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Michael Page Buying and Merchandising, Fashion

Prepare for your interview…

Standard advice for someone looking for a job, not as common when directed at the hiring manager. Employers in niche markets are increasingly expected to sell their vision and benefits to candidates at interview, so it pays to be prepared.

Top candidates are always in high demand, despite any variances in economic conditions. Professionals able to add immediate value to the bottom line or have expertise in specialist product areas, for example, are sought after by multiple organisations.

Securing the right skills in this environment takes a proactive approach from organisations vying for a small pool of talent. The nature of a short-skilled market is that the majority of professionals are in employment, for example 80% of the candidates that Michael Page Buying & Merchandising placed in January 2012 were already in a job. Those with the necessary skills and secure in a role are often hesitant to make a change: a lack of confidence in the industry, fear of ‘last in, first out’, fuel and transport price hikes and impracticalities of relocating due to a rocky housing market all play a part.

So during the talent attract process hiring managers and organisations will benefit from defining what sets them apart from the competition - particularly when they’re trying to attract niche, specialist talent currently in a job. We’ve noticed a shift in the typical interview situation recently; candidates are getting involved and questioning why a business and role would be a good fit – so the interview becomes a two-way street.

Here are our five top tips to ensure that hiring managers are able to promote their organisation to candidates at interview:

1. Know your competition – For market positioning and USP definition, an awareness of how other brands are operating is essential. From their product and services ranges to an understanding of their internal culture, it helps to know what you’re up against when vying for talent. Ask yourself why someone would choose to work for you rather than your competitors. It shouldn’t be difficult to answer; presumably it’s something you yourself thought about when you joined the business.

2. Employer branding – Equally, it’s important to understand how your brand is perceived in the market. You may have top-notch products and excellent customer services, but developing the perception of being an employer of choice is also vital. Define what keeps your employees engaged, motivated and progressing in their careers and communicate these factors at interview. The culture of the organisation, as well as the tangible benefits and opportunities both play a part in candidate decision making.

3. Understand and listen – Not everyone is motivated and excited by the same things. Figure out the reasons why a candidate is exploring the market and match the opportunities and benefits of your organisation to these points. If someone’s motivated by work/life balance, explain your flexitime policy.

4. Transparency – Define your hiring process and communicate it to candidates. Let them know who they’ll be meeting and how the different stakeholders and departments interface with your function. Explain why the role exists and the expectations for delivery. It’s tempting to gloss over some of the less positive aspects, but for retention purposes it’s important for potential employees to have the full picture. The experience a candidate has when interviewing with an organisation almost always defines the decision they’ll make at offer stage.

5. Feedback – Nothing kills the positive feeling about an organisation and role more than radio silence after an interview. If candidates have bought into your organisation and vision it’s important to keep the momentum going. Arrange second meeting as soon as possible, and if there is a genuine reason for delaying decisions, keep the interviewees updated.

How should a recruiter add value to the process?

In a market short on required skills, a good recruiter will be able to introduce candidates with the requisite expertise as well as:

  • Helping the employer understand the candidate’s motivations and how to pitch the opportunity to them
  • Managing expectations on the process and outcome
  • Acting as a conduit for feedback and requests; candidate are often less guarded when they’re not negotiating with a potential new employer
  • Preparing candidates for the prospect of a counter-offer (increasingly prevalent in short-skilled markets) and how to handle the situation

Professionals who’re aware that their expertise is in demand aren’t shy about asking “what’s in it for me?” Organisations wanting to secure top talent have to be prepared to answer this question, convincingly.

For more advice on attracting the top buying, merchandising and e-tail talent to your organisation, please get in touch with the team at Michael Page Buying & Merchandising.

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