screened virtually, what’s your new lobby? 

As we move into the ‘next normal’, a significant portion of the workforce will remain at home and interview at a distance. Creating a virtual culture showcase and a great first impression is critical.   Showcase strategies range from the simple - personalizing interviewers’ virtual backdrops - to the strategic - sharing select Town Hall meeting recordings, announcements and insights with top candidates.

Core to granting insider access to candidates is trust.  Many companies are discovering the benefits outweigh the risks.  The key is to align on what you are willing to share to provide an insider’s view of your company without compromising your intellectual property.  

Building your new room 

What’s needed is a new construct.  A new way to recruit candidates.  A new way to screen candidates.  And a new way to bring top candidates inside your company’s culture.  The foundation of success is personalization.

Bryan Brenner, CEO and Founder of First Person Advisors argues:

Recruiters can no longer simply screen a pile of resumes to search for candidates.  Best candidate match means knowing more about your candidates.  And giving your candidates the opportunity to know more about you.  What are their interests and preferences?  Who else shares their interests and preferences inside your company?  The war on talent is reshaping the hiring process.

What today’s top candidates want is a room with a view.  Here are three strategies to build your showcase.

  1. Connect people to people - Connect potential hires with existing employees like them for candid conversations.  Salesforce recently announced a new “insiders program” to match candidates with employees based on shared affiliations and interests (think: first-gen college grads, single parents).  How could you create your own candidate culture guide program?
  2. Build a culture “Clean Room” - The term “Clean Room” refers to a site where accessible information can’t be downloaded, copied, or recorded.  Consider your own “Culture Clean Room” with  the latest company all hands videos, slightly sanitized road maps, financials, board decks, or even private company podcasts.  A safe sneak peak demonstrates trust as a core value even in the interview process.
  3. Build your employer brand -  Would you want to work for you?  Recruiting is marketing.  And the best marketers revisit their brand messages regularly. A part of your marketing should be focused on your Employer Brand.  This could range from customized hashtags - like Cisco’s #wearecisco -  to dedicated sites, dedicated podcasts, and social programs.  The key is to showcase what makes your company a great place to work. 

The new war for talent is upon us, and job seekers are rethinking work. The question is how well your company is positioned to win the new war for talent.

Image credit - Pixabay

Disclosure - This article was co-authored by Karen Mangia, Vice President, Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce. Karen focuses on strategies for personal and professional success, and regularly works with executives, managers and future leaders at companies of all sizes globally. She published two books in 2020: Listen Up! How to Tune In To Customers, And Turn Down the Noise and Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work For You - both from Wiley. She has been featured in Forbes and regularly writes for Thrive Global and ZDNet. Committed to diversity and inclusion, she serves on her company’s Racial Equality and Justice Task Force. She is a TEDx speaker and the author of Success With Less, a book that chronicles her own personal journey through a life-threatening health crisis. Her high-impact keynotes help organizations to access the future of work via innovative insights around the voice of the customer.

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