The Importance of Selling Your Job Opening (and Company) to Candidates

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The Importance of Selling Your Job Opening (and Company) to Candidates

In my 25+ years in Human Resources and Recruiting, I have seen too many versions of the following story.

“In the six months that we had been searching, everyone agreed that Jennifer was the perfect candidate. She had the right background and skills for our current project manager opening as well as future, more senior roles that would be paired with her career growth path. Her results from the Predictive Index® behavioral assessment closely correlated to the role and the high performers on the team she would be assigned. To everyone’s surprise, though, she turned down our offer.

What a letdown!”

Upon closer inspection, two things become clear.

  1. We did an excellent job of vetting Jennifer’s fit to our organization.
  2. We did an awful job of providing Jennifer with information she needed to make an informed decision. We forgot to sell her on us.”

Sometimes our work priorities and enthusiasm for our organization contribute to us forgetting that even though many potential candidates may submit resumes or express an interest in a job opening, they are not yet sold on working for our organization. They just don’t know enough yet to make that decision. It is important for managers and HR to fill in the gaps for candidates so that making a decision to join our organization or not is a no-brainer.

The vast majority of (and all of the successful) sales representatives would never consider participating in a sales pitch meeting without doing research on the client including motivations, pressure points, and aspirations. Additionally, sales presenters tend to come prepared to discuss their company’s strengths and features/benefits of the product or service they are selling. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most interviewers who often are reading the candidate’s resume for the first time during the interview. If the job opening is not in the interviewer’s line of reporting, they typically have no idea of the job requirements or priorities.

Managers who approach interviews like sales pitches understand that each interview not only represents a potential employee, it also represents an opportunity to reinforce the company’s brand. Every employee who interviews at your organization and does not get hired takes information from that experience back to the market which may include your alliance partners, competitors, other potential candidates or clients. How that person describes your company will be shaped largely by their interview experience.

Do a Google search on “selling your company to candidates” and you will get tons of ideas to consider. These can be helpful. It is important, though, not take a scattered approach when selling the candidate. Why guess at what is going to motivate the candidate when you can simply ask him/her first?

Following are some tips for improving candidate interview experiences that should increase your ability to hire top candidates.

  1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

    I can’t stress this enough. Before you meet with a candidate, do your research. Read the candidate’s resume and become familiar with her/his background. Do you have anything in common? Research the candidate on LinkedIn. Why is the current position open? What are the key functions of the role? How does this role interface with others across the organization? What are your company’s strengths? Why do most people like working for your company? What questions do you want to ask of the candidate? Note: check out my earlier posting The Importance of Hiring Your Next Superstar for more tips.

  2. Frame Your Interview

    1. Begin by shaking the candidate’s hand and introducing yourself
    2. Describe the job opening that you and the candidate will be discussing
    3. Describe your role and what you like best about working for the organization
    4. Review what you will be covering during the interview. “I am going to have some questions about your       background, skills, and plan on answering your questions as well.”
    5. Before diving into your questions, ask the candidate “What are questions you have that I can answer for       you?”

  3. Identify What Motivates the Candidate

    Before you can start selling a candidate, you need to find out what motivates him/her. Some simple questions can help. Why are you looking at opportunities now? Describe what you have enjoyed the most in your prior roles. Where do you see your career going in three to five years? How would you describe the ideal role for you?

  4. Describe How Your Organization/Role will fit the Employee’s Motivations

    This is The Sell. It should take place toward the end of the interview IF the candidate appears to be a fit and IF based on the candidate’s answers to your questions, you think her/his motivations will be met. If either of the prior criteria is not met, you should still do a Sell, just not with as much detail.


Keep in mind that trying to sell a candidate on a role/organization takes time and practice, but it gets easier the more times you do it. Also, it is important that you project passion for the organization. This is almost impossible to fake. If you are not feeling the passion, it might be better if you try to politely decline the invitation to be an interviewer.

1 Comment

  1. Mark Fabian says:

    Great insight! This is the basis for the “woo then vet” vs. “vet then woo”. Too often, poor interviewers will ask 8 million questions about your background to vet that you are a fit for the job. They neglect to “woo” or get you interested in the company and the opportunity. Then, without knowing very much about the company or role ask the infamous “So, tell me why you want to come to work for XZY”? Dude, I have no idea because you haven’t told me enough to know why I would be interested….

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