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The talent magnet: A 10-step guide for attracting high-caliber applicants

How to attract qualified candidates

You don’t want to hire a rockstar for your team.

Or a ninja. Or a superhero. Or a Swiss army knife.

You want to hire a human. 

Ideally a highly qualified candidate who can execute the job that needs to be done well. (No pressure, right?) If you’re anything like I was as an entrepreneur building The MarketHer, a female-focused newsletter and job board, you need someone to help take things off your plate, well, yesterday. But you can’t ask just anyone to join you — it has to be the right new hire.

As the VP of Marketing at Teal, a career development platform, and founder of The MarketHer, I’ve spent the last few years digging deep into what an effective job search looks like for candidates and employers. Here’s what I’ve learned about attracting qualified candidates for open roles that need to be filled ASAP:

1. Create a continuous hiring process

If you spend every day obsessing over day-to-day operations, you’re probably not able to think ‘big picture’ for your business. That’s the first sign it’s time to bring someone on. 

Early business owners don’t have the resources to hire a fancy recruiter. Even if you do, you’ll still want to be involved in those early hires. A solid recruitment strategy is to be actively looking for the best talent to help you take your business to the next stage…and the next. 

One way to make this easier is recruitment tools like Gem, which can help you find candidates on LinkedIn and send personalized emails to introduce yourself and the job title you’re looking for. It works like this:

  1. Create a sequence for your open role.
  2. Add candidates you find on LinkedIn.
  3. Personalize your emails for each candidate.

By always being on the lookout for qualified candidates on LinkedIn or Twitter, you can build a strong pipeline of potential hires.

2. Leverage employee referrals

Finding your next teammate matters to everyone in your business, especially when you’re starting small. Sixty-two percent of organizations with employee referral programs fill open roles more quickly. But they also make for better overall employees, with referrals generating 70% of “good hires” in a Harvard Business Review study.

Make it easy for your team to refer candidates from their network to recent job openings by:

  • Promoting open roles through internal communication channels
  • Creating a standardized referral process, like a Google Form
  • Offering referral bonuses to incentivize employees 

Besides you, your current employees know your business best. So lean on your best team members to help you find your next great candidate.

3. Advertise open positions broadly

You don’t have to operate in stealth mode all the time. When you’re ready to hire someone, advertise job postings in multiple places so you can catch candidates where they’re already hanging out. That includes job boards like:

Then, post new jobs on social media networks like LinkedIn and Twitter and encourage your team to do the same.

4. Optimize your job description

Founders tend to create a massive wish list of what they want in a candidate when writing a job description. But I recommend prioritizing your “must-haves.” 

Be as clear as possible about the requirements and responsibilities of the role. Avoid acronyms and jargon that could drive away great candidates. There are exceptions to this, such as expecting an SEO lead to know what SEM means. But overall, when in doubt, leave it out. 

Finally, a job description should communicate what you, as an employer, offer just as much as what you need for your business. For example, At Teal, we craft our JDs from a candidate-first perspective, including the requirements, what success looks at during 30, 60, and 90-day marks, salary, and more.

Teal job description requirements
How to attract qualified candidates: Teal job description:
Senior Social Media Manager job posting at Teal
Teal job description with salary

Be transparent about your compensation, benefits, perks, and company culture in your job description. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

5. Offer competitive compensation

You already know that attracting top talent means paying above-average wages.

Figuring out exactly what that number is? That takes a little more work. 

A social media manager role at an A-series startup is going to have very different compensation and benefits than someone at a Fortune 500 company. We do a lot of competitive research at Teal to make sure we’re on par with what other companies pay in a similar size and funding stage. That’s because your candidate will definitely ask about pay and benefits — be ready to tell them those details.

You’ll also need to list a salary range in your job description. It’s a legal requirement in several states, but it’s also a best practice if you want to attract high-quality candidates.

US salary transparency laws by state
Salary range transparency laws by state from The Center for American Progress

Be mindful when including salary ranges, as a too-wide range can send the wrong message to candidates. My advice is to be transparent about what you’re offering and flexible with pay for the right candidate.

6. Highlight your culture and perks

Similarly, highlight your culture and company benefits upfront. Right now, the ability to work remotely is a prized benefit. Candidates want flexibility in how and where they work.

Other benefits job seekers look for include:

  • Equity at earlier-stage companies
  • Generous paid time off, including flexible parental leave, bereavement leave, sick leave, and holidays
  • Wellness benefits, like reimbursement for a gym membership, mental health days, therapy, or a wellness stipend

No matter what benefits you offer, you want to meet people where they are. You’re already working on building your brand as a business — it’s important to think about your employer brand as well. Who do you want to be?

7. Make your application process easy

Some companies advertise that it’s more difficult to get into their company than it is to get into an Ivy League school. We’ve all done job searches with interview after interview, unpaid assignments, and lots of paperwork. Top candidates are tired of all that.

Make your application easy. 

That means a recruitment process that:

  • Uses an applicant tracking system and a simple application
  • Allows candidates to upload resumes directly
  • Minimizes the time commitment by eliminating extensive questionnaires or essay questions

At Teal, we recently started experimenting with seven-day paid work trials to see firsthand what kind of output folks produce in the first week of onboarding. It’s been fascinating to see which candidates thrive in our work environment.

8. Speed up the hiring process

Once candidates apply, don’t leave them hanging.

It’s an extremely competitive job market out there. The faster you respond, the more likely you’ll bring in the best person for the job.

Respond as quickly as you can to job applicants, including scheduling interviews. You want candidates to feel excited and valued in the process. Even the best candidates feel fatigued at how many hoops most companies ask them to jump through — you’ll stand out by streamlining the process.

The same goes for your job offers. If you bring someone in for a final round, be ready to make the offer in days, not weeks. 

9. Be efficient with screening

The best way to speed up the hiring process? Filter out the candidates who aren’t a fit by reading resumes in an F-shape. Scan the top of the page first, where the job title is, and then down the sides for relevant candidate experience and keywords.

How to attract qualified candidates: F-pattern resume reading
F-pattern resume reading

It doesn’t have to be an exact match — but it’s important to see that an applicant has written their resume to connect their previous experience to the open role.

Similarly, when an applicant shares their impact in their former role instead of just re-listing their job description (or letting AI write the resume for them without reviewing it), that’s a “heck yes, let’s talk to this person” moment for me.

10. Build your talent pool

The best way to grow? Make a plan for it. 

As you search for a qualified candidate for an open position, you may find other people who would be perfect for another role. Create a talent pool of promising candidates and give other interested folks a chance to submit their resumes on your careers page. Then when a role does open, you can notify the best talent before you promote the position more widely.

Attract more qualified candidates with the right hiring strategy

It takes a lot of strength to admit that, as a founder, you need help. Adding the right team member at the right time can help your business grow exponentially. If you’re feeling the overwhelm that comes from running a business that’s ready to grow, it’s time to hire the right people to join you.

Want to nail your next interview and find the perfect candidate? Check out these essential interview questions designed to reveal the true potential of job seekers. From assessing skills to understanding cultural fit, this guide has you covered: Top Interview Questions to Ask Candidates.

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