The basics before you can start the candidate search

There are thousands of articles out there telling you how candidate sourcing is best structured but many fail to reference the fact that this is not the first step in a well thought through recruitment and hiring process.

 There are two very important stages of the recruitment process which actually form the basis of any candidate search. These steps are defining the target profile and secondly a benchmarking exercise to determine whether you can realistically attract your target talent.

The Profile - The first step in candidate sourcing

As Human Resources and Recruitment professionals we frequently experience getting an urgent call from a hiring manager about a specific role that needs filling, yesterday. Well actually, it often isn't very specific because as in so many cases the hiring manager has not thought through a role profile before calling and even if they have a vague idea, it is usually involves something copied and pasted.

Needless to say, whether you want to brief an executive search firm, start a targeted advertising campaign or social network search, if you don't know exactly what you are looking for, the candidate search will not be successful.

What are the essentials for the role & candidate profile?

The easy part is the basic section, which should cover location of role, languages the candidate needs, type of role (full time, part time, contract), compensation and so on.

The Skills and Education part is much harder. What are the skills that will make that individual successful in the role and be an asset to the team? Are there specific formal qualifications or training essential to the role?

The really tricky part is Personality and Values. What type of personalities succeed within the team and client group? What are your values as a firm? What do we want to see in the candidate? What work style do you prefer? All these questions are a good starting point.

Reality check

Now, go over it again and challenge yourself at every single point and answer the question, do I really need that? If not, cut that point out. Be realistic, if you are looking to hire a global head of marketing with significant experience, a known thought leader in his/her field, for example; does it really matter whether he received a 1st in his university degree 15 years earlier?

Have a look into books that inform on behaviour and personality. There are certain personality traits that are more or less often found in the same person. One of the most obvious examples would be; very sales strong individuals often struggle with attention to detail, they are often more self-driven than focused on a team. Check whether it is realistic to find a person with the personality traits and values you want. If not, start again!

Consider a psychometric assessment of the most successful people in your team to understand the key to their success and what similar traits you might look for in future recruits. Many years back when I was a head of HR, we recruited into a sales team within a large outbound call centre. The hiring manager wanted team driven individuals but, after a psychometric assessment of the most successful people already in the team, we found that these people were rather money orientated individualists. We changed the brief and team orientation was not on the list anymore.

Challenge yourself; what really makes your team successful? Don't be afraid to take an analytical viewpoint. If you get it wrong, start again. 


First of all, if you sum up all of the skill and education requirements, have a look into the market i.e. speak to your headhunter, your recruitment team, peers and so on, and try to get a feel whether the candidates your are looking for actually exist in high enough numbers. If you find they don't t, it is unlikely you will be able to successfully complete the candidate search. There are however two steps you can take to increase the prospects of a more successful search. First, start cutting from your profile until you have one that is more realistic. If you get to the point where you really can't cut out any more requirements, and still don't have better prospect numbers, your only choice is to not to try to recruit that exact profile but to recruit a close match, who you can train up later on.

If you have shortened the profile that works for you, then you are one step closer to reaching the end of the process, but we are not quite done yet. Now connect with the market again and see whether you actually can afford the profile you want. Salary guides and studies can be a good insight, but never forget, they are worthless if your dream candidate is currently paid more, he/she is not moving for less money. If you can't afford the profile you want, then again, you will need to consider cutting out some requirements and possibly training up the talent over time to match your ideal profile.

Now consider whether you can attract the talent you want. Who are you as an employer, what is your client/consumer brand and employer brand in the market? Are you an employer of choice for this particular role? Is the role based in an attractive location? All yes? Great, you are good to go. Some no's? Don't worry, you may just need to consider making some adjustments to your offer to make the role more attractive. Once all basis are covered, you are done!

Congratulations, now you are good to go to start a successful hiring and recruitment process. You now have a profile which exists in the market in high enough numbers, you can afford these potential candidates and you are also confident you can attract them. Good luck with your candidate search!