I often hear recruiters and staffing coordinators refer to their different hats. These hats represent the different duties they perform as part of their jobs. Included are the detective hat (when locating qualified talent), the sales hat (to attract qualified people to great jobs and assignments), and the ever-popular social worker hat (when trying to address or resolve candidate problems).
One other key “cap” worn by professional recruiters is that of teacher. The responsibilities that come with this one include instructing candidates as to how to improve resumes, giving advice to temps for keeping their skills fresh, and informing consultants about market conditions. In the current market, one of the most important teaching jobs for recruiters involves supporting candidates in having great interviews.
Over the years, I have been hearing an increasing number of comments from various hiring managers across North America about how poorly candidates have been conducting themselves during interviews. Randall, a manager in Rhode Island, recently shared this: “I have met at least eight very qualified individuals in interviews over the past few months. These candidates were being considered for several different full-time positions and were presented by three different firms. I didn’t hire a single one because each did so poorly in the interview. It was clear to me that the firms did little or nothing to help these people in preparing for their meetings with me and my staff.”
Many people in a hiring capacity have echoed Randall’s comments. Dianne, who hires over 100 temporary and contract staff each year in California, made the most intriguing comment of all. “It is often hard to tell the staffing and recruiting firms apart. Those that are truly distinguishing themselves are the ones that are clearly taking the time to make sure their candidates are prepared for their interviews. I am hiring more of their people compared to everyone else.” Dianne’s comment is what prompted the idea for this article.
In almost every TeleClass and on-site program I lead, participants ask for advice about ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. All we need to do is listen to those who, like Dianne, are buying staffing and recruiting services to hear the answers. Then it is up to us to change or improve our habits and techniques.
My challenge to you is to do something to improve your methods for preparing candidates, consultants, and applicants for their interviews. If you are not preparing them at all, now is a great time to start. If this is already a regular practice, do an upgrade and make your process even better.
Based upon the feedback of the hiring managers interviewed for this article, here are eight ideas to help you get started:
1. Be prepared, not surprised
Randall indicated that he is often surprised at how unprepared many people are for some of the most typical interview questions. Take the time to give your candidates sample questions to help them prepare prior to the interview. These could include common ones, such as: “Tell me about yourself;” “Why are you exploring a job change?”; and “What are your short and long-term goals?”
2. Avoid the political approach
Politicians are often accused of not answering a question completely. The same is also said of some people in interviews. Many hiring managers are not only looking for the answer to a question asked, but are also using this to assess the listening skills of candidates. With this in mind, coach those you prepare for interviews to pay careful attention to what the interviewer says and what is being asked.
3. Great questions can land you the job
Dianne shared, “I have hired more than one person because of the thoughtfulness of the questions they asked me. I think one of my all-time favorites is, ‘What could I show or tell you right now that would convince you that I am the one for the job?’ I never told him this, but at that moment the job was his—and he still works in my department six years later.” Encourage your candidates to create a list of 10 or more provocative questions they would like answered during the interview.
4. You do your job, and I’ll do mine
Every manager who shared his/her thoughts on interviewing agreed upon the importance of candidates not asking “what can you for me” questions, especially in the first interview. These include questions regarding salary, benefits, bonuses, and vacation time. Remind your candidates or applicants that you are the negotiator and will handle all of these details for them.
5. It’s what you know to avoid a NO
One of Randall’s pet peeves, and he’s not alone on this one, is that some candidates know little or nothing about his company. Help each person to learn as much as possible about the company where he/she is interviewing. This includes providing details about the job or assignment, the organizational structure, and the products or services delivered by the company. Make sure to pass along the company’s web site, if there is one.
6. Being “suited” for the position
Most of the managers interviewed for this article indicated that the attire of individuals attending interviews could use some attention. Their preference was that candidates be dressed in business attire for interviews, regardless of the level of the position. For men, this included a pressed shirt and tie or, even better, a suit. For women, the recommended attire included a business suit or dress in a conservative color.
7. The early bird gets the job
Promptness was another issue mentioned by the hiring managers. Being on time is no longer the standard. Managers are taking special note when candidates arrive early for the interview. Arriving ten to fifteen minutes early sends a message of strong interest and professionalism.
8. Say NO to negative remarks
Negative comments leave a negative impression, even when those comments are accurate. Dianne was recently ready to hire an individual until, at the end of the interview, he made disparaging remarks about his previous employer. Encourage your candidates always to avoid making any negative comments about current or previous employers, managers, or co-workers. Dianne suggests, “Remember what mama taught you—if you can’t say anything nice, it’s better to say nothing at all!”
Through some planning and deliberate effort in preparing your candidates for interviews, you have an opportunity to distinguish yourself from your competitors. At the same time, you’ll be positively impacting each individual’s ability to improve his or her career, get back to work, or transition from a bad employment situation to a better one. I can’t think of a more winning scenario!