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Hiring Talent: The Candidate Advocate

Improve your chances of hiring outstanding experienced candidates

The Candidate Advocate is not an administrator, nor a recruiter.  The Candidate Advocate does not simply set up interviews and deliver feedback; they represent your candidates' interests.  It may seem counterintuitive to appoint such a person, but your must consider your candidates' point of view in order to effectively hire.  A candidate advocate can facilitate spoken and unspoken communications allowing you to present yourself and your company in their best possible light.
Even the very best consulting firms lose good candidates.  Hiring companies may turn candidates off by delaying interviews, providing unclear feedback or simply by not paying enough attention.  An overly full interview pipeline prevents new prospects from entering your hiring process.  You may waste valuable executive time micro-managing recruitment.  You may not provide or receive valuable feedback.  If you are losing your best candidates, you may want to consider appointing a Candidate Advocate. 
A Candidate Advocate plays a critical marketing role as you compete for scarce talent.  You have a short period of time and limited communication with your prospects and you need to make the best impression possible.  Your candidates' emotional reactions to you and your hiring process critically impact your ability to hire. 
The care you take creating a favorable impression to candidates should reflect the care you take developing business with new clients.  When you sell services, you create the strongest messages possible, plan the delivery of those messages, seek help from subject matter experts, and delegate the administration of your process.  You provide leadership and only directly involve yourself in the highest value areas.  A good Candidate Advocate not only will provide administrative support, they will act as a subject matter expert about your recruiting process and your prospective hires. 
An employer has a number of tools available to motivate experienced candidates.  These include: higher compensation, greater responsibility and growth, stability and vision for the company, exciting projects, and above all, a personal connection with the hiring manager.  Experienced consultants consistently cite their feelings about the people they will work with as a top reason for joining a new firm.  While it may be difficult or impossible to change many aspects of your company, it is quite possible to enhance the impression you make with the very best candidates.  The first step, of course, is to identify those outstanding candidates.
Consult your own network, ask your staff, and perhaps even engage an external recruiter. You are on your way.  Now that you have begun to source candidates, how do you manage a successful hiring process?

  1. You want to give yourself access to the best candidates available by crafting and delivering a strong message about your firm and your opportunity.  Make sure you convey a quality message to a select audience.  You want to let prospects know about your opportunity, but make sure to preserve your brand broadcasting your opening carefully. 
  2. Once you have a pipeline of prospects, you will want to narrow the field as efficiently as possible, so that you can effectively build relationships with the best candidates.  Rely on your recruiters and staff to conduct the first screening interviews, but make yourself available for urgent initial conversations.  Great candidates must be pursued and do not remain on the market long.  Put yourself at the head of the interview line, when necessary. 
  3. Once you have identified good candidates, you must manage an effective interview process.  This includes screening out the wrong people.  You MUST make rapid, effective decisions about the candidates in your pipeline.  The single most common error made in hiring is to manage a large pipeline of candidates without reaching closure.  It may seem like more candidates are better, but inactive candidates clog your process and do not make room for newer, more qualified prospects. Reducing the number of candidates quickly motivates your recruiting team to bring more qualified professionals to the table.
  4. Negotiating an offer and closing the deal is critical to this process.  At each step along the way, you learn more about your candidates and they learn more about you.  The trick is to build the closest relationships with the best candidates early on and intensify it through the process.  This serves the dual function of allowing you to make a more informed choice, while creating a positive impression.

You can begin to address these issues by appointing a professional charged with representing your candidates.  Instinct may tell you to hire a recruiting coordinator, or someone mandated to directly represent your own interests.  Think about reversing this approach and appointing a Candidate Advocate to represent your candidates' interests. Ultimately, this will serve your goal of hiring the very best. 
It may seem counterintuitive to commission such a role, but this person will open critical lines of communication.  The best Candidate Advocate will force you to make decisions, administer an effective process and hone your message to prospective employees. 
A Candidate Advocate provides you with the following valuable services:

? Time management
? Relationship maintenance
? Feedback mechanism
? Ability to adjust to your needs
? Pushes you to make decisions
A Candidate Advocate manages time. Since you are working hard to fulfill client obligations, appoint someone who will help you manage time.  Set expectations properly and this person will update your candidate pipeline with minimal effort.  They will provide brief, regular status reports.  Make time for quick weekly phone calls and agree upon a goal for numbers of candidates in the funnel.  This encourages the advocate to fill the funnel when it is low and obliges you to take people out when it is overflowing.
A Candidate Advocate maintains relationships. Sometimes, your personal connection to candidates is irreplaceable.  At other times, less direct contact promotes a good impression of you and your company.  You may be able to foster a relationship with something as simple as quickly providing basic feedback.  It could be as involved as flying a candidate to your client site for meeting, with you, your team or even your clients.  Maintaining regular contact is absolutely essential to keeping your best candidates interested in your opportunity, and a Candidate Advocate can help you decide on the most effective course of action. 
A Candidate Advocate facilitates feedback.  An effective process includes giving and receiving prompt feedback.  A third party fills this role most effectively, since that person takes direct candidate pressure off your shoulders.  An advocate helps build relationships by providing clear feedback to your prospects.  You may also solicit candid feedback about yourself, so that your message to the market becomes stronger.  Finally, feedback allows your advocate address and adjust to your needs.
A Candidate Advocate adjusts to your needs.  As you build a relationship with your candidate advocate, that person will understand your requirements and adjust accordingly.  Your process will become more effective as that person's relationships become richer and better focused on top prospects.  Your advocate will help set candidate expectations and facilitate a smooth interview process.
A Candidate Advocate compels you to make decisions.  In order to maintain the integrity of your hiring process, you must make timely decisions about candidates.  Slow decision making can cost you time, your recruiters' motivation and your best candidates. 
A Candidate Advocate helps you cut through the tendency to put mediocre candidates on hold waiting for better ones to come along.  Keeping these candidates on the hook prevents you from fine-tuning your job spec and clogs the pipeline so that other candidates cannot enter your process.
A Candidate Advocate promotes your personal contact with the best candidates.  Go out of your way to establish at least one outstanding contact with each great candidate.  This could be getting on a plane for an interview, taking them to dinner for a social conversation or inviting them in to a team meeting.  Your advocate will know your candidates well, and will advise you when additional attention makes sense.  This should be used infrequently with only the very best candidates, but it will differentiate you from your competition.  Candidates get only small glimpses into the way it will feel working for their new potential employer.  Make sure they see the very best in you.
So, now you have decided to create the Candidate Advocate role within your organization.  Where do you find such a person?  You probably do not need to look far. One of your direct reports, an internal recruiting executive or your executive search partner should fill the role well.  Your direction and the description of their function may be more important than the individual you choose. 
In appointing this person, you agree to follow the guidance of an expert, rather than making decisions on your own.  This probably sounds like the same kind of mandate you seek from your own client.  When you select a Candidate Advocate you create a consulting role, not just an administrative one.
Ultimately, candidates base much of their decision on the culture of the firm and the people they meet.   They may be more tolerant of a longer process, if you have the right opportunity for them.  There is a limit though, and many good candidates will vanish if you do not build strong, ongoing relationships.   Consciously or not, candidates make emotional decisions about what offer to accept.  If you have an active job seeker on your hands, the prospect may be looking at a number of similar offers from competitors.  
Make the most of your limited time.  Court the best prospects most effectively, and let your Candidate Advocate handle the rest.

Candidate Advocate Job Description

The Candidate Advocate facilitates a smoothly running interview process, maximizes the efficiency of screening and focuses resources on bringing the best candidates on board.
Potential sources for a CA include:

1) A senior member of the practice
2) An HR or recruiting executive
3) An external executive search consultant
Responsibilities include:

? Facilitate the creation of a position description, which can be a benchmark used in an initial screen of candidates
? Work with recruiters and researchers to build and manage a candidate pipeline
? Ensure that all interviewers have all the materials they need to interview candidates
? Act as a communications hub for the hiring manager, candidates and recruiters
? Ensure that the hiring manager makes clear, timely decisions.
? Ensure that negative feedback provides a basis for improvement
? Coach the hiring manager and the team to court the best candidates
A qualified CA must:

? Be a trusted advisor, empowered to carry out the role
? Have enough time available to manage the candidate pipeline
? Possess an ability to understand candidate motivations and make judgments about their interest in the opportunity
About the Author
Jason SandersJason is the Managing Director of J. Sanders Associates, an Executive Search Firm. To find out more about Jason or to network with him, please click here.

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