I don’t know about you but for some reason, the dog days of summer make me nostalgic and I start re-watching old movie favorites. This past weekend, on the docket was the 2000 film Castaway starring Tom Hanks.
If you haven’t seen the film, let me give you a brief summary. Tom Hanks plays an extremely busy FedEx systems analyst executive (don’t ask me because I don’t understand either) who runs all around the world to fix big important FedEx problems. He is in love with Helen Hunt’s character, he has a toothache that is growing worse by the day, and he needs to go to Malaysia stat to fix a problem. On that flight, his plane crashes in the South Pacific, killing everyone on board except for him, and he finds himself marooned on a remote island.
He survives on that island for four years with FedEx packages that wash ashore to help him, most memorably a volleyball that he names “Wilson” who he talks to throughout the film as a little companion, and a mysterious package with angel wings that he never opens. Eventually, he is rescued by a container ship but when he returns home, he finds that his family, friends, and Helen Hunt have moved on, quite logically assuming him to be dead. He delivers the mysterious package, crediting it with saving his life, and moves ahead with his future.
Inspired by my nostalgic movie adventures, I am here to tell you the six things you can learn about hiring from a re-watch of this 2000 classic.
1. Waiting to get news is painful. When candidates apply for a position, they are investing time and energy into the hiring organization. Crafting a thoughtful resume and cover letter is time intensive, and candidates become frustrated when it feels like their application went into some black hole, read by no one. I think you know where I am going with this…applying for a job and waiting to hear back can make even the most emotionally healthy candidates feel like they are stranded on a beach, many miles away from the nearest beating heart, with no one thinking about them at all.
2. Regular updates mean the world. Tom Hanks never would have survived without his friend Wilson, the volleyball. Wilson was his little buddy the entire time he was marooned. He confided in Wilson, expressed his fears and hopes, and felt like he had someone to commiserate with. When it comes to candidates, you as the hiring manager should think of yourself as the volleyball! Keep candidates updated regularly, all with a bloody smile on our face! (Pun intended.) When someone applies for one of your open roles, thank them for their interest in the position and confirm receipt of their application. Update every candidate regularly along the way and keep them in the loop, even if it means just letting them know there isn’t any news yet. And if Talent Market is managing your search, we can do all of this on your behalf!
3. If no one hears from you, they will think you are dead. Helen Hunt was totally in love with Tom Hanks and his disappearance destroyed her. But, eventually, when he didn’t come back, she was forced to accept that he was dead and she moved forward with her life, marrying another man and having a daughter. When Tom Hanks shockingly did return, she told him she was still in love with him but she couldn’t leave her family.
The lesson? For organizations that don’t move quickly on promising candidates, they will find that no matter how much a candidate might love them, they will make like Helen Hunt and move on with someone else if they don’t hear anything in a reasonable amount of time. At Talent Market, we see this scenario play out with some regularity.
Don’t let your dream candidate think that their chances of landing the job are dead. Be communicative!
4. Closure is meaningful. The unopened package with angel wings saved Tom Hanks’ life because it gave him something to live for. He knew that if he was rescued, he would one day be able to successfully deliver the package. Indeed, once he returned the package at the end of the movie, he was finally able to move forward with his post-rescue life.
For candidates, when they get declined from a job opportunity, they can finally move forward with their job search and pursue other opportunities. But as long as they are on the hook waiting to hear back, they feel like Tom Hanks with that undelivered package. Again, this is why it is vital for clients to communicate with candidates regularly, even when the news is rejection.
Want proof? Getting closure is so appreciated by candidates that we constantly get thanked for rejecting people!!
5. If you have uncertainty about the role and your organization’s needs, resolve them before launching the search. For me, the most viscerally disturbing scene from Castaway involves Tom Hanks’s tooth. Stop reading now if you’re squeamish about tooth stuff. Remember at the beginning of this article when I said that Tom Hanks had a toothache he failed to address before leaving on the trip that left him stranded? Well, that tooth became infected and he ended up taking matters into his own hands with the only resource he had – an ice skate from one of the packages that washed ashore. YIKES!
If your organization is experiencing the equivalent of a toothache (thoughts of restructuring your team, eliminating or combining positions, budget uncertainty, or other changes you’re seeing on the horizon), it would be wise to solve those things before launching the search. If you don’t, you could find yourself reaching for an ice skate three weeks into the search when you realize things have changed!
6. Today’s mismatch is tomorrow’s perfect fit. When the various packages washed ashore, Tom Hanks treasured every single one of them, even if he couldn’t immediately see a use for each item. And yet many of the items later proved very useful (i.e. the ice skate and volleyball). Do you remember that Tom Hanks also used the netting from a dress to catch fish and the tape from a VHS tape to tie a raft together? Who could have imagined such a use for these things?
I think the lesson here is clear: when a talented candidate applies for a role with your organization but isn’t a fit for the role you have open today, keep the door open for a conversation about future openings. Tell the candidate you see potential in them for a future role and keep their contact info handy!
I hope our Castaway analogies provide helpful insight for you and inspire you to up your communication game with candidates.
Oh, and if you have an upcoming flight that passes over a major ocean, think about making a trip to the dentist first.