Every recruiter has an “interview prep” checklist where they tick off the box once they’ve added the item or attachment to the “interview confirmation email” that they send to their candidate (unfortunately, that’s sometimes when the recruiter decides their job is done). Now, I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to use a checklist, but every candidate is unique and is going to need more than just a checklist to get them through the interview process with a potential employer. It’s not a “one size fits all” mentality. That checklist will end up growing over time and morph into something completely different.
Ever since I graduated from college, my entire career has been in roles where I’m helping people – people who are different – people who have contrasting personalities – people who are quiet, shy or nervous – people who suffer from insecurities. And then there’s me: I’m definitely a “type A” person, but when it comes to working with people, I’m a chameleon. I’ve been fortunate enough in my staffing career to have spent more time working with the clients directly in a business development role, which has given me the best education to help a job seeker get the offer. Even as a BD, I always made sure to talk to the candidate before their interview to give them a much insight as possible. It is MY job to be my candidate’s #1 fan!
I recently worked with a candidate, the husband of one of my best friends, who had been at the same company for 15 years and was part of a downsizing. Not only did he not have a working resume, but he hadn’t interviewed in over 15 years. I was able to put my English Degree to use (finally) and helped him with his resume. Resume writing is a daunting task for anyone! I sent him relevant information that would help him land a job in today’s market, since times had obviously changed. I also gave him a list of job boards to showcase his resume – he wasn’t aware of half of them! Ironically, the outplacement firm didn’t help him at all (I wonder how much they were paid). He ended up landing a new job in 30 day and told his wife, my friend, that “without Erin’s guidance, I know I would not have gotten a job as quickly as I did.”
I recently placed a candidate in a new position, and he told me that the best advice I gave him was to bring a portfolio with a notebook so he could write things down. We live in a technology driven society, and there are many job seekers who don’t remember the “blue composition book,” from their time in college, because they were accustomed to taking notes on their laptop or tablet. And just last week, I had another candidate go through a final interview process with a panel of people, and he told me that he’s never worked with a recruiter/agency that keeps the line of communication open the way I do. This isn’t rocket science people!
Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and make sure you “hold their hand” or coach them through this entire, stressful, mind blowing process. Even if they don’t get the job, they’re going to remember you, and if they end up in a leadership position, who do you think they’re going to call when they need to hire people? Ironically, I’ve had many interviews or landed positions over the years through an agency/search firm reaching out directly to me. Sadly, I can say that there was only ONE agency (this is directed towards you, Maggie) that helped me through the process from beginning to end. Kind of depressing that only one agency could get this correctly and do their job! In my experience, they work in an industry that helps people land a new career, and they tend to go dark when you need them the most. I hear stories EVERY day about how a candidate’s recruiter hasn’t done much at all, including telling the candidate they submitted them for a position with a client and actually never did.
The website “The Balance” is one of my favorites, and I tend to post content on LinkedIn directly from that site. However, when I’m putting my interview confirmation emails together, I ALWAYS include these two links:
Behavioral questions are important and tend to catch people off guard. Sometimes interviewers will ask quirky questions, so it’s best to “memorize” behavioral questions and come up with answers prior to the interview. I always tell my candidates to take a portfolio with them and even write down potential scenarios that would help answer the questions. Behavioral based interview questions have become the norm. I work with a client who holds whether or not a candidate is going to be an excellent culture fit almost as high as their technical skills. They feel that if the person is driven, smart, and able to pick up new technologies quickly, that person will be a great addition to their team.
So when I put together the interview confirmation and email, I always make sure to do the following in the body of their confirmation email, including sending a formal calendar invite to the candidate:
- Include Interview details – time and location – and whom to ask for when they arrive.
- If my candidate is having an all-day interview (which some companies do to make sure that the candidate doesn’t have to take off work multiple times to come back), I put together a word document with an Itinerary, which includes the name and title of the interviewer, but also a link to their professional LinkedIn profile. Research is key!
- I always attach the job description, resume I sent to the client, and the itinerary to the confirmation email and stress that they need to print out the attachments to bring with them to the interview (I also ensure they have a portfolio with a working pen).
- If it’s not an all-day shindig, I still make sure that the interviewers’ full names, titles, and LinkedIn profiles are included in the body of the email.
- I add the behavioral questions link I mentioned above in the body of the email and make sure they read them many times over.
- I include quick tips and pointers and “10 things that Outstanding Job Candidates do Differently.”
- And regardless of the company’s dress code, I always make sure to tell them to wear a suit and tie for men and professional attire for women. Dress to Impress! Believe it or not, I always ask “What are you planning to wear?” And I have most definitely offered fashion advice – typically to male candidates who don’t have a better half to offer fashion advice – even going as far to find the best sales or online coupons to stores if the candidate needs to buy something to wear (my first job out of college was managing an EXPRESS clothing store).
- Last but not least, I always reference the SCARY counteroffer! A recruiter’s worst nightmare! This is something that needs to be discussed on the phone and in the email.
I found an article from a UK company that makes custom CRM software (every other article I found in my Google search seemed to be from another recruitment or staffing agency, and the statistics are the same here in the US as they are in the UK). This article literally hits the nail on the head. Candidates need to know and remember WHY they started looking for a new position in the first place! So this link is always included in the confirmation email, as well.
Yes, you read that right (assuming you just clicked on the link)! 80% of candidates who accept a counter offer from their current employer tend to leave within the first 6 months! That’s pretty darn scary!! And 9 out of 10 candidates who accept a counter offer, leave within a year! All candidates need to be reminded what peaked their interest in the first place and why they decided it was time to explore new opportunities.
Needless to say, my interview prep emails are quite lengthy, and I tend to send them out before a weekend, as I want to make sure that my candidate can set aside time to go over everything on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s important for me to cover all bases and make sure I can coach my candidate through the entire process – from the prep call before the interview, to the long interview confirmation email, and to the debrief, once they have finished interviewing. Did I forget to mention that I always include the potential employer’s website in the email? Of course I do, as well as any pertinent articles that have been written! I also set a time for a quick chat the day before their interview to ensure all questions have been answered, and I offer up as much advice I can give. I most definitely share feedback from other candidates who have interviewed or were hired (strictly confidential of course).
Dear readers, I will leave you with this – a few examples of things candidates should NOT do, which I always make sure to mention:
- Don’t douse yourself in “Love’s Baby Soft” perfume – it took two days for my client’s office to air out
- Bring copies of the resume I sent to you in your interview prep email on normal paper – printing your resume on stationary with unicorns, rainbow, and robots is not okay
- Don’t wear jeans and cowboy boots to an interview – I don’t care what state you live in – it’s not professional
- Please don’t bring your own thermos of coffee to the interview – wait until someone asks you if you would like some coffee or water (I promise, they won’t let you feel parched)
- Lastly, don’t write a letter to the CEO of the company charging them for mileage and tolls – that’s just not cool if you’re only travelling a half hour to an interview
Erin Teso is the Director of our Chicago Market. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Creative Writing – which explains why her first job out of college was managing a clothing store. Erin has focused on placing candidates in technology positions for over 10 years
Nice job Erin Teso!