Client Preparation: Focus The Process

Properly preparing clients before each and every interview provides you a timely opportunity to focus the process, maintain control, and help insure a successful outcome. Unfortunately, most practitioners miss this opportunity because they either do not understand how to execute appropriate client preparation or they are fearful of their weak positioning.The client preparation that is currently utilized throughout the industry generally fits somewhere on a continuum that is anchored on one end with a just ‘sending the resume’ approach. However, as you move along the continuum, client preparation becomes more comprehensive and may include any or all of the following:

  1. An in-depth sharing of detailed information on the candidate’s background, skills, experience, and compensation history.
  2. A definition of the candidate’s primary motivations for change.
  3. An explanation as to “why” the candidate may be interested in the client’s employment opportunity.
  4. Recommendations on how to approach the candidate during the interview in order to build their interest in working for the client.

Although all of these areas should be covered during a comprehensive client preparation, there is also the need to “focus the process” for the client. You will understand the importance of this, if you agree with the following statements.

  1. Ultimately, the decision the client makes will have a greater impact on their life than it will have on yours.
  2. The overall objective must be to insure that the candidate hired is best qualified to perform successfully on the job, not necessarily the candidate who does the best during the interviews.
  3. Most clients are not properly trained and do not possess the skill sets necessary to conduct effective interviews and, therefore, are not adequately equipped to make hiring decisions based on both tactical and strategic assessment techniques.
  4. The candidate being interviewed does not have to accept the position if it is offered.

If these points look familiar, review last month’s article (TFL 03/03 Candidate Preparation Expand the Context). In fact, if you utilize the approach outlined in that article, included in your client preparation should be a description of the areas in which your candidate will be seeking information, i.e., the position, the performance standards that apply to the position, and what they should expect while working for their direct manager. You should explain to your client the nature and scope of the candidate’s preparation and “why” you have advised them to specifically seek answers to questions addressing those particular areas.Remember: In order for the selection and hiring process to achieve its’ objective, both the candidate and the client must make the right decision.A comprehensive approach to client preparation will help insure this outcome, particularly, if it is focused on the process. Without repeating material that has been covered in previous articles, we must stress the importance of properly completing the first three steps in your client-centered process. Thoroughly completing each of these steps is necessary prior to establishing the selection and hiring process (see point three above).The key components of the selection and hiring process that must be reinforced during client preparation include:

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  1. The outcomes that must be produced by the employee in order for them to achieve success in their new position. These must be articulated in specific terms, including a realistic time frame. When, how, and by whom will these outcomes be communicated during the hiring process?
  2. The specific performance standards that must be met by the new employee in order for them to achieve success on the job. When, how, and by whom will these standards be communicated during the hiring process?
  3. A review of the job related selection criteria that must be met in order for a candidate to be qualified to perform successfully on the job.
  4. Specifically, what will be covered at each step in the process? What information will be provided (when and by whom), and what information will be expected in return?
  5. In specific terms: who, how, and when will they assess the candidate’s job related qualifications? Develop with your client the appropriate structure, strategies, and techniques that will be utilized to accomplish this phase of the process. The objective is to insure that what takes place is a proper job related assessment of the candidate’s actual qualification to perform successfully on the job.
  6. Who, how, and when will they assess the match between the candidate’s functional preferences and the primary operating of the manager. Also included is the need to assess the overall match between the candidate and the culture and operating philosophy of the client’s organization? It is essential to insure this assessment step is completed in a timely and objective manner.
  7. How will the position and overall employment opportunity be presented in order to build an interest on the part of the candidate in wanting to work for the client? It must be consistent with the manner in which you presented the opportunity. Reinforce the fact that the client cannot hire a candidate who does not want to work for their organization. A single misstep by anyone involved in the process, at any time during the process, could prove to be devastating. In these uncertain economic times, there is little margin for error.
  8. Take the opportunity to strengthen your position as the objective third party expert on assessment techniques (and you should be), process implementation, and outcome resolution. This step is critical if you are to maintain control of the process while helping insure a successful hiring decision (see TFL 09/01 Never, Ever Discuss Money).

Obviously, if your positioning with the client is weak, it will be difficult to near impossible for you to implement any or all of the above. Nevertheless, in moving from average to good and from good to great, our industry’s top producers have learned the importance of focusing on the process. Controlling a process that insures both the candidate and client make the proper decision can be your primary point of quality differentiation.Comprehensive client preparation will help eliminate interviewing surprises, miscommunication, and unrealistic expectations. Most importantly, it will strengthen your position as being absolutely indispensable to the client in achieving a successful outcome through the process.As always, your comments and questions are most welcome.

Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry's leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or click to email him.


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