Have you ever had a gut feeling that a candidate is not as good as you – and your client – think they are? As a recruiter, you are naturally eager to fill that position, especially if it’s a particularly challenging one that you have spent a lot of time and effort on already; how much time do you give to this feeling? How much do you allow yourself to consider its potential implications?
Your candidate has performed well at the interview, demonstrating that they have the skills and experience to do the job, that they will fit well culturally within the organization/team, and that this is the job they want. Essentially, they have done everything right to put themselves in strong consideration for the position. But something is somehow off.
You look back on their behavior during the recruitment process itself. Not during the interviews but the in-between bits. The email communications you have had with them weren’t quite as well presented or as timely as you would expect from the “perfect candidate”. Then there was that time they asked for a last-minute rescheduling of the second interview. Then there was a change in demands during the process – more flexible hours, a change in salary expectations, etc.
And, looking back, it took you longer than it should have done to reach them when you were setting up the interviews, getting feedback, doing follow-ups, etc. (I’m sure this is starting to sound, at least in part, familiar.)
So, suddenly you are questioning whether your candidate – who had convinced you and your client that this was their perfect job and they were the perfect candidate for it – is actually the person who showed up at the interview. I would suggest that you should give serious recognition to those questions in your head, and here’s why.
Candidate behavior during the recruitment process can tell you a lot more than you might give it credit for. If you think about it, the kinds of tasks, actions, and behaviors, that the candidate engages in through the process – those things already mentioned above – are the kinds of things that they will be doing or using in any job they end up in.
So if they can’t get the “simple” stuff right now, what’s to say they will get it right if they end up in your client’s role, no matter how well they have performed at the interview? In a way, the whole recruitment process itself is like the best kind of generic competency-based interview one could conjure, testing core skills and behaviors like written communication (accuracy/clarity and effectiveness thereof); verbal communication (ditto); following instructions; doing what you say you will do, and when; integrity and transparency; and an all-around “straightforwardness” in attitude and manner that, in my opinion, every great candidate possesses.
My advice is, Listen to your gut. If something feels off, test it. You can do this either by direct questioning (if you have a decent relationship with your candidate and feel confident enough to do so) or by asking them to do something additional for you as part of the process – whatever seems most relevant to the doubts you have about them.
And think about sharing your thoughts with your client – you should have a relationship with them that makes this possible (and not too uncomfortable). If your spidey senses have kicked in before the end of the interview process, perhaps you could work with your client to add an additional element into the next interview that will get to the heart of your suspicions.
Just because we all live in a highly competitive, candidate-driven recruitment market that often requires us to make quick decisions, it does not mean that we should allow the candidate to drive the recruitment process in its entirety. Keep something back to make sure you, and your client, are still making solid judgments. No matter how much you want the “perfect candidate” to be just that, don’t be afraid to admit that they might not be.
In the end, no one wins if the perfect candidate turns out to be the wrong employee.
Liz Arnold, is the Director of True Recruitment Solutions Ltd.