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Closing a Candidate: How a Customized Narrative Can Help

Alex Oleinikov

Software Engineering Manager at People.ai

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Problem

In today’s candidate-driven market, where engineering talent is scarce, sharing the company’s story in a structured, timely manner can be critical for closing a candidate. We struggled in the past to hire engineers because we didn’t communicate compellingly the value of what we do. We would cram in a 30-minute closing call, what the candidate had to know about the company, and have them accept the offer.

Then we decided to pivot our approach and have potential hires engaged throughout the interviewing process. We would prime the candidate and have them think about our self-defined company’s narrative prior to that closing call. We would have them absorb all the ideas and have those simmer before the closing conversation, giving the candidate enough time to think about and process those ideas.

Actions taken

We created a process that would maximize the chances of closing a candidate by letting the candidate familiarize with different aspects of our company’s narrative in advance. To create that narrative, we sat down with a recruiting manager and compiled a list of topics the candidate needs to know before we start closing them. Some of the common talking points were: what does the company do; what the team composition or culture is like; what is the state of financials, including past valuations and business trajectory; what are the technologies we use, etc.

Naturally, those talking points would differ depending on the role and seniority, among others. For example, for senior candidates, an emphasis should be placed on the mission. Also, they should be approached with more open-ended questions that would involve them in the ideation of the problem they would be working on. Having them think about the problem during the interview can be rather engaging.

Then, we took that list and broke it down into a number of steps. We would attach each of those pieces to a specific step of the interviewing process. For example, during the initial encounter with the candidate, they should be told what the company is all about in broad strokes, which should serve as a basis for follow-up questions. Then a bit later down the process, we would mention what the team composition is like and what is the future of the company. Meanwhile, a recruiter between different stages of the interview process could mention valuation or growth trajectory so that the candidate would be primed on the things we would want to talk about during the closing call. In fact, if this process would go unhindered, we would merely talk the candidate through the benefits on the last call.

By making the whole conversation more streamlined and structured, the closing itself became more reliable and efficient. We were able to plant our story into the candidate’s head before the closing call, which as a result, significantly improved our closing rate.

Lessons learned

  • It takes time for a candidate to absorb the company’s narrative. The process will be much more efficient if you spread it out in time and let it soak. You cannot deliver all the information all at once and hope that the candidate will digest it on the spot.
  • You have to be deliberate in delivering a consistent message across the board. The candidate will get in touch with a number of people who may have different stories to tell. It looks good when the candidate can see coherence. This process is, to an extent, reverse to interviewing. During the interview, you gather signals between multiple interviewers to get a complete picture of the candidate. Now, you want those same interviewers to plant some ideas into the candidate in a very synchronized manner. When the candidate can see consistency and a number of people in a complete alignment, it is more likely that they will receive the right ideas about your company.
  • Don’t leave things to chance. Like any funnel, a candidate’s journey needs to be deliberately designed. Sometimes, the candidate would click with an interviewer because they will like each other on a personal level, but sometimes the opposite can happen. It’s not reasonable to rely on the chance when you decide on who to hire.

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Alex Oleinikov

Software Engineering Manager at People.ai


CommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture Development

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