Attracting Top Talent in a Job Interview

With more open positions than qualified candidates, hiring companies need to work harder than ever before. When one thinks of job interviews, most people envision a candidate trying their best to impress a prospective employer. But recent shifts in the Canadian economy have turned the tables. A tight labour market – where there are more open positions than there are qualified candidates – means that hiring companies must also work to make a good first impression.

“Employers have to sell themselves to the candidates, because a good candidate probably has more than one option,” says Paul Stevenson, partner and recruiter with Stevenson & White.

The Ottawa-area recruitment firm specializes in filling finance, accounting and payroll positions. As the intermediaries between the firm’s clients and job candidates, Stevenson & White’s recruiters see first-hand how employers can appeal to top talent during an interview. 

First Impressions

Just as candidates are advised to show up early for a job interview, it’s important for the interviewer to start on time. This is a sign of respect – after all, the candidate is likely missing work to be there – and instills a sense of confidence in the company, showing how things are run internally.

Similarly, not being well-prepared with questions or demonstrating that you haven’t read the candidate’s resumé beforehand may turn them off – especially those with other options available to them.

Another consideration for hiring companies is how to format the interview. Where in your office are you hosting it? How many people are sitting in?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for how to conduct a job interview, employers must be aware of the impression their interviews give. For example, a panel of three interviewers may seem more bureaucratic to some candidates in contrast to a relaxed sit down with a single person. Confidentiality is also important to most candidates so being interviewed in a glass-walled conference room may not be very appealing.


Logistics aside, the content of an interview is typically what has the potential to scare off top talent.

For companies that hire through Stevenson & White, the firm’s recruiters can help prepare the hiring manager or interviewer with insight as to what prospective candidates are looking for in an employer.

“The hot button issues,” as Matt Stevenson, a partner and recruiter with the firm, puts it.

And much like candidates are expected to be honest, employers should also be transparent about the role and the company.

“It doesn’t do you any favours to paint a rosy picture and have the candidate realize four weeks down the road that a job isn’t what they signed up for,” says Matt.

Most job-seekers today place importance on growth opportunities, work-life balance and flexibility. Employee engagement – such as team-building days or fundraisers – is also a selling point for many professionals.

One way to share these details organically is for the interviewer to ask what the candidate knows about the hiring company.

“Allow it to be more of an open dialogue, versus an old fashioned interview where you’d be bombarded with one question after another with no opportunity to engage in a real conversation,” says Matt.

After the Interview

Once the interview is complete, it’s imperative that hiring companies move quickly to make an offer to their preferred candidates. With fewer qualified candidates on the market, the best and brightest often get snapped up quickly following an interview.

“These past few years especially, we’ve seen that time is of the essence,” says Tracey Windsor, a recruiter with Stevenson & White. “You can’t take your time in the process, you have to keep moving things along or you will miss out.”

The original article appeared in the April 9th, 2018 edition of the Ottawa Business Journal.
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