The Power of Positive Candidate Coaching

My Fair LadyPerhaps on the classic movie channel you have seen the film, My Fair Lady. If you don’t recall the movie, check it out. It’s based on the play Pygmalian, by George Bernard Shaw. In the play, as well as the film, a professor takes on the challenge of transforming a girl of low social stature into a fine, articulate woman who could pass for royalty.

This tale has led to a popular theory, the Pygmalian Effect. Simplistically, this is the idea that individuals tend to rise to expectations. Why is it relevant to you? As a recruiter, encouraging candidates to rise to the occasion would be valuable to you, the candidate, and your client. We can’t work magic; however, the power of positive suggestions can do wonders when preparing a client for an interview. Fundamental advice and coaching are equally important.

Here are a few tips to start the transformation:

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  • Henry Ford is credited with the saying, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” If you tell a candidate that they are an underdog for a position, they will act like a lesser candidate. If you tell them they are a winner, they will interview with the confidence of a winner. Setting expectations of success, often leads to success.
  • If you give the candidate the top three reasons why they would be successful in the prospective job, that will provide them with reassurance and it also serves as terrific talking points for the interview.
  • When you are preparing candidates in your office just prior to an interview with your client, don’t do a cattle call. Space out the meetings or hold the candidates in different offices. It undermines a candidate’s confidence to know they are just one of several going out for the big interview. Even if it is an illusion prior to the interview at the company, it’s nice to feel as though you are the top seed. It is alight to do a cattle call for testing and initial screenings.
  • If you have a candidate who may not present well, take the time to coach them in advance of the interview. Sometimes we meet diamonds in the rough. We know they are knowledgeable, skilled, and simply perfect for the job. However, they need some practice with interview questions or relaxation exercises. Taking a half-hour with this kind of candidate will pay off in the long run. You may want to train a junior associate or assistant to take on this of coaching candidates.

These tips work with candidates who are truly qualified but may be under-confident or rough around the edges. Of course, I would not advise using these techniques to manipulate or boost the confidence of candidates who may not be able to perform after they are hired. We all know how that can end.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


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