Screening & Qualifying Your Candidate's Technical Skills & Experience
Once you have effectively sourced and qualified your candidate’s current situation, you can transition the candidate interview to screening and qualifying your candidate’s technical skills and experience.
Screening and qualifying your candidate's technical skills and experience is arguably the most important step in the entire IT recruitment process. But before you make the transition you want to be sure to share a little bit of information with your candidate about the opportunity and client company. This is a critical step because if you don’t share any information with the candidate, you risk losing his or her interest, or turning the conversation into an interrogation. That being said, you also don’t want to share too much information because you want to remain in control of the discussion and continue to qualify your candidate. So it can be a bit of a slippery slope maintaining the candidate's attention level and interest but also controlling the conversation. Be sure to share just enough information to wet their appetite and pique their interest. And remember, to get information, (as a recruiter you have tons more qualifying questions to ask) you have to share information and learn to effectively disarm your candidates. If you always ask for information but never offer any in return, don’t expect your candidate to open up and be fully transparent with you.
To ensure you keep your candidate engaged in the conversation and interested in the opportunity consider the following:
- Sell the client company. Share with your candidate what makes the company different and why it is such a cool place to work. (You may need to go to your sales rep and/or the client to pull this information together if you don’t already have it. Don’t give them them every detail, keep it high level
- Sell the hiring manager (the person the candidate will be working for) and the team. Your sales rep should be able to tell you about the hiring manager, his or her personality, team culture and management style
- Sell the opportunity and/or project: This includes the goal and scope of the project, the customers (the candidate will serve, internal or external) and the problems the candidate will be solving including the solutions they will be implementing. Again, don’t need to give every detail, just the high level sizzle to pique their interest. You can give them the details later
Finally, when selling the opportunity remember that 93% of communication is not what you say but how you say it. Your candidate will be paying close attention to your tonality including your confidence and conviction in the opportunity. Be sure to be enthusiastic and excited when you sell the opportunity. If you don’t sound excited then your candidate will not get excited either.
Assuming the candidate expresses interest, then you need to ask him or her:
- Why are you interested?
- What specifically did you hear that interests you and why?
- Why does this client and opportunity sound more interesting than the other opportunities you’re considering?
As I mentioned in my blog, qualifying the candidate's current situation, understanding why your candidate is interested in the opportunity gives you great insight into how your candidate thinks and what is important to them, both of which will help you and your sales team position him or her more effectively. Your candidate also needs to convince you of his or her interest in the opportunity. Remember, candidates will tell recruiters what they need to hear in order to get submitted to as many jobs as possible, but it doesn’t mean they actually want your job.
Now is time to start screening and qualifying your candidate’s technical skills and experience. The screening process helps to verify the information on the candidate’s resume and obtain additional background information. Through this process you learn about a candidate on additional levels such as personality, communication skills (both verbal and non-verbal), self-esteem, enthusiasm and attitude toward employment. While you may not be as technically qualified to screen the candidate (for technical positions) as the hiring manager, you can still ask a number of technical screening questions to make a determination of whether or not the candidate possesses the right technical skills, aptitude and experience to do the job.
Preparing Your Technical Screening Interview Questions
Before you begin screening your candidate for their technical skills and experience you need to make sure you understand the client requirements that you’re clear on exactly what it is you’re (and your client) looking for to ensure that you’re asking the right interview questions. This process should begin when the sales rep takes and qualifies the job order. You can begin planning your screening questions by first understanding:
- What specific problem(s) the client expects your candidate to solve
- What specific technical or business solution the client expects your candidate to implement
- What specific work artifacts (test plans, project plan, logical data model) the client expects your candidate to create
- What the overall size and scope of the project is
- What the nature of the project is (what is being built, upgraded or maintained and for whom)
Once you understand the answers to these questions you can begin to ask your candidate where (on their resume, past work experience) they have done these things. Go through each project or place of employment on the candidates resume to qualify your candidate’s relevant technical skills and experience.
Assess Whether or Not Your Candidate Can Deliver Real Solutions
Don’t waste your time on questions like “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” You might as well just say to your candidate “just lie to me.” Instead you need discern how your candidate would handle real situations related to the job. Imagine you had to hire a chef to cook you and your family a meal. How would you hire a chef? I would ask them to cook me a meal. As the recruiter you need to explain to your candidate the problems they will face on the project and ask the candidate to walk you through how he or she would go about solving each. Better yet, you need to find out how they have handled those problems in the past including what their approach was to solving each problem and what the results were. You can also describe a process your client is using and ask them to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks and the steps they would take to remedy the process.
Key Action Items
To improve your ability to screen and qualify your candidates technical skills and experience consider the following:
- Review your open job orders and identify which job orders are lacking the right information to properly prepare your interview questions. Work with your sales rep and client to get the information you need in order to prepare the right interview questions
- Prepare your candidate interview questions for each of your open job orders leveraging they key points discussed in this blog
- Practice role playing your candidate interview questions with your supervisor or co-worker
Looking for additional insight into interviewing candidates? Download the eBook titled "Executing the Candidate Interview, Five Pillars to Effective Qualification."
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.