Wednesday Wisdom: Cliff Notes for Candidates

Dear Claudia,

How much is too much when preparing a candidate for interviews?


Dear Curious,

This is a great question, because it hints at some of the juicy stuff in recruiting closets: the fine line between finding the right person and earning a fee, between making a hire and priming the pump for future turnover. Where does a good recruiter draw the line? And when does coaching a candidate create unfair advantage, or worse yet - a potentially bad hire? Very interesting question indeed.

Like it or not, as recruiters we conduct the orchestra. We herd the cats. We think many steps ahead of everyone to ensure that stupid things don’t take the pins out of a perfectly good relationship in the making. Be honest: no one has a better opportunity than a you to play God among mere mortals from time to time, and it's a heady and dangerous place to play.

Here’s my take on the deal. Prepping a candidate includes three things, and no more:

• A refresher of the success factors for the role.
Never send your candidate into an interview without a reminder of how the hiring decision will be made. And if you don’t normally start a search by gathering this information, now is a good time to start. Your placement ratio will skyrocket.

• A high-level overview of every interviewer.
This means names, titles, backgrounds, and a few personality quirks. If Mary can’t stand people who snort instead of blowing their noses, or if Joe is a Type A who thinks and speaks faster than the speed of light, your candidate should know it in advance. And if you don’t know your interview teams this well, it’s time you do. Your candidates (and your business customers) will become raving fans – no joke.

•Coaching, if necessary, on how to tell a good story.
Never assume that because a candidate can put two words together over the phone, they can describe their impact to a hiring manager in a stressful and competitive situation. And if you’re not capturing a really good story from each candidate before submitting them to a hiring manager, shame on you – you’re not doing your job. Great stories follow a predictable path: Impact, Situation, Target, Action, Results. I-STAR. No more, no less, and your candidate is a hero.

Prep a candidate more than this and you’ve entered the realm of the bait-and-switch recruiter, someone who makes short term deals with the black heart of a used car salesman (and I don’t mean that in a kind way, even though I know and respect some terrific people in this line of work. Sorry John, I'll buy lunch the next time I see you.). If your candidate wants a leg up on the competition, send them to Google for an internet search. The good ones ace the interview by knowing themselves, knowing the job parameters, and knowing something about the person they’ll meet. The rest is chemistry and common sense; hiring happens where it will.

In my day job, I’m the head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage engagement for competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

Do you have a question you'd like answered in this weekly forum? Drop me a line!

Views: 103

Comment by Scott Godbey on June 25, 2008 at 9:20am

I enjoyed your article on candidate prep. I would add at least one more step to your candidate preparation strategy - instruct the candidate ask for the job. Candidates should be coached to ask for the job if they decide that is a job they truly want.

While that may seem like common sense, many candidates forget to ask for the job (or at least what the next step in the process will be). Even sales candidates I've worked with sometimes forget to close an interview. When the hiring process comes down to 2 candidates, it's the candidate who expresses a sincere interest in working with the company that will receive an offer.

Scott Godbey
Comment by Claudia Faust on June 25, 2008 at 4:15pm
Hi all, and thanks for playing today. Completely agree with Scott about that closing thing -- and with Rayanne about the need to maintain a low level of annoyance. Great insights! Maren, you just crack me up :)).


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