Advising Candidates on Interview Strategy

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Interview StrategyEarlier today, I heard someone giving some short instruction on how to get a job.  Usually when I hear these types of lectures, speeches or talks, I walk out frustrated that people who clearly don’t know what they’re talking about, can’t stop talking.  This time, I found the advice I refreshing and frankly, spot on.  So I thought I would share it with my recruiting colleagues out there as they struggle to prepare candidates for interviews or for actually getting a job offer.

The advice that I found so dead on was basically this: When you walk into an interview and essentially tell a Manager that you’re willing to do anything, you’re just making more work for them.  However, when you walk into an interview and tell a Manager what you want to do and what you can do well…you’re simplifying their lives.  Bottom line, don’t rush in saying you’ll do anything and expect the Hiring Manager to jump for joy that they have to find something that fits. No, go into an interview ready to tell a Hiring Manager what you’re great at and how you can do it for them. Make their jobs easier by reducing their expected management overhead.

It got me thinking: when we prepare candidates for interviews, do we really take the Managers’ end goal into consideration?  I know we always consider the job, the needs and the skills involved; but do we sit down and consider the Hiring Manager themselves? Do we as Recruiters give our candidates the insight they need to help erase someone else’s problems? Are we advising candidates on the interview strategy that actually works?

  • Identify the Problem:  When prepping candidates for an interview, Recruiters should pay just as much attention to the Manager’s situation as they do to some of those fun soft skills we always focus on.  What do I mean?  If you know a Manager is hiring an Admin because he/she is extremely disorganized, then share that with the candidate. Make sure they come right out and tell the Manager that organization and order is a specialty of theirs; that they can bring order and streamline operations for them.  If a Manager is looking to fill a position because they keep having to re-write a faulty piece of software? Make sure you send your candidate in ready to address that problem.  Managers hire because they have problems to solve; sometimes bad ones, sometimes good ones, but problems nonetheless.  Give your candidate the tools to make the problem go away.
  • Know What You Want: Sending candidates into interviews ready to help Managers and sell their ability to do a great job is awesome.  It will get you most of the way there.  But candidates can’t be one dimensional; if they are they won’t get the job.  So make sure your guy (or gal) can clearly define what it is they really want to do.  Managers aren’t blind and whether we always like to admit it, they know their business better than we do.  A candidate that can’t clearly define what they want to get out of a job will be seen as disingenuous and static. Make sure your candidates know that they need to be able to share a piece of themselves with the Manager.  They need to be able to speak about their own skills, desires and plans. It will help forge a level of trust as well as detail the candidate’s match for the job.
  • Know the Manager: Not literally!  Of course, I’ve had this happen before.  Once it was good, once it was a disaster.  Yikes.  As a Recruiter, you need to make it your business to know your Hiring Managers.  You need to know their interview style, their personality and how they close interviews. Why? Because Managers aren’t always great interviewers and candidates may need to take a strong hand in driving the interview in the right direction.  Taking the time to understand the manager and the folks doing the hiring is an invaluable tool to successful recruiting.  If you send a candidate in with the fore knowledge that a Manager doesn’t ask questions or won’t really create chances for the candidate to display their skills, the candidate should be able to anticipate that and know to work it in to the conversation.  Also, if you’ve got a Manager that lets interviews slowly and awkwardly grind to a halt…a prepared (and good) candidate will be able to end the interview professionally.

At the end of the day, our job is to give Hiring Managers the candidate that can do the job best….and to give the candidates the ability to showcase that ability for the Managers.  It’s a fun little balance isn’t it?  Interview strategy isn’t all about wearing a suit, bringing a resume and showing up on time; most of the time it’s about being able to anticipate and communicate the precise and individual needs of the hiring team. If you arm your candidates with this knowledge, they will have a full opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

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With a background in business development and an expertise in staffing and employment, Christine is the Manager of Market Development for At Christine focuses on creating new marketing avenues and products for Recruiters and HR professionals alike.
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