How to Attract Top Talent During the Recruiting Process

businessman preparing for interview

The job interview process is not only an opportunity for organizations to fill open positions, but it is also an opportunity to recruit top talent. If recruiters and organizations know what will keep applicants interested and continuing through the interview process, they have a better chance at getting the best talent on board. But what sorts of things matter to candidates? And do these things change during different stages of the process?


The authors (Uggerslev, Fassina, & Kraichy, 2012) conducted a large-scale research study that analyzed the results of 232 studies investigating applicant reaction in recruiting. They looked at all phases of recruitment, including early stages in which applications are gathered, middle stages in which candidates are going through the hiring process but have not yet received an offer, and the final stage, in which candidates are presented a job offer and must make a final decision.

The authors also investigated a number of characteristics that can impact applicant attraction, including characteristics of the job itself, characteristics of the organization, behavior of recruiters, candidates’ perceptions of the steps in the hiring process, and perceived fit with both the organization and the job. Their ultimate goal was ambitious from a practical perspective: if they could isolate the stage in which each aspect of recruiting predicted applicant attraction most strongly, they could then advise organizations on how to best build their hiring processes and allocate budgets to recruit the best candidates.


This study yielded a number of findings, three of which are particularly noteworthy. First, the extent to which a candidate perceives that he or she “fits” with the organization and with the job was found to be the strongest predictor of applicant attraction across all stages of recruitment. Organizations should actively work to cultivate perceptions of fit in talented candidates. A successful company should work to creatively tailor their hiring processes and provide feedback to strong candidates to demonstrate fit with their values, goals, and ideals. Instilling these sentiments both early on and throughout the hiring process is critical for retaining and eventually securing the best talent.

Second, recruiter behavior (e.g., competence, personableness) were strong predictors of applicant attraction in the earlier parts of the process. This is likely before candidates have learned much about the job or organization. As the “face” of the organization in early stages, applicants make significant judgments based on how recruiters act, and these judgments will make them decide whether or not to proceed in the process. As such, it is in an organization’s best interest to allocate time and resources to bringing on personable, knowledgeable recruiters who can quickly connect with candidates. One bad recruiter has the power to leave a bad impression and turn away many talented people.

Lastly, organizational characteristics (e.g., work environment, image, size) were also strong predictors of applicant attraction, having a greater influence in the middle of the process. Once candidates are moving through the process and have started to gain knowledge about the company, this information matters much more than how recruiters act. It is interesting to note that job characteristics did not have as large of an impact. With so much lateral movement and internal promotions happening within modern organizations, employees are likely to change jobs within an organization, thus placing a greater importance on overall organizational fit.


Uggerslev, K. L., Fassina, N. E., & Kraichy, D. (2012).  Recruiting through the stages: A meta-analytic test of predictors of applicant attraction at different stages of the recruiting process. Personnel Psychology, 65, 597-660.