Viewpoint by Kevin Stoddart, Vice President


Last spring at our national executive search conference in Calgary, I heard senior HR professionals saying, ‘In this town, if you hesitate in hiring talent, you’re dead.’ As an employer, you may think, ‘That’s red-hot Calgary’s problem. Things are different in Atlantic Canada.’ But this is a warning you should heed.

With the exception of the tech bubble that sent companies scrambling to find IT skills at any cost, employers here have long been in the driver’s seat when recruiting. After all, it is their job and money, so why shouldn’t they make decisions based on timelines and procedures favourable to them? But there is a shift taking place, and not just in Calgary. Across Atlantic Canada, a tightening labour market – driven by changing demographics and the outmigration of skilled employees – has tipped the scales in favour of talent. Employers of choice are recognizing that putting the candidates’ interests front and centre during the recruitment process is essential to attracting top talent.

As the market for talent heats up, employers should assess the effectiveness of their recruitment processes to ensure they stay competitive. A good place to start is to look at the results of your most recent hiring campaigns. There are several key performance indicators you can assess, such as whether the number or qualifications of applicants met your expectations. If a high number of desirable candidates refused an offer, or your new employees were unsatisfied with the process, you need to change the way you recruit.

So how do you make your recruitment process more appealing to the best and brightest? Here are a few proven techniques you should adopt for your next campaign:

  • Put the candidate first - Candidates today expect to be treated with courtesy and respect. They don’t want to wait on a decision, or commit to multiple interviews stretched over weeks or months. So fast track and streamline your process so you complete interviews and make decisions in a timely manner. Keep candidates updated at every stage so they are not left wondering. Remember that due diligence is a two-way street – candidates are sizing you up as you scrutinize them. Give interviewees time to ask questions and encourage them to check your references. This way, you manage expectations, maintain their interest and reduce the risk of losing them to a competing employer.
  • Sell your organization - Candidates are looking for compelling reasons to choose you over other employers, so sell them on the benefits of joining your organization. Create a package with marketing and corporate materials – annual reports, brochures, employee handbooks – so they can learn more about your organization’s vision, culture and why you are best suited to meet their career goals. When making your pitch, remember to keep generational differences in mind when describing your human resource programs and corporate culture. For key hires, get your top executives involved early in the process. This will create a positive impression among those individuals with the potential to make a major impact on your organization.
  • Court the family - Career decisions are often family decisions, particularly when relocations are involved. Follow the example of companies like McCain and find opportunities, where appropriate, to court the candidate’s family. Fly them in, provide hotel accommodations, invite them out to a family dinner and show them around the community. This may seem excessive, but ask yourself what this person can do for your company and if the extra effort makes sense. Recognizing and addressing the personal challenges people face in making career decisions will give you an edge over your competitors.
  • Put your best foot forward - The initial offer you make to your preferred candidate is also important. Insult the individual with a low-ball offer and he or she may withdraw. Make sure your offer is compelling and consistent with conversations and stated expectations to date. There should be no surprises. Your lawyer will insist on wording that protects you, but remember this is a personal decision for the candidate. The more enthusiasm and warmth you convey in the offer, the better your chances of securing the talent you seek.

By making these changes, and taking a more talent-centred approach to recruitment, you’ll improve your ability to attract the candidates you want regardless of market conditions. You’ll strengthen your employment brand so the professionals you seek are more interested in the opportunities you have to offer. And you’ll be well positioned to stave off the impacts of the looming skills crunch facing Canada’s employers over the coming decade.

Kevin Stoddart is a Vice President at Robertson Surrette, Atlantic Canada’s leading integrated human capital solutions provider. He has extensive experience in successfully recruiting talent for organizations of all sizes throughout our region. What’s your viewpoint? I invite you to share your perspective on this issue with me at (902) 424-1128 or

Kevin Stoddart
Kevin Stoddart , MBA, CMC
Managing Partner