Help candidates succeed

June 2012 » Columns » SEARCH SAVVY
Jeremy Clarke

Often, the HR community takes extensive measures to ensure that hiring managers are trained in effective interviewing techniques, a critical component of a sound selection process. But another critical component to fair and effective selection is the diligent preparation of candidates prior to the interview. It should be the objective of every recruiting enterprise to prepare candidates with the intent to see them succeed in the interview process.

By "succeed in the interview," I don't mean that candidates should be prepped in a way that intends to promote their selection. What I mean is that candidates should be given every possible resource to be as competitive as possible in the interview, while still keeping the selection process equitable and fair. There must be a fundamental reversing of the traditional philosophical approach to selection if you are going to secure the market's best and brightest talent. And that means, for starters, doing away with this pervasive mindset that relegates the professional interview process to a psychological gauntlet of sorts. Our approach to selection usually takes on the appearance of deselecting everyone else.

That does not mean that an interview should not be very challenging and that candidates should not be held to a high measure of performance. What it means is that we should do everything we can to educate and equip the candidate as much as possible, in advance of the interview, to position them to be as successful as possible while not compromising equity and fairness. To embrace this you must first embrace the key philosophical ethic of respect for the individual. This is a seemingly waning attribute among many firms, but it must be remembered that candidates are not merely assets to be acquired; rather, they are always, always human beings with a relevant ability to positively impact your business.

The interview is an exchange of ideas between people intended to determine mutual relevance. Here's three recommendations with that end in mind.

Pre-interview call – Schedule a 10- to 15-minute call with candidates two or three days prior to the interview. The purpose here is to put the candidates at ease by addressing any last minute questions, discussing logistical details, offering suggestions around interview attire (may vary by company), arrival time, etc. This is also a great time to discuss the design of the interview day. Discuss the number of interviewers, the interview format (panel or one-on-one), and the expected duration for each interview. Be sure to provide names/titles and characteristics of the interviewers. Finally, discuss the culture of the firm and point them to resources with which to research the company further.

Interview itinerary – Provide a clear and professional itinerary in advance of the interview (even if it's just one interview). This itinerary should re-communicate some of the components discussed in the pre-interview call (logistics, arrival instructions, interview times, interviewer names/titles). Make it a practice to issue the itinerary at least two days in advance of the interview. Be sure to embed/attach it within a confirmation email to the candidate and don't forget to provide the candidate with appropriate contact details in the event of complications or delayed arrival. Good details always give candidates a little more confidence going into the interview day.

Catalogue accomplishments – Help candidates understand the format of a behavioral-based interview and encourage them to reflect upon and catalogue legitimate performance examples in anticipation of behavioral-based questions (it would be helpful to inform them of Situation, Action, Result structured responses). Also, encourage candidates to catalogue their strengths and weaknesses and to be prepared to discuss them. Again, the goal is not to shroud these things in secrecy but to impart awareness to candidates regarding the anticipated structure of the interview and interview questions to allow him or her to prepare accordingly.

Jeremy Clarke is director, Executive Search Consulting for ZweigWhite. He can be contacted at 479-582-5700 or at jclarke@zweigwhite.com.


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