Recruiting has a culture of “closing.” Recruiters want to meet face to face with candidates and if they are good, sell them on the job and close the req. When corporate recruiters find great candidates, they many times want to quickly bring them in for an interview. Usually phone interviews precipitate the in-person interview. Recruiters will focus on company fit, soft skills, and company culture fit. Of course, what really matters most are the most concrete data points.
Too often, recruiters dance around asking important, hard questions. Before you interview a candidate, be sure you answer these five vital candidate pre-qualification questions.
1. Location: A candidate’s location seems easy enough to determine. However, the details often lie hidden. People oftentimes change jobs for personal reasons. The job search process often occurs during moves and other life changing events. Don’t just ask the candidate’s location, but ask where they see themselves in six months. Do they anticipate moving? Do they have a rough commute? Look for patterns in their work history specific to location. Do they stay at jobs where they have an hour long commute, or do they job hop unless they are next door to their bedroom?
2. Compensation: Everything in our culture tells us not to discuss salary, but it’s a recruiter’s job to ask the difficult questions. You not only need a salary history and detailed understanding of current salary, but you really should know exact salary salary expectations before the interview. Too much time is wasting going through the interview and recruiting process only to realize that the candidate wants 30% more than the job pays. The key here is to understand the job that you are recruiting for. There is a tendency to overestimate the flexibility of your corporate salary structures. We are taught to recruit the best and that a great candidate will be worth considering. However, if your position pays up to $65,000, there is a good chance that the ceiling for the job is $65,000. Don’t be afraid to ask the candidate their salary, but also don’t be afraid to say your maximum salary. Drop the number if your know their numbers. It’s more honest and will save a lot of time.
3. Interest: Recruiters often ask about the candidate’s desired type of company and position. Candidates usually answer these sorts of questions with generalities. However, understanding a candidate’s true job interests cannot be left unclear. Get specific. Understand exactly what type of role the candidate really wants. Don’t allow the candidate to tell you they value an employer who believes in work-life balance. Get real. Find out if the candidate what the candidate really wants to do. If hiring salespeople, ask what part of selling they like best. If they say talking to people, ask how. Do they enjoy cold-calling or meeting people at restaurants? Challenge the candidate to reveal what they like and don’t like about the most ground level tasks of their profession.
4. Intention: Finding out what a candidate wants seems easy. If they are interviewing with you, they probably want to work at your company, unless they are just shopping around for a higher salary. However a candidate’s immediate intentions are often misunderstood as their long term intentions. Corporate recruiters should assume that the candidate desires a position and that they want the position that they are applying for. Long term intentions are very different however. Ask probing questions about what the candidate thinks the position might evolve into. Where do they want to go with their career? Here’s a funny way to put the question – how do they want to use your company? What do they want to get out of the position? Money? Management experience? It’s important to determine if their very specific goals and intentions can be realized in the job that they are applying for.
5. Specific Knowledge: Recruiters can’t be experts in every position and industry for which they recruit. Even corporate recruiters cannot possibly understand all of the different functions inside their companies. Therefore, recruiters tend to ask yes and no questions which do little to ascertain a candidate’s true understanding of the specific position. Instead, try asking open ending questions about highly specific subjects. Don’t ask them to tell you about their “experience” with a particular topic; instead ask them to tell you something interesting about a very specific function. Don’t go broad – go deep. Tell them you don’t know what you are talking about and ask if they could explain it to you. It’s a great way to get them to open up and have a down-to-earth discussion.
The most important principle of great pre-qualification questions is to not be afraid. Ask simple questions that cut to the point. Neither you nor the candidate should waste their time – strong, focused questions before the interview are a vital component of recruiting success and productivity.