The importance and benefits of interviewing – it’s not a tick box exercise!

Interviewing is such a crucial part of the recruitment process; but I feel some of the most important aspects are often not covered in enough depth or are missed out entirely.

I believe that as a recruitment consultant the most important part of your job is to understand your candidate’s skills, experience, achievements and motivations. Many will argue that sales is the most important aspect of recruitment and whilst it is clearly an important part, I believe knowing your candidates is more important and will actually allow you the opportunity to sell in a consultative way.

For me, candidates are the most important part of any recruitment process. It seems an obvious statement but without candidates an agency has no business; however I’m sure that some agencies/consultants loss sight of this.

I do want to cover interviewing but I need to move slightly off topic now to illustrate my thinking in more detail. To highlight my thoughts let me ask the following question – what’s the best way to
generate business from a standing start assuming you have no clients or no track record with a particular company, but you do have access to candidates? Approach this scenario by cold calling companies asking ‘Do you have any vacancies’ and you will generally struggle to generate dialogue with those businesses. Call the same companies, advising them about a great candidate, of relevance, who could be of benefit to their business and you give them a reason to listen.

It may well not be the right time for that business to recruit and the outcome of this call may be the same as the less sophisticated cold call approach. However, consider how the recipient of the speculative approach will view you and your agency compared to how they would view you with the former approach? Whilst it’s still a sales call the differences are night and day. I would remember the consultant who has called me about a particular candidate and has demonstrated that they
understand my business and are looking to add some value.

The above does come with a health warning though – you should only work speculatively on a candidate if you know that candidate thoroughly, and you approach a business, for which that candidate would have some relevance. i.e. do not spec in a widget technician to a business who don’t use, manufacture or supply widgets. If you approach businesses with candidates who have no relevance to them or you aren’t able to answer questions about the candidate when someone enters into dialogue with you, then it reflects detrimentally on you and shows that you haven't not thought about their business; you don’t know your candidate well enough and therefore you aren’t really acting in anyone's best interest.

So what is the relevance of the above to interviewing? Well, simply put – you can’t really achieve the desired outcomes from the speculative approach consistently and regularly enough without knowing your candidates properly and to know them, you should interview them thoroughly.

My recent experience of recruitment agencies within a certain industry sector has shown that many will telephone interview (for 15-20mins) rather than meet their candidates. Agencies argue that meeting their candidates and thoroughly interviewing them is commercially detrimental because they will miss out to competitors who don’t meet their candidates; it’s logistically not feasible and sometimes there isn’t enough time to meet candidates. Whilst I appreciate and understand these points I think it’s an easy excuse to use this all the time and it demonstrates a lack of desire to provide a quality service. Why not differentiate yourself and give clients a reason to use you rather than agencies who don’t meet their candidates and interview them thoroughly?

I’d caveat this with a really important point: It’s as much the client’s responsibility to make sure that agencies deliver a quality service and therefore giving short timescales to recruit; using lots of
agencies for a role and accepting poorly interviewed candidates will only fuel this type recruitment practice.

I think that interviewing is often seen as a tick box exercise rather than an opportunity to get to know the candidate, so that you can represent them properly and discuss in detail the merits and
benefits of each candidate with your client.

What I mean by tick box interviewing is that you take the job description and really just ask whether the candidate has the experience requested in a job description. If it’s a yes, you tick the
box and move on until you have identified whether the candidate has this experience needed to be submitted for the role. But is this sufficient enough to determine whether the candidate is suitable?Consider these points:

  • How do you know what they say is correct?
  • Have you covered each point in more detail?
  • Have you asked them to provide specific examples which demonstrate the experience they say they have?
  • What are their key achievements
  • How will they be of benefit to your clients?
  • Why should you client see your candidate over and above a competitors candidate who also ticks all the boxes?

For me, an interview should challenge a candidate – it should certainly be a pleasant experience conducted in a professional manner but they should feel after an interview that they have been challenged to really think about their experience and leave thinking that this consultant really knows a lot about me and can therefore represent me properly. If a candidate doesn’t like this or is hesitant about providing detail information about their experience I would question - their motivation to secure a new job, and whether they are a candidate that you as a consultant can help and indeed, how will they represent you with your clients? Some candidates may be nervous and
inexperienced at interview so do allow for this!

This leads me onto a part of interviewing which I feel is really important and often overlooked: candidate motivations. Having a candidate who has all the experience but when offered a role decides not to accept is the worst outcome to any recruitment process.

Understanding your candidate’s motivations is a fundamental part of interviewing and will allow you to manage a recruitment process more effectively and to decide whether you can help a candidate. Things which generally drive a candidate’s motivations (although not
exclusive) are;

  • Remuneration
  • Culture of an organisation
  • Career prospects
  • Line manager support
  • Day to day environment

From all the interviews a recruiter conducts they should know how a candidate feels about these points within their current job and how important these are to influencing their decision making process when deciding if they want to be put forward for a job or indeed accept a job offer.

To conclude – interviewing is not just a tick box exercise and should look beyond just skills and experience. As a consultant this provides you with; greater opportunities to be consultative when
selling, differentiate yourself from many of your competitors therefore promoting the quality of your service, and arguably the most important, it allows you to manage the recruitment process more effectively.

Although I have written this article from an agency perspective – I believe the above applies (excluding the sales elements) for internal recruiters or line managers.

Thanks for reading and if anyone has any thoughts/comments or you would like to discuss in more detail then please contact me.

NB. this article was originally posted on my blog:

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