I will lay my cards on the table from the off - my motivation for writing this post stems from my first time of working with a new client.  The agreed interview process is often an afterthought with myself having to drive the conversation.

A large portion of my roles over the past 20 years have involved assessing candidates' suitability against clients' briefs.  During this time I have adapted my approach and, more relevant to this article, experienced hugely differing interview processes on the client side.

From my experiences it is imperative that both parties have a clear understanding of what the interviewing process will be, thus enabling me to communicate with the shortlist on timings and expectations.

However, all this can crumble if stale, rigid interviewing techniques are employed.  I have witnessed strong candidates being rejected based on some of the below.  Clients should recognise that headhunted candidates are often green to interviews and so using one technique in isolation often leads to disappointment for all:

  • Behavioural - Great for unearthing the motivations and cultural fit of an individual; not so good for better appreciating their exposure to a given market / product range etc
  • Competency - Evergreen interviewees will typically respond better to this type of interviewing.  Those not so well versed are likely to struggle to think of examples off the cuff.  When interviewers use a weighted scoring system when adopting this approach it can (and has) led to a distorted view of the shortlist
  • Biographical - Up until three years ago I led with this approach but I have latterly felt that it leads to a lengthy, drab conversation that misses key points

Personally, I have found that adapting and amalgamated individual parts of the above has led to a more well-rounded assessment of a shortlist.  I certainly probe around the behavioural approach for cultural fit; ask pointed questions around a candidates experience / exposure to a given market etc (competency) and develop an understanding of their career path and reasons for choosing education routes (biographical).

Yes, this does lead to a lengthy interview, but I certainly better understand the candidates suitability for a role and cultural fit of my client.

And all this IF the candidate makes it through the longlisting / CV sifting stage. Being a genuine consultant to clients requires me to provide the best available candidates against a given brief. However, any good partner should also provide food for thought in the shape of one or two left field options. These candidates often provoke clients into looking at a potential solution from a different angle and can provide even more value to a shortlist.  I'm not suggesting that the majority of a shortlist should be made up of such candidates but it does require the client to be open minded to my rationale.