Employers who excel at talent recruitment have a real edge when it comes to competing for talent in an ever tightening labor market.
Savvy employers with a best-in-class and/or competitive benefits package strategically use their benefits program as an invaluable tool to seal the deal with candidates they really want to bring on board. Unique, memorable, demographically-relevant, and out-of-the-box benefits can also help an employer stand out amongst the crowd.
While leaning on your benefits program to help with recruiting is always a wise hiring strategy, when in the hiring process you bring it up should be somewhat calculated. Here are a few tips employers and hiring managers might choose to consider when discussing benefits during the hiring process.
For candidates you really want to hire, there's typically nothing wrong with discussing benefits right out of the gate. This assumes, of course, that you are comfortable with each candidate's assessment of you, the employer as the right place for them; interviewing should be a two-way street after all.
That said, in most recruiting situations there typically isn't one specific person or ideal candidate in mind to fill a slot. Instead, most employers recruit to attract as many qualified candidates as possible. In this instance, you'll want to entice candidates with a competitive benefits package in your job posting, but you don't want to be too explicit for two primary reasons.
First and foremost, you should ideally strive to be an "employer-of-choice" because candidates find your company's mission inspiring, that your company values align with theirs, the work interesting, and/or they ideally envision a long term career and promotional pathway within your organization. We can all agree that this is far better than attracting someone who is on the prowl for any opportunity that happens to come with great benefits. Second, you'll want to hold something back in the event you need to sweeten the pot to close the deal.
Before you conduct an interview, it's best to conduct an initial phone screen. This type of screening will help you quickly weed out candidates who lack mandatory requirements and/or the general communication skills necessary for the position.
Discussing employee benefits in detail at this junction is typically premature. Since a phone screening is primarily designed as a filtering device for the employer, its best to try to push off any in depth discussion about your benefits program until later in the hiring process, lest you get into lengthy phone discussions with candidates with whom you hold no interest in moving forward.
That said, if you fear you might lose a really attractive candidate's interest in your firm, or if they are on the cusp of accepting another job offer, you might want to tout your benefits program in it's fully glory.
What should you do if asked about benefits by candidates at this stage? If you aren't all that interested in advancing a particular candidate further through the process then it's best to simply say something to the effect that the position comes with "an attractive set of benefits which include health coverage(s), retirement savings, paid time off and more, which we can discuss in greater detail during the interview" (providing this is true of course). In this way you've answered their question without wasting too much time.
At this point in the hiring process most employers still have not discussed their benefits program in detail. That all starts to change once you move into the interviewing process.
At some point during this stage of recruitment most employers hope to form a reliable assessment of the candidate in front of them. If they like the candidate, most employers will shift their mindset towards the end of this process and start selling themselves to the recruit. Even though some employers may make an employment offer conditional upon a successful background check, drug screening, handwriting analysis, or positive feedback from referrals, this is the ideal time to tout your employee benefits program. Just don't make it an implied offer of employment.
And don't take for granted that a candidate will recognize certain features of your benefits program as unique or best-in-class. If you truly offer something different, point it out. If you cover 100% of health insurance premiums, let them know how special that is. If you offer above industry norm PTO, bonuses, retirement matching, dental benefits (such at orthodontia coverage), vision (such as lasik coverage) etc. - make sure you call those things out.
The only word of caution here is that you don't want to attract candidates solely based on your benefits program. Assuming that both you and they are sold on fit for other reasons, then there is no reason not to lay it on thick when it comes to touting your benefits program. Just be careful to leave a little room for negotiation should they counter.
After outlining the benefits package, ask for the candidate's feedback, but do it presumptively (e.g. "I assume this will more than adequately meet your needs?") You want to get a good idea of whether or not the benefits package is sufficient, and asking for feedback sometimes gives candidates an opening to speak more freely than if you hadn't probed at all.
In the event your company does not extend job offers at the end of an interview but rather in a separate step altogether, then the obvious place to discuss benefits in detail is during the job offer. Everything we just pointed out about what to do during the interviewing process would then apply here.
During the job offer you are likely to have more time to better explain your benefits program in detail, leaving sufficient time for Q&A. Your candidate may counter with a few additional requests, or may reach out later with a few additional asks. Depending on your level of seniority at the company and scope of control, you can either grant, counter, or deny their requests on the spot or after consulting with other decision makers. (Sometimes making them sweat it out is the best way to temper additional requests.)
As you get deeper into the hiring process, you will naturally start talking more and more about your employee benefits package. Generally, it's not until the end of an interview or during a formal job offer that you put a heavy emphasis on the benefits program. Not only does this give you plenty of time to create a benefits package that is well-suited for the candidate and the position, but it allows the candidate to focus on other core parts of the interview, such as determining whether the company and position is a good fit for them.