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The art of interviewing and candidate briefing

August 30, 2010

When you have worked in recruitment for far too long it becomes easy to become complacent about what you think is obvious to others. By this I mean it becomes easy to assume that people know what they are doing in an interview. When I was in my younger days although I was less skilled as a recruiter I was blooming brilliant at briefing applicants for interviews as I presumed that everyone knew nothing. However I imagine some candidates left my interviews feeling very patronised as their experience far outweighed my own.

Now after interviewing approx three and a half thousand people I can occasionally be accused of offering little advice to help people as the way I recruit now means I ask all candidates to prepare and research the role they have applied for before we meet and the way they come across in the interview will help me decide whether they go forward to my client. I also know after interviewing such a great volume of people that it is easy to spot when someone is ‘winging it’ and when someone has really prepared for the meeting.

With this in mind there is a fine line between helping a candidate prepare for an interview and briefing the living daylights out of them. I remember once going for an interview and a Rec2Rec agent sending me a list of things that I had to say in the interview to get the job. (I didn’t say them and didn’t get the job either!) I have clients who are very wary about the info they give to recruiters re: the interview stages in case they spoon feed their candidates in order to get a fee. For me I want my candidates to do well in their interviews but most importantly I want both the client and the candidate to be right for each other and for it to be a long term career match, hence increasing my chances of getting repeat business and retaining a strong relationship with the candidate. Over briefing a candidate can ensure a fantastic interview and a very quick rebate.

I met an excellent sales candidate recently who had a great CV, and was thoroughly charming but rubbish at competency interviewing. We spoke about this at length and he was utterly candid and said as he had only had two roles in his career interviews terrified him and his least favourite style of interviewing was competency interviews. So to anyone on the job market right now I offer the following advice:

 • Dress to impress – but leave the flashy ties at home. Plain shirt, smart suit – make the lasting memory be of you not something odd that you were wearing.

• Treat a recruiter like a business – we don’t like hearing the phrase ‘well you are only the agency’.

 • Research the client, the competitors’, find their social media history and read their linked in profiles.

• Prepare questions and take them into the interview – make them intelligent and relevant.

• Don’t smoke, eat garlic, or put anything in your mouth that can lead to offensive breath.

• Stand up to greet the interviewer and give a firm handshake.

• Ensure your social media profile is up to date – it will be checked.

 • Don’t lie on your CV or in the interview.

• Tell the employer you are interested in the role and why.

• For competency based interviews remember the following

o S – situation – describe what is asked of you?

o T – Task – Explain the task you had to undertake?

 o A – Action – what did you do?

 o R – results – what did you achieve?

• Keep your answers concise – if you can’t remember the question you are probably rambling.

• Try to smile and relax – an interview is just a conversation about you.

The recruiter is a link in the chain to getting the job. When you are interviewed by an agency act as if you would in front of their client as this is the only way they will put you forward. It is fine for a recruiter to share advice and tips but if you need to direct your candidate and start giving them interview answers they are probably not right for the role.

Again for people not interested in recruitment at all but find yourself on this blog, I made a lovely blackberry and pear crumble today all from pears and blackberries picked by children’s hands; should you wish to know the recipe do exactly as I did and Google it! Plus when I say ‘I made’ what I should say is I got the recipe and husband and children followed it to a tee.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Katie permalink
    October 21, 2010 3:37 pm

    It is very easy to tell when a candidate has been over-briefed. We use case studies as a part of our recruitment process for mid-senior hires, and candidates from one agency in particular always take the exact same approach to it. It’s almost as if they’ve been briefed in advance on what to expect and how to approach the task! We’ve asked them to stop doing it, but to no avail. The sad thing is the advice that candidates are clearly being given is actually counter-productive… meaning their candidate invariably do a bad job of the exercise.

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