Interviewing the modern candidate

20th April 2017

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With the world of recruitment constantly changing, we’ve seen this have a compound effect on the candidate recruiter relationship. As competition in recruitment has heightened, top candidates are becoming highly sought after and increasingly tough to both find and attract.

It’s no argument that there’s been a reversal of influence between candidate and recruiter, and for that candidates are holding a great deal of sway and influence and this is reflected in how recruiters and hiring managers are trying to appeal to candidates and attract them with their advertised positions.

One other thing they have had to assess more recently has been their interview process. Like any process, with this new breed of candidate, recruiters have had to evolve their interview technique. Not just to get into the nitty gritty details of what a candidate is all about, but also to keep them engaged and excited about the prospect of working for them.

Here are some points to consider when interviewing today’s candidate…

In five years time I’ll be…

If you were to compile a survey of frequently asked questions in an interview by a recruiter, it’s likely that the staple recruiter question ‘Where do you see yourself in five years time?’ is one of the most overused questions asked by a recruiter.

Where it was once a good open question that could get the ball rolling in an interview and would give some insight into a candidate’s ambition, it is now a redundant question.

Given today’s candidates taste for job hopping and working on projects and start-ups, they are showing no interest in climbing the corporate ladder and committing themselves to a company long-term.

Asking a candidate where they see themselves in five years time is now a very difficult question to answer, almost impossible. With the job market changing so rapidly combined with the continual rise of job flexibility, who knows what the future holds for a candidate in five years time.

Pride and Motivation

We’re all motivated in different ways and asking what motivates a candidate, despite its broadness, can be a good ice breaker to help get a flavour of a candidate. But aim to dig a little deeper; try to talk to candidates about particular projects they worked on and what the aim and motivation was for them in that project. Trying to elicit a sense of pride out of them with the work they’ve previously done will help you gain a better understanding of them and help you visualise them potentially working for you or your client.

Craig Dalziel, Business Manager of Pearson Frank, a specialist recruiter in Java, Web and PhP jobs, believes that passion and enthusiasm is something they like to find out more about when speaking to candidates and see it reflected in a person’s extra-curricular work-life outside of work. Too often recruiters will pay too much attention to grades they see on a paper and neglect what really motivates a candidate; “A lot of companies, when hiring, can get blinded by where a candidate was educated or if they studied at a high level, but this can introduce prejudice. We are far more interested in whether someone is truly passionate about programming – whether they eat, sleep, live and breathe it. If they have come from university then what did they do their thesis on? If they are experienced developers then what have they been working on in their spare time on evenings and weekends? A lot of the technical elements of a role can be taught ‘on the job’, but passion and pride in your work can’t be faked and that is what gets people excited about working with you.” 

How can I better myself?

Perhaps this is the 5 years time question in an evolved form. Asking a candidate whether there are certain things they still want to tackle in their work life, if there are new goals they want to achieve or skills they want to enhance; this will help give you more insight into their ambition as an individual.

You may encounter a highly skilled person who has exceptional ability and experience in specific areas, but they may only want to continue focusing on this in their next role. However, a person who has already accrued great skill and experience, but demonstrating a keenness to gain further training or learn a new area of work, this person may be giving you a greater glimpse into their general motivation and character.

Any questions that can generate these types of answers will be helpful in any candidate assessment.

How they like to work

The interview process can be a lot like a game of poker in that both sides may not want to show each other’s hands too early. We’ve already touched upon the idea that candidates are difficult to engage with and there’s more effort sometimes on the recruiter’s behalf to get a candidate to work for them.

If you feel you’re onto a winner with a candidate, you must remember there’s every chance they can can say no to your offer. Try then at some point to paint a picture for them of what it might be like to work for you. Enquiring into how they like to work will be a good start and to see if both your expectations align with each other. Just remember to not give too much away in these discussions as you still need to show that you’re in control.

Hopefully you’ll start to see some potential synergy between you both and your candidate will begin to get excited about the prospect of working with you.

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