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Recruitment – Assumptions recruiters make about candidates

By Justin Standfield

Let me set the scene; you have a vacant position you want to  fill, are seeking the brightest talent available on the market, have already spent time with your HR or recruitment team building the right job specification, person specification and choosing the best assessment tools available, have crafted a water-tight set of competency based questions to ensure you get the right evidence to appoint the most suitable (and best fitting) person, and now your scheduled interviews are due to take commence. You couldn’t be better prepared if you tried – could you?

Most recruiters focus on the ‘hard’ elements of planning for a successful recruitment campaign, as outlined above, but the ‘soft’ elements of recruitment are usually the ones that make the biggest difference – getting the right mental attitude, an open and curious approach (rather than judgemental, which sadly the process of recruiting itself influences you towards) and making sure that your communication skills are in the forefront of your mind and fully tuned up ready for the event itself.

One of the most common traps that recruiters allow themselves to fall into, is the habit of making assumptions about candidates; assumptions which can influence their attitude and behaviour towards interviewees, and throw the potential positive outcomes wildly off track. Have a look at our common assumptions check-list below, and reflect on which of these you are susceptible to:

Assumption 1 – this candidate wants to leave their current position more than they want the one you’re offering, so they’re using it as a stepping stone to get into your company

This might be true, so what?! It’s up to you as the recruiter to put in place a clear expectation that if the successful applicant needs to be in the role for a minimum period, that this is stated clearly in the interview, plus the offer letter, and in the offer of employment letter.  The situation has been managed and the candidate is under no illusion of moving on more quickly than you would like – if they choose not to accept the role on this basis, they were not the right candidate in the first place.  Being ambitious is a good thing if expectations are managed effectively, so separate this issue from the person to see what value they can add to your role, and their potential future roles within the company.

Assumption 2 – this candidate is going to be economical with the truth, exaggerating their CV, achievements, their knowledge levels and competencies so I’ll need to halve their results to get a truer picture of reality

It’s probably fair to say that most people enhance their CV to make themselves appear more successful and positive than they usually feel – can you honestly say that you haven’t done exactly the same thing on your own CV? Your role as a recruiter is to ask lots of probing questions to really get to the nub of the situation you want to explore – asking questions such as ‘exactly what was your own personal contribution to this task?’ and ‘tell me about something that you were solely responsible for delivering’ can help to isolate excellent team results (using the royal ‘we’ in statements) from their personal contribution and give you a clearer view of whether it is a big fat porkie, a mild embellishment, through to the actual truth, on a sliding scale.

Assumption 3 – this candidate might have concerns about the role/company that they won’t ask so I’ll need to dig deep and drill them to get to the bottom of it all…

Is this a projection of your own concerns about the role or company, that you are unconsciously projecting onto the candidate? Was there something that you wished you’d known before accepting a position that feels like the elephant in the room for you?  Treat the candidate as an adult – give them the opportunity to ask their questions and to take responsibility for finding out what is important to them – don’t put ideas in their head or act as their rescuer without an invitation to do so.

Assumption 4 – this candidate is applying for loads of other jobs and is probably interviewing for several in the coming weeks…

Probably true for some candidates, and again, so what?  If this is the right role for them, they are the right person for you and your pay and conditions are reasonable to fair for the market sector and role, you’ll get the right person.  If you find that your preferred candidates are rejecting offers regularly, you need to ask them why and then take action. It is the candidate’s right to interview for as many roles as they like – see it as an opportunity to shine and represent your company positively, rather than as a negative competition.

Assumption 5 – this candidate is unlikely to be offered the role and will use every opportunity to tell other people about how bad the experience was, and how useless an interviewer I was…

In recent years, there have been a few isolated incidents of under-cover reporters infiltrating companies to expose bad practices in recruiting and in working conditions for documentaries, but what is the likelihood of that happening? Very unlikely.  So what we are left with are your own fears and insecurities about representing the company well and coming across as a competent and confident recruiter.  This comes with good training and lots of practice.  Volunteer to carry out as much interviewing as your role and company will allow, and if you need training in the soft and hard skills, contact us at Emerge and we’ll help train and coach you on how to be a hot-shot recruiter!

Telephone +44 (0) 1329 820580



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