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Preparing Candidates For Client Interviews

 
I have come to discover that one of the most under-performed activities and under-valued skills in the IT staffing industry is preparing candidates for the client interview.  When I ask sales and recruiters  how they prepare their candidates for interviews I get the following responses:
  • "I go over the job description with the candidate"
  • "I give the candidate the client's web site address to research the customer"
  • "I tell him/her who they will be interviewing with"
  • "I tell the candidate what to expect (if known) in the interview"
  • "I give the candidate directions and make sure they have the phone number"
  • "I tell them to come prepared with questions to ask the client"

Have you noticed the theme that has emerged here?  We are constantly telling the candidate what to do. But where in there are we testing and probing the candidate to understand what he or she has done on their own time to prepare for the interview?  Where in there are we testing to see how our candidate will actually perform in the interview?  The whole purpose of preparing the candidate for the interview is to put the candidate (and ourselves) in the best possible position for success right?  Here are a few ideas and examples on how to tweak your candidate prep process so you can help your candidates increase their odds of nailing their interviews.

One Simple Examples

Instead of telling your candidates to "research the client's web site," wouldn't it be more effective if we asked the candidate "what did you learn about the client through your research and what questions have you prepared based on that research?"  Again, don't we gain much more insight into how prepared our candidate truly is by taking this approach vs. simply telling the candidate what to do?  I don't know about you but I want to hear what questions my candidate plans on asking my client.  If they're poor or inappropriate questions I want to know beforehand so that I can help my candidate develop thought provoking questions that will garner him/her credibility with my client. 

Advice Vs. Mock Interviewing

Most recruiters and sales professionals I have seen tend to offer their best advice for their candidates on how to answer interview questions.  That advice is usually pretty good.  But once our candidate goes out on that interview we wait on "pins and needles" hoping they nailed it.  That being the case, wouldn't everyone be better off if we did mock interviews to prepare our candidates before the interview instead of simply offering our advice?  Instead of "telling." try to focus your time on asking your candidates to explain to you what their plan is for handling the various scenarios a candidate faces when interviewing. Role play those scenarios out with your candidate.  Wouldn't you rather hear your candidate's response to the follow questions vs. simply telling them to prepare for the following questions?

  • Tell me about a time where you had deal with a difficult customer?  How did you deal with it and what was the outcome?
  • Tell me about your experience with JDBC and Oracle materialized views?
  • In this role you will be responsible for producing "A, B & C."  Explain to me where you have done this in your past and what your approach was.

The questions here of course are irrelevant.  The point is we want to understand how our consultant is going to perform in the interview BEFORE the interview.  You can't accomplish this by simply telling your candidate what to do.  Conducing mock interviews and asking our candidates to practice their responses to tough interview questions with us is far more effective than simply offering them our advice and "telling them what to do." 

For every time you want to "tell" or share a piece of advice with your candidate, think of a way in which you can ask your candidate to explain to you what their plan of attack is (and what they have done to prepare) regarding the advice you have to offer.  If they are not willing to invest the time to properly prepare.....well you know the answer.  And if you need help developing interview questions to conduct mock interviews simply google "interview questions," or go to the "career advice" section of any of the major job boards and they will have plenty of sample interview questions for you to chose from. 

These are just a few ideas on how to prep your candidates for client interviews.  There are a number of other factors that also need to be covered when prepping a candidate for an interview in which case I will try to cover in my future blog posts.

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