Recruiters can choose to either serve as a “gateway” or “gatekeeper” for an organization. We can shape the trajectory of a company and a candidate’s career with just one click. We are often the first experience/touchpoint in the hiring process. Whether it’s reviewing and filtering out resumes, sending initial outreach messages, or conducting initial screenings, we have to decide what side of the fence we’re on before we even get started.

Most try to play both sides to de-bias the process, but when it comes down to it, once the hiring decision is being made, you can either take a back seat and allow the hiring team to draw their own individual conclusions or you can influence candidate narrative through advocacy by painting a more human picture of the candidate outside of the interview experience.

I consider myself a “candidate advocate.” It’s a privilege to interact with candidates, especially underestimated talent, as they explore their next career adventure. I take on the responsibility of presenting candidates in their most authentic light, highlighting their strengths, areas for growth and motivations for exploring the opportunity. It’s rewarding, but also comes with a lot of pressure.

Most hiring teams tend to forget that interviewing, now more than ever, should always be a two-way conversation, where companies and candidates assess one other equally. There needs to be a synergy of needs being met in order for a match to be made.

At Hill Street Strategies, we serve as advocates for the candidates in our ecosystem. We will call out an employer’s interview process if it’s too long or lacks intentionality, or if we see candidates asked to complete assessments that are really “free” work. We’ll make sure our underestimated ecosystem is connected with opportunities they deserve to be privy to and should be in consideration for. Not in terms of your affirmative action plans or your Rooney Rule, but because we know that our counterparts are considered based on their potential and not their proven accomplishments. We won’t let any clients sell our candidates short. In order to work with us, employers need to be open and thrive on feedback.

I always prefer to pair candidates with positions whose managers lean into servant leadership. As a leader, if you can’t adapt your approach to the strengths of your team (not yours), then you limit the ability to understand the tools and resources your team needs in order to do their “best work”. The sooner you understand how to leverage your team for their strengths and unblock any barriers in their way to activate, the quicker your team will reach the coveted “high performing, results driven” status so many strive for.

Of course, all of this will have been for nothing if the employer doesn’t also pave the way for employee retention. As such, companies with formalized professional development plans allow candidates a clear path on how to progress within the role and within the company.

Equally as important is pay transparency and clear empathy within the team. Our candidates are humans first and deserve to be a part of organizations where communication, boundaries, time off and work flexibility are not only allowed but encouraged. Additionally, we advocate for candidates to be allotted clear compensation philosophies backed by regular market reviews.

These are the pillars of best practice advocacy and candidate relations. Equilibrium is absolutely achievable between the workforce and company’s needs. However, we must demand that candidate advocacy is met with an effort from organizations who make a deliberate effort to identify gaps and treat potential employees with the respect and candor they deserve.

Many companies would like to believe their labor shortages are due to a workforce pipeline issue. In truth, it’s often an issue brought on by a lack of willingness on the company’s side of the court. We do not have a workforce issue, we have a people issue. There are plenty of diverse, qualified candidates ready to be hired. They simply require their employers to step up to the plate and do their portion of the work.

To attract and retain qualified, diverse and brilliant talent, companies and organizations must get very clear on their internal structures, dynamics, gaps and opportunities.

We’re doing our part to put our candidates at the forefront and match excellent candidates with quality companies. We put in the effort to ensure there is a hyper focus on giving our talent ecosystem access to what they deserve. We are doing our part to the fullest.

Are you?

This piece was originally on Medium, and was published here with permission.