I see clients and recruiters, both external and internal wrestling with this dilemma a lot! How much do we prepare candidates for interview? The balance can be a difficult one to strike. On one hand, we don't want our candidates to be the deer in the headlights, being bombarded with tough interview formats, techniques or questions that they are unprepared for. On the other hand, we don't want to prepare them to the extent that our client doesn't get a true reflection of their character or ability, we have a duty to ensure our clients get a true perspective of the shortlist.
In my experience, the balance comes in ensuring candidates are aware of the following;
The organisation: Candidates should have a really sound understanding of the recruiting business. With a specific focus on the corporate structure and organisational culture, this not only allows the candidate to understand why they are a strong match, but also prepare for the interview in a way that allows them to demonstrate qualities that align.
The role: Preparing the candidate fully on the role allows them to again, answer questions in a way that shows how their experience and capability matches the role, benefiting both themselves but also the interviewer. We help candidates understand the role by explaining why it has become available, its responsibility, what success will look like and it's position within the organisation.
The interviewer: The connection between the interviewer and candidate is so important. This isn't really about preparation as it relies on a natural connection, but by fully briefing the candidate on the interviewer and their role in the organisation it allows them to spend time building a connection rather than covering the basics.
The interview: We prepare the candidate on the structure and style of the interview. This gives the candidate the opportunity to prepare, without giving them specific questions or answers. The candidate is briefed on the type of questions rather than the specific questions.
Preparing candidates properly is part of the candidate experience and really does reflect on your organisation. The key, and balance in my opinion is to educate candidates on the role and requirements, allowing them to prepare by relation their experience to the role. Giving them the structure and information required is really important, but its also really important not to give them the answers. I consider success in my role to be finding candidates that go on to have real impact for my clients. A robust interview process is designed to pull out the strongest candidate, the preparation of the candidate should support the process rather than jeopardise it.
Even experienced recruiters can overlook the importance of fully preparing their candidates for interviews. As recruiters, we have an obligation to tell our candidates everything we know about the people and organisation. You must be prepared to tailor your advice to each individual because they may not know how to make their skills shine.