Interview Coaching: You Can Help Candidates Do Better

Take these steps to help prospective employees shine during their job interviews.

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How Soon Should Employers Interview After a 2-Week Notice Is Given?

Here's what you need to know:

  • Recruitment professionals can help candidates succeed in the interview process
  • Coach candidates on smart questions to ask and topics to discuss during interviews
  • Give candidates a pep talk before their interviews

The time and resources you invest in sourcing, recruiting and scheduling candidates are the first step to maintaining staffing levels. On average, Glassdoor found the cost to hire a new employee is about $4,000. However, that can vary based on salary range.

That number doesn’t factor in what it costs businesses in lost production and customer care. Business leaders know they have to use every tool available to increase the chances of a successful hire for every position they post.

Interview coaching may be a way to hedge your hiring bets. Recruitment professionals can help candidates succeed, particularly those with all or most of the skills and experience needed. Coaching them to make a great impression on anyone they meet during the hiring process, from managers to potential colleagues, can increase their odds of landing the job.

Before the first interview with hiring managers is scheduled, recruiters can point candidates in the right interview direction. Depending on the department and the need, providing them with the right tools to make a great impression can mean a quick, effective hire.

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Steps to take to help all candidates

Interviews are nerve-racking, especially for job seekers that don’t have them frequently. Skilled recruiters are able to put candidates at ease, helping them through the process.

But many hiring managers don’t have that skill set. Or, they aren’t practiced enough to do it successfully. Recruiters that want to convert applicants to new hires can help with a bit of coaching before they meet the next person in the process.

Create smart conversations

A best practice is to provide a copy of the job description in advance. Ask them to read through it and ask you any questions they may have. These can be invaluable. Answer the questions you can. Let the applicant know which questions they should ask the hiring manager.

Steer them to ask ‘smart’ questions. These are questions that let the manager know they understand the work that’s required. Suggest they form questions with a bit of a sales pitch – ‘in my last job I did xyz – does that fit with what you’re looking for?’

Familiarize them with the players

Give job seekers insight into whom they’ll be meeting. Some hiring managers are all business; others have a more laid-back personality. Providing that information can help them prepare for the discussion. They’ll know if it’s OK to crack a joke with the person they’re meeting or if they should show their serious side.

Prepare them with conversation topics

Prepare candidates for the interview conversation. Let them know what they’ll be talking about with the manager. That way, they’ll be ready to answer questions and be knowledgeable on topics.

Prepare candidates for the interview conversation.

If you’re unsure how each hiring authority performs their interviews, ask them to give you a checklist of what they’d like to discuss. Then you can prep the recruit for the conversation. You may even ask to sit in on an interview to help gauge what each team leader looks for in an applicant.

Advise and counsel

Offer constructive tips. If you’ve had a first interview or phone screen with the candidate, you’ve probably seen if or where they can improve. Job seekers actually want to be coached. A study from Greenhouse found that 70% want feedback on an interview.

Even if they don’t ultimately get the job, 60% of their survey respondents said getting feedback would make them more inclined to reapply for future jobs at that company.

Give the applicant a short list of dos and don’ts. For example: Do focus on the past experience we discussed. Don’t talk too much about hobbies unless you’re asked directly. Even if you’re asked about hobbies, keep it short and simple. Few people interview comfortably. Even the smallest tips, like trying to make eye contact, sitting up straight, or dressing up or down a bit can help them succeed.

Build them up

Boost their confidence wherever you can. Let them know what part of the interview, their background, or experience was impressive. Did they seem very personable — someone you’d want to work alongside? Let them know that will translate well with the next person they meet.

Is their experience an exact match? Tell them they’re the perfect fit. If you can, have them come in to your office before follow-up interviews. Give them a ‘you’ve got this — good luck’ pep talk as you walk them to the next person they’ll meet. Interviews are tense. If you can help them be more confident, you can increase their chances of making a good impression.

Boost their confidence wherever you can.

Bonus tip: It’s a great idea to build up the candidate to the hiring manager, as well. Let them know how impressed you were with their experience, poise, or enthusiasm. That may translate into a hiring manager who’s ready for top talent to hire.

When it’s urgent

If a job needs to be filled quickly, coaching can help the applicant move more swiftly through the process. Let the applicant know the you’re looking to make a fast hire and you want them to be ready to move through the process seamlessly.

Make sure they’re available to quickly meet with whoever wants to touch base — even after hours if needed. If a job seeker isn’t available quickly, they might not be a good fit for this spot — but keep them in mind for the next vacancy.

When it’s never a good fit

Some hiring managers make recruiters jump through hoops to affect a hire. The candidate you think is perfect doesn’t spark a bit of interest. You may send applicant after applicant but they never make a decision.

Interview coaching for the manager may be just what’s needed. Sit down to discuss why applicants are not connecting, and how you can work together to get the right interviews scheduled and new staff members hired.

When you get more rejections than connections, spend time talking with them after each interview to review what about a specific candidate did or didn’t pique their interest. Now you’ll be able to hone in on the skills or experience they prioritize for a better fit.

Ask for specifics. Simply saying no to an applicant you thought was a great isn’t enough. Let them know you want to give them the candidates they need, not waste their time on bad fits. Ask for exact information on where the candidate (or you) missed the mark. They should provide you with objective details on where the applicant fell short.

Steps to take for growth

Don’t settle for ‘not a good fit’ responses. Hold out for particulars – even going through the resume/application line by line to see where they’re not finding applicable experience or skills. This may reveal the job description isn’t current and needs to be updated.

You may find the hiring manager is looking for a purple squirrel — a candidate so perfect they don’t exist. A conversation about reasonable expectations may be in order. Some recruiters find bias when they dig deeper into rejections. This can be an opportunity to grow and develop managers to be more inclusive and welcoming.

Job seekers are anxious for actionable feedback from recruiters. Don’t wait until after the hiring process is complete to let a candidate know how they can interview better for someone else. Help them interview better for you. If you can improve their chances of wowing everyone they meet along the way, you could end up with a great hire who just needed a little bit of coaching.

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