Ask Barb: Candidate Prep

Dear Barb:

We have a client who has asked us not to prep our candidates. He said they all sound alike and he has determined it’s because we tell them what to say during interviews. Of course we tell them what to say! We want them to receive a job offer! This is one of our best clients and we don’t want to lose their business. I just worry about the ridiculous things our candidates will say if we don’t prep them. What should we do?

Frank N., Valdosta, GA

Dear Frank:

During your prep, you should not be telling your candidates what to say. If everyone I interviewed from your search firm gave me the same answers, I’d make the same request of you. Your prep should be role-playing. You should be asking a list of questions (some that you know your client will ask from prior de-briefs) and listening to how your candidate will answer the question. If they give an answer you know will screen them out, change roles with them. Make them the employer and repeat the answer they gave you. They will hear what they need to adjust. We can’t put words in the mouth of our candidates. You need to make sure your candidates understand the opportunity and know more about the company and your client than anyone else they are interviewing. Also, have them prepare the questions they will ask in advance, so they refrain from asking self-serving questions. You want their questions to reveal the priorities of each person in the interview process.

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You do need to stop telling your candidates what to say, but I would continue helping them prepare for the interview by role-playing with them. During the prep you should be doing less than 30% of the talking.

Barbara J. Bruno, CPC, CTS


Would you like to Ask Barb a question? Email her at support@staffingandrecruiting.com. Each month in The Fordyce Letter print edition, Barbara Bruno answers questions from individuals in the Recruiting Profession. We will bring you some of these Q&A responses from Barb each week on FordyceLetter.com.

Barb Bruno, CPC, CTS, is one of the most trusted experts, speakers, and trainers in the Staffing and Recruiting Professions. If you want to receive FREE training articles from Barb, sign up for her NO BS Newsletter! Barb has spent the last twenty years focused on helping Owners, Managers, and Recruiters increase their sales, profits, and income.

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2 Comments on “Ask Barb: Candidate Prep

  1. I completely agree with Barb. At Confidential Search Solutions, we give our candidates 6-8 standard role playing questions to hear how they articulate themselves and how focused they are on the client and the specific job they are being considered for. We help them to understand that the interview is not about them, but about how they can help the client achieve the clients’ goals and objectives. Once they see things from the clients’ perspective, it helps them to answer the questions with a purpose and understanding in mind. Providing them with a basic framework helps them to collect their thoughts and gain their composure in order to present their answers in a way that are authentic and client focused.

  2. “I just worry about the ridiculous things our candidates will say if we don’t prep them.”
    If you are worried about this, you are not sending your client a candidate worth hiring. An A-list, highly qualified candidate is not going to spew “ridiculous things”during the interview process. He or she will speak knowledgeably and intelligently and demonstrate a solid understanding of the topics discussed during the interview. You and your firm should be screening OUT, not IN, any candidates who say something ridiculous, unless you are hiring a comedian.

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