A CV and cover letter gives you a very small and selective snapshot of a candidate. An interview can often only show you one side of a person – hopefully their best side. But let’s be honest, people don’t always act the same way in their day-to-day working lives as they do on paper or in an interview!

So how do you tell if a candidate is really going to be a good fit for your organisation? Let us show you some other ways you can assess a candidate’s suitability, to help you make the right decision.

How did the candidate treat the people that they interacted with throughout the process? It can be easy for someone to turn on the charm in the interview room, but what were the like with the person at reception or the person who coordinated the interview over the phone? How easy was it to make arrangements with them? How did they sound when they answered the phone?

Little things like this can build a bigger picture of how a candidate is going to interact with the rest of your team once the interview charm is turned off. If there are any red flags, use the interview and reference process to probe further.

If you do a second interview, consider introducing the candidate to some of the team. Leave them alone for a short while and then get the team’s feedback. People often drop their guard in a more social environment.

Employees are the best ambassadors for your organisation, but they can also do a lot of damage to your reputation if the wrong hire is made.

Did the candidate use the interview as an opportunity to badmouth their previous employer or colleagues? Did they use examples in their answers that should have remained confidential?
Looking at a candidate’s social media pages for questionable content is also a good way to find out just how discrete they are.

Was the candidate on time to their interviews? Did they return messages in a timely manner? Did they provide all the documentation required or did they have to be followed up? Were you kept informed of any changes that might affect their availability?

It goes without saying but a disorganised person at the interview stage is very likely going to be a disorganised person in the office.

Ambiguity is a fact of life, and most roles require a little flexibility around workloads and how they’re managed.

If an aspect of the recruitment process was changed or rescheduled, how did the candidate handle it? Were they accommodating or did it seem like a major inconvenience? Had they dealt with flexibility or ambiguity in their current or previous roles? If so, did they speak about this aspect in a positive or negative way?

Future Plans:
What are the candidate’s long term career goals? Are they trying to break into a sector that is different to yours and see this role as a means to an end? Do they intend to go overseas soon?

Try to create an interview environment where it’s ok for someone to be honest about their plans for the future without being judged. You can’t expect someone to stay with you forever, but at the same time you have to make sure their intentions for taking on the role are true, and their employment will be beneficial to all parties regardless of its length.

Career history and progression isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it is important.

Has the candidate moved around a lot? If so, why? Was there a good reason for taking that backwards or sideways step, or were they struggling with added responsibility?

There may well be very good reasons for moving a lot or taking sideways/backwards steps. Career changes can also be made with the best intentions or as a result of unavoidable circumstances. But it may also be a sign of someone not working well with others, getting bored easily or not performing well. Make sure you get to the bottom of it!

Some think that doing references on a candidate is a waste of time. But you’d be surprised by how many referees give very honest appraisals of the candidate in question – sometimes more honest than the candidate anticipated! It’s in the referee’s best interest to be honest, as their reputation and the reputation of their organisation is also on the line.

Questions can be tailored to the specific position and really delve deep into the required competencies – and any doubts you may have. Make sure you speak to recent managers who had oversight of how that person performed in their role and how they interacted with colleagues on a day-to-day basis.

Using a recruitment agency can help you to determine the genuine contenders for your vacancy. Recruiters can also act as independent interview panellists to give an outside perspective on your shortlisted candidates. So if you are currently hiring, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Here’s to you finding the right candidate … one that’s a perfect fit for your organisation!

Kirsty and Nikki

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