Do You Have Any More Candidates?

“Do you have any more candidates?” That question is a recruiter’s worst nightmare?? especially when it comes after you’ve already sent three or four top candidates to a hiring manager. So, what’s a recruiter to do? If they really were top candidates, you obviously need to do more than just back off in a huff or scratch around for more candidates. You have to seriously shake up the way you do business. Good recruiters not only find top candidates, they also have the ability to present these top candidates to their clients and make them stick. If you spend most of your time looking for the perfect candidate, you’re not as effective a recruiter as you could be. Because just as there are no perfect jobs, there are no perfect candidates. And your job as a recruiter is to take an imperfect job and an imperfect candidate and make a perfect match. So, if you’ve ever been asked, “Do you have any more candidates?” (and if you haven’t, you will be), here are some things you can do. The solution starts by understanding the problem. There are two parts to this. First, most hiring managers don’t know what they’re looking for. Instead, they’ll provide some superficial job description listing a bunch of skills, attributes and responsibilities. This is the imperfect job. More questioning doesn’t help, either. These vague descriptions remain uncomfortably unclear, leaving it to the recruiter to figure out the real job. Sometimes you’ll hear the familiar refrain, “I’ll know the candidate when I see him.” As a recruiter, not knowing what you’re really looking for makes finding that person impossible. You also sound unprofessional when approaching top candidates, who expect both your advice and your insight. The second half of the problem is equally frustrating. Most hiring managers are terrible interviewers. Even if they know what they want, they don’t know how to determine if the candidate is competent. Emotions, halo effects, and first impressions bias their assessments. They talk too much, ask meaningless questions, and turn off top candidates. Then they ask you to send them more candidates. Let’s address both of these issues. The first one?? not knowing the job?? is solved by preparing a performance profile before you begin the assignment. This is a prioritized list of deliverables that clearly defines what a person in the job needs to do to be considered successful. It includes statements like, “redesign the controller board embedded software in C by June.” This is easier to understand than “5 years of embedded software experience.” Obtain five to six of these deliverables and get everyone on the hiring team to agree. (If you want more information on preparing performance profiles, I suggest you review two of my previous articles, Recruiter Smarter, Not Harder and Hitting Moving Targets. They provide detailed information and examples on how to prepare performance profiles.) By clarifying expectations up front, you not only get a clear picture of the candidate, but the candidate also has a clear picture of the job. Research shows that this is the number one criteria for high job satisfaction. You’ll also use this performance profile to assess candidate competency. This will help solve the second problem?? having to deal with weak interviewing skills. One reason managers are weak at evaluating candidates is they don’t know what they’re looking for. They’ll then substitute their biases, emotions, intuition, and perceptions. These are impossible to quantify, and often downright wrong and misleading. The performance profile is a legally defensible benchmark that puts all candidates on the same measurable stage. Once you’ve gotten the hiring manager to prepare the performance profile, you’ll need to make sure the candidate is interviewed properly. Here are some suggestions:

  • Submit your formal assessment of the candidate with the resume. Document how the candidate has performed against the deliverables in the performance profile. Provide specific examples. You need to prove the case that you’re submitting a strong candidate.
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  • Ask all candidates to write-up a half-page summary of their two most significant accomplishments. Submit these with the resume. Then ask the hiring manager to review them during the first 20 minutes of the interview. Make sure these two accomplishments are comparable to the deliverables described in the performance profile. This approach allows you to control what’s talked about in the hiring manager/candidate interview without you being there. Emotions, first impressions and biases will have less of an impact if true job performance is discussed up-front.
  • Send the hiring manager a copy of my two articles on interviewing. The Best Interview Question of All Time and My Favorite Interview Question will give your hiring manager a good background on sound interviewing techniques. When combined with a performance profile, your notes, and the candidate’s two accomplishments, you’re providing ample guidance to the hiring manager on how to accurately assess the candidate’s ability to meet the performance needs of the job.
  • Lead a panel interview with the hiring manager. Use the fact-finding approach suggested in the two articles on interviewing. They’ll help you further demonstrate to the hiring manager that the candidate can meet the performance needs of the job. In a panel interview, the impact of first impressions and emotions are naturally reduced. This is a good way to train hiring managers in good interviewing skills. Once they observe how you conduct a detailed fact-finding exercise, they’ll be able to do it on their own the next time.
  • Conduct a formal debriefing session. Meet with the hiring manager to review the candidate’s ability to achieve the performance objectives of the position. This is your way to stay involved. It indicates that your role is more than just submitting candidates. Hiring managers will quickly learn that you mean business, and won’t eliminate one of your candidates without proof. You owe it to yourself and to your candidates to conduct this step.

The best recruiters are advisors and consultants, not vendors. They lead the hiring process every step of the way. Start by getting all members of the interviewing team to agree to the performance requirements of the job. By clarifying expectations and deliverables, you have a tool that allows you to both attract candidates and measure their competency. Next, provide proof to your hiring manager clients that your assessments are accurate. Formalize your submittals with more than just a resume. Don’t cede control of the hiring process after you’ve submitted a candidate for review. Stay involved. Upgrade the assessment process. If you are confident, serious, and professional in the way you handle your recruiting role, hiring managers will take their role more seriously, too. If you are tired of hearing the call for more candidates, be the catalyst for change. Make a perfect match, even in an imperfect world.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


1 Comment on “Do You Have Any More Candidates?

  1. GReat article and SO true !

    BUT it provokes thought for yet another GREAT article which I would title:

    “Hidden thought patterns which ensure gender discrimination”.

    Language is a result of thought … it refelcts thought. As innocuous as it may seem to use ” him” … it reveals (through language) what we’re really thinking of down inside our skull (interpretation : Male candidate and not female)

    You can read the original article at:

    Post your own Article Review

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