Is your company losing the battle for top talent? Five steps to engaging candidates

The U.S. jobs market remains robust, with millions more open positions than unemployed workers. But the pendulum could swing dramatically in the other direction; economic events such as soaring inflation and a falling stock market may lead to layoffs and hiring freezes at more companies.

That looming scenario means some workers may need to adjust to a changing job market. But with many companies still in a hiring mode and competition fierce to acquire high-level talent, candidates still have leverage, and recruiters also should do some things differently – in their cases, sharpen their approaches to better engage prospects, said Kathleen Quinn Votaw, the author of “DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work.”

“It doesn’t take top talent long to find a job,” Quinn Votaw said. “They’re looking and employers want them. Many employers still are seeking that rare blend of talent, experience and culture fit, and they can make it easier on themselves, and the candidates, by making a special effort in five key areas.

“Candidate engagement amounts to the sum of all the critical little things employers do throughout the hiring process,” she said, “the ones that make people feel valued and enable you to successfully compete for their talent. You’ll never have trouble engaging top candidates if you remember that everything about your business begins with people, not profits.”

Votaw offers five essential steps to engaging top talent and and beating your competitors to them:

Check your brand.Votaw said your employment brand, whether it’s positive, negative, or nonexistent, significantly impacts your ability to attract top talent.

“What makes your organization a great place to work?” she said. “A strong employment brand clearly communicates your workplace culture, mission, and values, giving potential candidates a compelling reason to consider you. Develop an inviting careers page on your website that includes videos and employee testimonials along with information about culture, mission, and values.”

Understand trends and expectations. Many workplaces have fundamentally changed over the course of the pandemic, and workers have raised their expectations of employers.

“Trends are leaning toward remote and hybrid work, well-being, and personal accommodation,” Quinn Votaw said. “A lot of workers are choosing to leave for fully remote or hybrid jobs, higher pay, better working conditions, or more opportunities for growth. Watch the trends and update accordingly.”

Personalize the experience. Despite the trend toward automation in recruiting, Quinn Votaw said the human touch is still powerful and is increasingly valued by candidates looking for human-centered workplaces.

“Create messaging specific to each job, leverage social media channels to connect directly with prospective candidates, research individuals to see what’s important to them, and develop a relationship with each candidate over 10-12 touchpoints,” she recommends. “Use a variety of contact methods and express appreciation and respect.”

Lead with empathy. Empathy is about taking time to listen, putting yourself in someone else’s place and sharing feelings. Quinn Votaw notes that empathy requires leaders to take themselves off center stage, be vulnerable, and not judge – all things that leaders often find difficult to do.

“When leaders dare to care about their people, it creates the kind of human-centric culture candidates and employees everywhere are looking for,” she said.

Streamline your hiring process. If your process stretches on for too long, Quinn Votaw said you risk losing candidates to a competitor who acts more quickly. She suggests: 1) Getting all stakeholders on board with a standard hiring process emphasizing timeliness and quality candidates; 2) Taking advantage of tools such as interview scheduling programs, automated email reminders, and online pre-screen questionnaires; 3) Staying in touch with candidates and keeping them informed of their progress.

“If you want to win top talent, make sure you are offering candidates what they are looking for and treat them like the potential assets they are,” Quinn Votaw said. “People decide to work for you for the same reasons they buy your products or services – because they’ve come to trust you or like you based on what you say or do.

About Kathleen Quinn Votaw
Kathleen Quinn Votaw ( is the CEO of TalenTrust, a strategic recruiting and human capital consulting firm. She is the author of DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work. Regarded as a key disruptor in her industry, Quinn Votaw has helped thousands of companies across multiple industries develop purpose-based, inclusive communities that inspire employees to come to work. Her company has been recognized in the Inc. 5000. Kathleen also speaks nationally on recruitment, culture and leading with empathy in the workplace.