10 Things Recruiters Should Know About Every Candidate They Interview

Interviewing candidates and gauging their fit for a culture and position is one of the most indispensable tasks a recruiter performs. The more a recruiter knows about a candidate, the better equipped they are to add value to the hiring process. That’s why getting to know the candidate and understand what they are looking for, along with overall qualifications, is so critical. But there is more about candidates you should uncover if you want to do the best possible job of providing information (read: value) to hiring managers. Below are ten points in key areas that all recruiters should investigate for each candidate they interview ó before they present the candidate to the hiring manager.

  1. Complete compensation details. Understand exactly how the candidate’s current compensation program is structured. This means more than the candidate’s base salary; the base salary is just part of the overall package. Be sure that you ask about bonuses; if, how and when they are paid out, stock options or grants that have been awarded. Compile a complete list of benefits and how they are structured (e.g. PPO vs. HMO; there is a difference) and know when the candidate is up for his or her next review, because this can alter cash compensation.
  2. Article Continues Below
  3. Type of commute. Commute is a quality-of-life issue and discussing it is important. A ten-minute commute against traffic is very different than taking the car to a train and having to walk five blocks to the new organization. If the commute to your organization is worse for the candidate than it is in his or her existing job, bring it up and see how the candidate responds. If the commute is better, use it as a selling point. By all means, be sure that you understand the candidate’s current commute and how they feel about the new one.
  4. The “what they want vs. what they have” differential. Most candidates do not change jobs just for the sake of changing jobs. They change jobs because there are certain things missing in their current position that they believe can be satisfied by the position your organization is offering. This disparity is called the “position differential” and it is the fundamental reason a person changes jobs. Know what this position differential is and you will be able to know if you have what the candidate is looking for. If so, you will be able to develop an intelligent capture strategy when it comes time to close.
  5. How they work best. Some candidates work best if left alone, while others work best as part of a team. It is your job to know enough about the organization’s philosophy and the way the hiring manager works to see if the candidate will either mesh or grind. Beware of recommending hiring a candidate who does not fit into the current scheme, because, at times, style can be just as important as substance.
  6. Overall strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to get some understanding of the candidate’s strong points and the candidate’s limitations. All of us have strengths and weaknesses (even John Sullivan has weaknesses, but he won’t tell me what they are). Our role is to identify them and be able to present them to the hiring manager. Hint: Ask what functions the candidate does not enjoy performing. We are seldom good at things we don’t like.
  7. What they want in a new position. Everyone wants something. Find out what the candidate wants in a new position. Be sure to do whatever is necessary to get this information. Feel free to pick away during the interviewing process with open-ended questions until you have all of your questions answered. It is difficult to determine whether a given hiring situation has a good chance of working out if you do not know what the candidate is looking for in a new position.
  8. Is the candidate interviewing elsewhere? This is big; I don’t like surprises and neither do hiring managers. I always ask the candidate what else they have for activity. If the candidate has three other companies they are considering and two offers are arriving in the mail tomorrow, this is absolute need-to-know information. If the hiring manager wants to make an offer, it’s time to advise them as to what the competition looks like and move this deal onto the express lane, fast.
  9. What it will take to close the deal. This is a first cousin of #6 above but it is more specific and flavored with a “closing the deal” mentality. #6 relates to what the candidate wants in a new position, but this one quantifies that want. For example, if the candidate wants more money, this is where you will assess how much it will take to close the deal. As another example, while #6 will let you know that the candidate wants to work on different types of projects, this one will tell you exactly what types of projects those are.
  10. Can the candidate do the job? Even though, as the recruiter, you might not be able to determine if this is the perfect candidate, you should exit the interview with an opinion as to whether or not the candidate can perform the functions of the position. Furthermore, that opinion must be based upon information that was unveiled during the interviewing process and not just a gut feeling. It has to be based upon what the candidate has successfully accomplished and how that aligns with the needs of the current position. If you can’t offer a solid opinion on this one, you need to dig deeper until you have a solid case for why the candidate can or cannot do the job.
  11. Will the candidate fit into the culture? Predicting the future is tricky business, but someone has to take a shot at evaluating a candidate’s chance for success. Not everyone that is capable of doing the job will have a successful run at the company, because culture does play a role in candidate success. For example, the culture of a buttoned-down insurance company in Boston is very different than the garage culture of a software startup in the valley. If you have a reason to believe that the person is the wrong DNA for an organization, it is imperative that you raise the issue.

There are few things hiring managers value more than solid candidate feedback based upon a well-executed interview. Convey this information to the hiring manager and take one more step towards becoming a world-class recruiter.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net


10 Comments on “10 Things Recruiters Should Know About Every Candidate They Interview

  1. Yet another seminal classic from Howie for the Archives: ‘Recruiting Basics 101: Blocking and Tackling’.

    Outstanding as always!

  2. Great article. Right on track. The best recruiters know and do all of these to ensure the best placements that make both candidate and client happy. New recruiters would do well to used these ten items.

    Thanks so much for sharing such valuable info with the ERE recruiter family.

  3. I add 2 additional but often critical questions to my candidate interviews. The first has to do with work authorization. Does the candidate have the right to accept unauthorized employment in the United States? Since I am a high tech recruiter, this is critical. It’s my job to help my hiring managers make informed hiring decisions. While many companies are prepared to take on the time consuming and now rather high cost of obtaining visas for new hires, without accurate pre-offer information, they can sign up for big mistakes (i.e. a new grad does who has already used several months of his/her 12 months of F-1 status and they will miss the cut for new H-1’s being granted).

    The other question is more for housekeeping, but asking about how soon a candidate can start after accepting an offer usually gives insight into scheduled vacations, requirements to give more than the standard 2 weeks’ notice, etc. The longer the time between giving notice and starting, the higher the odds for no starts and counter offer acceptances.

    Bottom line – the recruiter is the expert talent scout with full responsibility for knowing the whole story. When we do this, we add even more value for our clients.

  4. Let’s say the scenario is a job fair where it feels like a production line and you are speaking to hundreds of candidates. How do you:

    1) Get to know your candidate in 2-3 minutes – which are the most important questions in this scenario?

    2) Engage the job seeker to provoke the reaction you need, which is to see that candidate’s resume posted ONLINE in the next couple of days?

    Thank you,

    Carla Leininger

  5. Carla,
    I think perhaps if you only have 2 to 3 minutes of time you may be able to get an idea from the candidate?s communication style whether they are a fit for the culture. So that one you may be able to cross off quickly. I think perhaps an important question would be: ‘When can we schedule a time for you to come in office or to discuss your experience on the phone?’ I guess it would really depend on the type of candidate you are talking to and the types of positions you are trying to fill.

    I am just getting caught up on my reading here at ERE…and I thank you Howard, for an excellent article. (Nice to read an article about concrete methods for a change here on ERE!) I already hit most of these questions with my candidates, but you have provided some more details that I think will help me further.
    I do have two things that I would like to add:

    1. Is there anything that would prevent you from accepting this position if the compensation and the responsibilities were what you were looking for? (this could go back to asking about interviewing elsewhere, but also it could help them open up to some other issue that wasn’t obvious) This could be considered perhaps a corollary to what does it take to close the deal, but I am surprised how this question gets some candidates to open up even further.

    2. How much notice do you need for a personal or phone interview? This can be HUGE if you have a candidate that needs a few days or even a week to clear their schedule. You want to be upfront with the hiring manager if your candidate isn’t able to interview with a few hours or even a day’s notice.

    Maybe these two last things are so obvious that it goes with out saying that most other recruiters ask. But I have personally known quite a few that didn?t?so might as well speak up now. =)

  6. very good article Howard.

    Here are some others that are big ones – Some of these are factors that can stop the best placement from happening if they are not discussed upfront..

    VERY IMPORTANT — do you have a non Compete!

    Is there anything that can delay a rapid relocation?
    Is there Geographical Preferences?
    When would you be available for employment?
    What companies would you prefer not to work for and why?
    Are all records of education, licenses and training seminars you have attended documented on your resume with dates
    ***** Is your resume accurate? In lieu of a background check?
    *****Are you prepared with your list of references? And what will they say about you?

  7. Karen –

    As usual, you are absolutely right, and I love you for keeping us straight here. I like to think personal attacks wouldn’t phase me, and a call from ERE apologizing for some profanity that got attached to my title (?) didn’t, but the kind apology (from Todd) was genuine & heart-felt.

    Even your ‘police-like’ activities are appreciated, unless they (some might fear) censor expression. But of course there are many who don’t particluarly like the police (unless they need them). Articles might become too burdensome if they had to add disclaimers, endless explanations, etc. Even Rookies will be able to discern the truth here (augmented with your help, of course). I often skim articles, but learn from the responses, especially yours.

    Finally, I aplaud you for your hobby (or passion?) – talking about ethics. Mine, a newsletter, was the one during the Middle East crisis projecting $2-2.50 gas within a mo. & a record Dow vs $4-5 & a recession most others were fearing.


  8. Living in the Pittsburgh area as a recruiter for a short amount of time (Coraopolis, PA) I can feel your pain in the ‘Job Fair’ atmosphere. To answer your questions, first a job fair should not be used to hire someone for a particular position that day. Yet, it should be used to develop company awareness and build interest in prospective applicants. If you are trying to do your initial interview at job fairs, your doing not only you and your company a disservice, but the applicant as well.

    Next, your second question goes right back to your first question. How do you get the applicant to not only show you they are interested, but follow through with posting their resume online? When I say it goes back to your first question, I mean you must build interest in your company. Standout among those all gathered at Heinz Field to pass out free stuff and have a great lunch. Be someone who is walking out to prospective candidates and asking them what they are looking for and not just simply waiting for them to walk up to your booth. Show them you are interest in sharing your company’s exciting opportunities and if they listen and show interest by posting a resume online great. And if they don’t – then so be it!

    Remember, in recruiting we all must deal with rejection from candidates. The only things you can do are keep trying and never give up promoting your company and do it with enthusiasm!

    Good Luck,

  9. I must say this was an impressive article, ten bullet questions each recruiter should have on there clipboard for each interview. It gets right to the heart of what a recruiter is trying to accomplish for his/her company. However, I do wish we had the 10 Things Recruiters Should Know About Every Hiring Manager, this would assist in our efforts to locate the correct candidate each time. This I believe is one of the toughest areas a recruiter has to tackle each day. Developing a solid relationship with each of your hiring managers is critical, yet one of the most difficult as well. While we strive to fulfill our individual companies? needs, we must also not forget why we as recruiters were hired ourselves. A recruiter is the company?s eyes and ears to the outside community and as such we are tasked with finding genuinely qualified candidates for our hiring managers to choose from.

    With that said, I hope each person working in this crazy career filed we call ?Recruiting? never forgets just how truly valuable we are to the overall success of each company we work with. Again I must say this article was very insightful and I would like to thank the author for sharing it with the rest of us recruiters.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *