candidate intake process

The Killer Candidate Qualification Process

The quote made famous by one of our favorite childhood cartoon heroes, GI Joe, holds true for making job offers – knowing really is half the battle. It seems simple but the most common mistake when closing a job offer is not having completed a proper “intake” during the first couple of conversations with the candidate.

As the first step in the recruiting process, take a systematic approach to gathering a couple of must-have data points that constitute the candidate intake process. This will not only help you understand candidate expectations, but it will enable you to establish a good rapport with the candidate (not to mention boost job offer acceptance rates).

From the get-go, you need to open up an honest line of communication. This is important to build trust and establish transparency with the candidate to guide them through the uncertainty of their job search. Doing so allows you to leave no stone unturned and avoid any surprises when you do extend an offer. Below is the information that your intake should include.

The candidate’s reason for looking 

job applicant intake

If someone is looking for a new job, they are ready for a change. The job search can be fueled by a variety of motivators. The most common are career advancement, displeasure with the current work environment or simply a change of scenery. With each of your candidates, make sure you take the time to understand their motivation behind looking for a new job. This will allow you to effectively communicate how the role that you offer fulfills that candidate’s needs.

Their ideal position going forward

establish candidate goals

Beyond their reason for looking, be sure to uncover your candidate’s ideal position going forward, during the intake. This is a question that you want to ask them directly and it is important for two reasons. First, this information is vital for understanding how the candidate will fit into the growth and development of your company. Secondly, knowing a candidate’s ideal position allows you to tailor your communication to the desires of that candidate. Drive the conversation to explain how the opportunity that you are offering will allow your candidate to reach their ideal position. Doing this shows that you care about their career development and that you are invested in their future.

Their current base salary and any other compensation factors such as bonus, commissions, equity, benefits, etc (total package).

set salary expectations

Discussions around salary can be uncomfortable, but collecting compensation information is crucial to crafting a successful job offer. Some candidates will say, “just make me a fair offer,” but how is this possible if you don’t have a benchmark to go off of? This comes back to the idea of transparent communication. Let your candidate know that you are not trying to take advantage of them, this is simply vital information that you need to make a fair offer.

Insider Tip: If a candidate simply refuses to offer information about their current compensation, this is a red flag.

Once you have your candidate’s salary information, be sure to understand the breakdown of their compensation package. Candidates may be quick to offer you their salary plus commission, bonuses, equity and so on. To start, you want to know only their base salary (what are they going to W-2?). Once you have the base, have them elaborate on other aspects of their compensation package to develop the full picture.

The candidate’s expected future income. What are they going to take?

compensation package

Now that you have your candidate’s current compensation as a benchmark, ask them what they will be expecting in this new role. Is this number realistic for them (based on their current salary and experience)? Is this number realistic for you (based on the position and pay scale at your company)?

If the candidate is looking for more than what you are willing to offer, you will have to establish a negotiation strategy. You may also come across a great candidate asking for less than what you were anticipating. This gives you a great opportunity to offer them a higher compensation package as a token of your goodwill.

Their ability and willingness to commute to the office.

should offer a relocation package

This is an important intake point for identifying the expectations of the candidate. You want to know if your candidate has any reservations about the commute. If they do, identify them and see if you can offer the candidate solutions. Keep in mind, if the commute becomes a deal-breaker, you will have to consider offering a relocation package.

One thing to consider about commuting, in recent years flexible work schedules and working remotely have become far more popular. As such, some candidates may expect this type of work environment. Companies vary widely on remote working, just look at Yahoo and WordPress. There’s no right or wrong answer. Just be sure that early on, you clearly communicate your company’s culture and what is expected.

Insider tip: It is imperative to gauge buy-in of your candidate. If they have reservations about making a standard commute, or if they are more than willing to make a an extended commute, this tells you something about their interest level.

Relocation details (if appropriate)

increase offer acceptance

If commuting is unrealistic for your candidate , and remote work is not an option, then you will have to create a relocation package. Relocation packages are a gray area in the job offer world so be sure to ask the candidate what they are looking for. Most candidates will be looking for physical transportation assistance. Others will require packing and unpacking help and some may even expect storage options, stipends for miscellaneous expenses, child care assistance, temporary housing and home selling and buying services. Your company most likely has some protocols for relocation packages. Be sure to understand these and see how the candidates expectations line up with them.

Where are they in their job search process and when do they want to make a decision?

key recruiting metrics

Although this question holds great bearing on the success of your job offer, it is the most overlooked intake point. Understanding a candidate’s timeline is important because it influences how you communicate with them. If they are looking to switch jobs ASAP, you want to move them through the interview process with a level of urgency. If they are more passive then you can adjust your actions and communications accordingly.

Another thing to note, you need to know if they are interviewing elsewhere and where they fall within the stages of those different interviews. If you establish the candidate’s standing with other jobs early in the recruiting process, it allows you to evaluate the competitive environment and push things ahead if needed to compete with and beat other offers. This can also open up communication about other offers and allow you to prepare for them.

Insider Tip: Like with sales, timing is a critical variable in every recruiting process. You must know where in the decision process your candidates are at all times. Additionally, remember time is the enemy of all deals.

What is their desired start date?

communicate desired start date

This ties back to the previous point, but always make sure that you know when your candidate is looking to start working in the new role. Again, you want to know the candidate’s ideal timeline so that you can adjust your communications and actions accordingly. Typically, you want a candidate to start working within three weeks from when the offer is extended, so base your timeline off of this.

Eliminate Uncertainty With “The Intake”

The above topics are the key points that you should cover with your candidate during “The Intake.” Remember, this information should be collected naturally during a give-and-take style conversation. As you collect this data, you should be giving (selling) the same information to your candidate. Take the time to learn what motivates your candidate. Why are they interested in the role? What are their long-term career goals? What type of work environment do they prefer? Listen closely and document the data points in your applicant tracking system. This will allow you and your team to construct a meaningful story. When the time comes to extend an offer, you can rest assured that you did everything in your power to boost your offer acceptance rate.

Want to Learn More Secrets to Boost Your Offer Acceptance Rates?

In our Bootcamp hosted May 24th, our co-founder and resident recruiting expert Joel Passen will take a deep dive into the 5 secrets for boosting your offer acceptance rates. This is an exciting opportunity for any HR or recruiting professional to gain deep industry insights that will improve your hiring processes so be sure to join us today!


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