A Recruiter’s Guide to Candidate Interview Prep

Aug 7, 2008

First, some interview rules:

• Hiring managers have a bigger fear of failure (making a bad hire) than the person being interviewed, and the consequences of making a bad hire is greater than making a poor employment decision.
• Most hiring managers are excellent at making widgets but they are terrible at conducting interviews.
• 80/20 rule: 80% Compatibility/20% Skill Sets. At the beginning of the interview, skill sets are important, but once the interviewer is confident that candidate’s skill sets will help them sleep better at night, compatibility becomes the primary hiring motivator.

So you have just spent months networking to uncover a highly marketable candidate. You have screened, interviewed, evaluated, checked references, and created a stellar marketing campaign. Because of your efforts, your candidate gets the ultimate compliment: an invitation to interview with your client. You do your standard candidate interview prep: Company, Job Description, and Interest in the job. So why is your sendout-to-hire ratio still low?

Very few recruiters understand that making a hire in this market is more about “risk” assessment than “skill” assessment. Candidate interview preparation should not only be about helping the candidate understand their strengths within the job description; it should also be about helping them understand the psychological battles that hiring authorities go through just to present an offer of employment.

If you want to increase your sendout-to-hire ratio, share the following with your candidates during the interview prep.

Candidate Interview Prep Outline:
• Skill Sets
• Compatibility
• Interest
• Follow Up

Objective 1: Highlight applicable skill sets
Skill sets are the primary concern for the hiring manager at the beginning of the interview, and that quickly transitions to compatibility once the skills sets are identified. If your candidate can’t define their skill sets as it relates to the job, they’ll never get to the most important compatibility conversation.

Candidate Positioning Question 1: Defining their Skill Sets
I’ve researched the company and reviewed the responsibilities; however, please give me an idea of what you need accomplished with this position — say, in the first six months to two years?

This is an excellent question that requires the hiring manager to define exactly what needs to be achieved or accomplished in a specific timeline. Once defined, the candidate should give examples of where they have excelled in those skill sets in the past. (Give real life examples! Don’t just say “I can do that.”)

I’ve been there and I’ve done that and here’s an example and here’s how it affected the bottom line ……

OR: I’ve not been there and done that, but I’m looking forward to adding that to my professional experience. (Then give the hiring manager an example where you had to quickly become the subject matter expert on other skill sets in the past.)

Objective 2: Highlight culture compatibility
As stated above, your candidate should find common ground with the hiring manager, as they not only want qualified people to work with, they also want employees they enjoy working with. People who have the same passions, goals, and work ethics work well together!

Candidate Positioning Question 2: Communicating their Compatibility
As I’ve stated before, I’ve researched the company and position and I find it to be very compatible with my career goals. I would be very interested in how you would describe the company culture, and why you decided to work here?

This allows the hiring manager the opportunity to describe the critical factors they evaluated when they accepted the position with the company. What they outline as “important” should be consistent with your candidate’s career passion as well.

Objective 3: Communicate Interest
Hiring managers rarely make emotional commitments (offers) without knowing they will be received positively. Your candidate should close the interview by letting the hiring manager know they are interested in continuing the relationship (even if they are not sure). It may take several interviews to discover all the facts about the opportunity and your candidate’s goal is to make the short list!

Candidate Positioning Question 3: Communicating Their Interest in Moving Forward
I am confident that what you outlined today is very consistent with my career goals and qualifications; I am very interested in moving forward, what is our next step?

Objective 4: Timely and Professional Follow Up
Instruct the candidate to call you immediately after the interview and while the interview discussion is fresh on their mind. Should they want to proceed or not proceed, you’ll want all vital information back as soon as possible to help guide both parties in the next step.

Remember, time kills all deals. If you can’t get critical information back to your candidates or clients in a timely manner, they may move into “Plan B” and take the second-best candidate or the second-best offer.

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