Good Candidate Prep Is More Than Interview Tips

For most practitioners in our industry, the purpose of preparing a candidate for a meeting with a client is to improve their interviewing skills, provide information on the company and position, and to increase the likelihood the candidate will get an the offer. Although worthwhile objectives, if your candidate prep is focused only on these elements, you may be doing a disservice to both your candidate and your client.

While keeping the benefit of these objectives in mind, consider expanding your candidate prep. You will appreciate the value of this, if you agree that:

  1. Ultimately, the decision the candidate makes will have a greater impact on their life than it will on yours.
  2. The overall objective must be to ensure the candidate hired is best qualified to perform successfully on the job, not necessarily the candidate who does the best during the interviews.
  3. In the final analysis, your ability to develop and maintain a profitable relationship with a client is primarily based on whether or not the candidates you place meet or surpass the client’s performance expectations.

If you are willing to step away from the “I have to do a deal” mentality and concentrate instead on providing qualified and interested candidates at the same time as you implement an appropriate decision-making process, everyone will win. This process may include expanding the context of your candidate interview preparation.

Most practitioners’ skills are inadequate to properly prepare a candidate for the interview. They move too fast and they sell too hard. Even though they may have a tremendous amount of information to share, the manner in which this sharing takes place is analogous to “feeding baby with a fire hose.” Most of what is shared is either not understood or quickly forgotten by the candidate. In some instances, the entire preparation consists of nothing more than handing the candidate an “Interviewing Tips” brochure and asking them to study it before going on the interview. Even if well-constructed and thought provoking, a brochure is no substitute for comprehensive, interactive interview preparation.

Remember: More good, potential placements are lost because of a lack of comprehensive interview preparation than for any other single reason.

You can be working a well-qualified order and have available interested and qualified candidates. Nevertheless, if you blow the interview preparation, you add a serious element of error to your process, while leaving the outcome of the interview very much in doubt.

For the purposes of this article, we will make the assumption that everyone understands the basics of candidate interview preparation, whether or not they choose to actually apply them. Our objective here is to explain how, by expanding the typical interview preparation, you can greatly improve the likelihood of a successful interviewing outcome.

In addition to all the other elements that need to be included in a comprehensive interview preparation, you need to explain to your candidate the importance of getting answers to critical questions in three key areas. Getting this information is the only way candidates make a well-informed decision regarding the employment opportunity.

1. The Position

  • What are the duties, functions and responsibilities of the position?
  • What will they be doing on a day-to-day basis? Gain a first-hand description of a typical day.
  • How does the position fit into the big picture of what needs to be accomplished by the department, division, and/or company? This will demonstrate to the candidate “how” and “where” they fit into the “whole” of the organization.

2. Performance Standards

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  • What defines success for this position?
  • In specific, job related terms what critical functions must be performed in order to meet or exceed expectations?
  • How will the performance standards be communicated? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Annually?
  • Can the performance standards be self-monitored?

3. The Manager

  • What is it like to work for you? The candidate may be astounded by the potentially frank reply to this question.
  • What can I expect from you on a day-to-day basis? In terms of guidance, support, and leadership?
  • How will we interface within the work environment? Would you provide me with an example of how this works during a typical day on the job?

If you have performed your role properly, there should be no question as to the candidate’s ability to do the job. However, it takes more than ability to be successful. It takes a willingness to respond positively to the direction of the manager and it takes a solid understanding of the position, including the job related performance standards.

Armed with the answers to these questions the candidate will be better equipped to make their decision. As an added bonus, the depth of the candidate’s questions will impress the hiring managers.

Remember: Most job failures are not the result of an inability to do the job. Rather, most job failures result from an inability of well-intentioned people to work effectively together.

By expanding your candidate preparation you help ensure a proper marriage between the primary operating style of the manager and the functional preferences of the candidate. Most importantly, you dramatically decrease the likelihood of post-hire surprise, shock, or the frustration that comes from unfulfilled expectations. Everyone wins! After all, isn’t that what this business is all about?

As always, if you have questions or comments about this article or wish to receive my input on any other topic related to this business, just let me know. Your calls and emails 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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