The Interview: A Window into Your Candidate

by | March 10, 2009

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One-on-one interviews are essential to the placement process. The only way to know that you have a strong candidate is by meeting him or her in person. As recruiters, we have to rely on candidate placements for our living. From what I have seen in the industry, not everyone is upfront and honest; so again, the best way to secure a good, solid candidate is to interview them face-to-face. Of course there are always exceptions - some higher-level executives or senior-level technical developers and architects decide that they don't want to meet with a recruiter. This is often due, in part, to the perception that some recruiting agencies engage in dishonest practices. If you have a candidate who refuses to come in, or can't for some legitimate reason, I suggest conducting a 20 to 30 minute phone interview. The interview is a window into the future workings of your candidate; how they react to questions can you a lot about the potential candidate or employee.

The interview process is often difficult. Time is money, and testing your candidates' performance and tech skills takes time. One time-saving method is to create an interview question form to fill out while you are conducting an interview. This will help you retain your focus, and will leave you with a detailed record of your candidates' information. No matter how many candidates you run through, this help you to remember all key information.

The type of interview you conduct will depend on the candidate (i.e. whether or not they are a technical candidate). When in doubt, you can always test. Technical tests are extremely important. Certainly, asking the appropriate technical questions is essential, but a technical test guarantees that a candidate has the necessary technical skills for a given position. There are plenty of online testing companies or places you can buy tests and check them in-house (unless you are doing high level placements, the testing agencies can get expensive at $25 a test). Or, if your company has the resources, have a technical in-house person - possibly yourself - take 15 minutes to feel out the candidate's tech skill.

Beyond testing, the interview is a time to get to know your candidate. A crucial part of placement is determining the best environment for your candidate. Especially when dealing with a long-term placement, you do not want to pull someone out of their company if they are going to soon jump again (this would be bad for their career; not to mention risky when it comes to your placement fee. Spending a little time getting to know a candidate will help you pitch them to your client. The more information you have, the more tools you have to make a well-informed sale. Here is a good starter list of potential interview questions:


  1. Why are you looking to move from you current position?
  2. What is your dream job? (Don't laugh - you will hear a lot of really important information about who you are dealing with here. Really ask for the DREAM.)
  3. What are the top three things you look for in a new opportunity? (Please rank them from most to least important. i.e. salary, education, environment)
  4. Where have you been interviewing? Do you have any offers? (Make sure you ask this. No one wants to submit a candidate only to have them take another job the next day. Your client will not be happy - everyone wants what they can't have.)
  5. Are you working with other agencies? (This is very important. Most of the time, you are dealing with confidential information. You want to make sure that what you talk about with your candidate stays between you and your candidate. You definitely don't want another recruiter calling your client.)
  6. Have you had any team management experience? If so, how many?
  7. What do your previous employers say about you?
  8. How do you motivate employees that you work with? What motivates you?
  9. Tell me about a situation in which you were under a great deal of pressure. How did you handle it?
  10. What is one skill you think you can improve upon?
In addition to above questions, be sure to ask questions that specifically apply to the position you are trying to fill. For instance, if the job requires travel, unusual hours or a dress code, you want to know whether or not your candidate is interested in these job components. The key is to identify any potential issues ahead of time in order to avoid running into any surprises later. Remember, your instincts are your most important tool. Your gut feelings will most likely be a pretty accurate gauge as to how they will act in a new job. For instance, if your candidate talks about how he/she had problems at every job. This would be a major red flag. Not all employers are bad, and yes, I know this is generalizing, but a person who consistently makes poor decisions when choosing their jobs will probably make poor decisions in their new career.

~Also, make sure that your questioning is appropriate. Be both legal and be ethical. You must be VERY careful in what you ask. It is not appropriate to discuss anything that has to do with age or anything that can determine age, race, nationality or related issues, clubs, social groups, where someone lives, children or family issues, or anything having to do with an arrest record. Race, physical capabilities, gender and age don't make ANY difference when it comes to hiring a good candidate. The key is to measure past performance in the workplace. Be honest, ethical and straightforward with your candidates. If you do this, they will most likely be honest with you. This will help you to build a successful network of placed candidates as well as referrals for other qualified professionals. Hire the best person for the job based on performance merit, and be sure to know who you are dealing with.

Lora Appleton is the Vice President of Creative Talent at Indigo Technology Group, the premiere web talent agency. Lora specializes in career development for the online creative professional and places creative talent in the areas of content, design, business development and sales & marketing.

Filed Under: Interviewing

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