I am sharing some of my notes on why taking the time to assess the current state of an applicant can make or break a recruitment process. Often I catch myself trying to speed up the repetitive parts of a process and I circle back to why we are doing this like so in the first place. Assessing the candidate state is a typical example of things I wish I could overlook, thinking that when all candidates sit in the same lobby, pour a drink into the same type of glass and are surrounded by the same marketing materials, screens and prizes on the wall, they would all be in the same state of mind.
Over time I found that one of the things I do the least in my work is practice textbook strategies and principles. Not that these are not applicable to daily work, but it takes time to get a prospect into a state allowing you to use the flare a certain method or tactic brings. Just as with raw data, we first start with prepping ourselves and the object of our attention.
Do not judge the clothes themselves, as it is in most cases pointless. Common sense applies. Interviewing in different cultures can become a trap for you if you only go after brands and colors. What is more important is if the candidate has read the situation and the internet materials properly. I guess it is not the end of the world if someone puts on a tie or is standing there in high heels, but missing the dress code by a mile should give you a lot of information.
Showing up overdressed can tell you if the person thinks too much of this job, of him-/herself or has just been brought up this way. Either one can prove to be fatal depending on the position, company and interviewers. Please have in mind that we can name a lot of possible outcomes without knowing the situation at hand. It is up to the hosts to interpret the applicant and the dress code they chose.
People who choose to accent their looks are of particular interest. It is vital to know if they will be showing off in- or outside the company, the former not being tragic if you need the person to feel a personal bond with the company and you can impose strict rules; having a culture of couples at work helps, too.
A general rule of thumb is that the more time your applicants spend on eccentric appearance, the more time you have to plan for breaking down the walls around their true working style and ethic. Right now I am working in Berlin – a place where applicant appearance do not necessarily differ across executive and entry positions. The positive side of this statement is I get to hear all possible stories of how a person chose their style for he day.
As we move along, things get more interesting. Once you interpret a specific aspect of your partner in the conversation, you can move on to the next facet, the building blocks of the big picture. Progressing too fast will without a doubt result in a skewed interpretation.
A key decision you will have to make concerns the attention span of the applicant, depending on the role they are applying for. Most people consider unbroken attention to every word a must, but if you think about it, it can be the other way around. Take the role of the recruiter. Can a person be successful, if he or she never pays any attention to seemingly random market facts? I do not think so. Even what you are reading now speaks to the latter. Many professions nowadays require you to make swift changes between functional areas and still be productive, so a hypothesis you may test for is whether or not the candidate can keep cycling through topics which are not directly related. So keep an eye out for people who are able to follow the details and the big picture at the same time.
Those are two basic facets of the interaction between recruiter and applicant. Perhaps the topic itself is trivial, yet we cannot deny their importance to the overall recruitment process. If we look past face value, how you come into contact with candidates will define your whole process. There are many recruiters out there who fixate on a particular trait or characteristic of the candidate and label him or her as doomed. Others enforce the ridiculous expectation that successful candidates are people who always try to sell themselves to everybody in the room. It seems like we just keep ending up in the same dead alleys where candidates are not engaged, flexible or experienced enough. The facets we discussed are much more important than this though. The two in particular may start on the applicant side, but focusing on these alone will quickly turn the conversation into a pathetic mess of unfinished prejudice and ill-formulated will to “help” people by asking them rigged questions. What will help us navigate this complicated field are situational frames and action chains.