I asked the question — open-ended, curious, and fearless — setting the stage for an answer with little information. It was the wrong question to begin with and I was in for the wrong answer: “What kind of candidate are you looking for?”
This question is a complete head fake, and opens the flood gates to irrelevant intake information. Instead, lead the discussion and better focus your questions. Do not succumb to 5 minute explanations of the perfect candidate, who lives down the street, happens to be upset with his current manager, and is willing to take our position for less than market value. This is a candidate scenario and is not relevant.
A candidate scenario is not an intake or a discussion of what would make a strong candidate. This is specific situation as to why someone may or may not be a good fit, and has no bearing in our world.
Here is a hint: There are infinite candidate scenarios and knowing every one of them won’t help you find the perfect match any quicker.
Use these tactics when conducting an intake for better information:
1. Resist the urge to ask strictly open-ended questions.
Your clients are not recruiters – expecting them to answer a question the way you need the information to be presented is unrealistic. Steer them toward giving you the information you need by using intelligent questions.
2. Learn what the perfect candidate is doing right now.
Potential alternate titles, job functions, and companies to look into; your clients have this info and so should you.
3. Use data and find out how they are ranking candidates.
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If they want something, it needs to be measurable. Want a go-getter? Great — what questions will you ask to identify this in a potential candidate?
4. Set expectations by sharing market information.
Intake or conducting a needs analysis is not taking an order: No pancakes and, no you can’t sub your bacon for sausage links. Stand up and share information with your client to help them make a better decision. If I wanted to buy an iPhone 7S and I didn’t know they weren’t released yet, shouldn’t the sales person tell me?
5. Do not answer every request with a yes.
You will earn considerably more trust capital with your client if you know when to say ‘No’. A yes man isn’t difficult to come by; they are a commodity and available everywhere. Be different by using data and facts to share why ‘No’ might be more accurate.
You cannot be all things to all people. There will be times when expectations are too difficult to overcome due to years of lazy intake and job order writing. Consider these five strategies in your next intake and improve the connection with your client.