Who Thanks Whom?

By: | August 20, 2018 • 4 min read
Ruben Moreno is cofounder of Blue Rock Search, a search firm based in Knoxville, Tenn. He has 20-plus years of experience in HR and search and received his bachelor's degree in labor and industrial relations from Cornell University.

I recently came across an article in Inc by Suzanne Lucas (aka “The Evil HR Lady”) that featured this bold headline: “Dear Hiring Manager, Perhaps You Should Write the Thank You Note.” She continues: “The traditional thank-you note is from candidate to hiring manager. That’s wrong … Just what, exactly, are you thanking the manager for? Taking the time to talk with you and consider your application for the job, right? But, what were you really doing? You were taking your time out of your day (and often using vacation time from your current job to do so) to try and solve a problem for the hiring manager.”

At first glance, most people would read statements like this and think “Thank goodness this wasn’t a candidate I interviewed; seems quite entitled!” And yet, however much this author’s perspective seems to deviate from standard interviewing protocol, there’s an underlying message communicated by Lucas’ article: That it may be time to re-evaluate your hiring process through a new lens.

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If we assume it’s the candidate’s responsibility to pen the thank-you note, doesn’t that inherently mean we also assume it’s the candidate’s responsibility to feel thankful for being granted an interview in the first place? And, in the current hiring environment, is this mindset truly helpful?

You may possess this mindset without even realizing it. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • How much time do you expect a candidate to spend preparing for the interview with you? How much time do you spend preparing for that same interview?
  • You’ve likely asked the question “So why should we hire you?” without batting an eye — how receptive are you when a candidate asks, “Why should I come to work here?”
  • Checking candidate references from past employers is a routine interviewing step; candidates volunteer these regularly. What would your reaction be if a candidate asked to check references from those who’ve worked under your supervision in the past but were no longer with the firm?

These are just a few scenarios to help challenge your paradigm. Lucas ultimately summarizes this mental shift: “When we think of all the things we demand of job candidates, we should realize that they are the ones doing the hiring managers big favors. You need that position filled, and these people are graciously helping you to do so.”

Start with Motivation

Keeping that in mind, it may be time to take a serious look at your interviewing process to ensure that it’s beneficial — for the candidate as well as the interviewer. The interview is an opportunity to secure more insights about a person than what exists on paper. Schedule time with your recruiter to go beyond more than “The individual is looking to take that next step in her career” and instead, have a solid understanding of what the candidate hopes to obtain by working at your organization. Know what’s most important for this candidate to learn from your initial meeting as it relates to what she’s looking to accomplish in this career move. Additionally, make sure you know “Why your firm” — why this candidate wants to talk with your firm as opposed to others. What is it that initially sparked his interest, and how you can expand on that to have the candidate walk away with his own motivating factors addressed? Finally, know “why not” — any concerns this candidate may have in areas such as cost of living (if relocation is involved), or stability, or any other detail, no matter how large or small. This is the opportunity to address them, openly and candidly, throughout the interview.

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It’s the Little Things

Small things stand out, especially in the midst of a thriving economy when candidates may have the opportunity to interview with multiple organizations. Take a moment and look at your physical office space with a critical eye. What does someone entering your space see and experience? Is your boardroom, interviewing space or personal office dated and in need of some modernization? Do you have anything on the walls that showcase your organization’s accomplishments, or highlight its culture? Think through the impression you make as it relates to your physical office space.

When the candidate arrives, offer them bottled water without them having to ask for it. When the candidate leaves, consider an exit gift of some sort — a small item with your company logo on it or something personalized based on what you know about their interests or background.

The Sell

Take some time to craft concrete answers or success stories around questions such as the following:

  • What are the primary reasons someone would join your organization instead of another firm?
  • What is the specific and measurable career path?
  • What in-house resources do you have that give people a competitive advantage? What external resources?
  • How does your company differentiate itself from other competitors in your niche, and what would this mean to someone joining your firm?
  • What is the tenure of your senior staff? What benefit does that provide a new associate?
  • What future growth plans do you have for your firm? What opportunity does that create for someone?

Even if the candidate doesn’t ask the direct question, you want to remain confident that you’re articulating “why you” just as much as you’re trying to determine “why him or her.” If, during the interview, a light bulb switches on and you have the revelation that this is the exact person you need to hire, the better you can articulate your true value proposition, and the higher the chance that candidate will want you as much as you want them.