As always, use data and not simply intuition to determine the most appropriate and effective coaching areas at your firm. The content of the best candidate coaching is, of course, specific to each hiring manager and candidate. But to give you a general idea about what can to be covered, the following list covers the 10 areas where coaching generally has the highest impact. The highest impact guidance areas are listed first.
- Fully understanding the company culture — many companies are justifiably proud of their company culture. As a result, it makes sense for the recruiter to alert candidates when they need to have in-depth knowledge about the company culture. Recruiters can also refer the candidate to web links that fully illustrate and explain the culture.
- What to expect during the upcoming interview process — not understanding what to expect during the interview process may result in under-preparation. Or it may increase anxiety, which decreases interview performance. Therefore it makes sense for a recruiter to outline the process. The recruiter might also provide broad guidance covering the steps in their upcoming interview, who will be interviewing them, what will be assessed, or how long the complete process will likely take. If the hiring manager uses unusual types of questions (e.g. brainteaser questions or whiteboard tests), a heads-up might be appropriate. Knowing more about the process will allow candidates to focus their preparation and to better estimate the time that they will need to be away from their current job. Fully understanding the interview process is even more important if the interviewee is an international candidate or someone that is entering the workforce for the first time.
- Ensuring that the candidate will arrive on-time — arriving late is almost always an instant knockout factor. A candidate who would never have difficulty arriving on time in their normal life might falter and be late when they are nervous and they are visiting a brand new location. So, consider providing the candidate with foolproof and thoroughly pretested driving and public transit directions that can’t be misinterpreted. Don’t forget to tell them which door to enter on interview day. Also, advise them about rush-hour traffic, parking issues, and whether lunch will be provided. Foolproof directions are especially important for out-of-town and international interviewees. Many recruiters also advise the candidate to arrive an hour early and to wait at a nearby coffee shop while they compose themselves. If canceling or postponing an interview is a knockout factor for this hiring manager, make sure that the candidate is aware of that. Part of your coaching might include sending a reminder to the candidate one or two days before the interview.
- Outline the critical success and failure factors for this hiring manager — anxiety related to the positive and negative factors that a hiring manager cares about can reduce interview performance. So, depending on how well you know the hiring manager, a recruiter can provide a heads-up as to the specific factors that concern this hiring manager. Positive factors that hiring managers care the most about might include proactively asking questions, using data and dollars in your answers, showing enthusiasm/confidence, providing innovative solutions, and having specific career goals. Making candidates aware of hiring manager “turn-off” factors can be equally as beneficial in reducing anxiety. Those negative turn-off factors often include: being overly focused on money/benefits, long rambling answers, and criticizing previous managers. Other knockout factors might include the overuse of clichés/jargon, arrogance, not being a team player, a lack of flexibility, and too little eye contact and listening. In most cases, it’s not appropriate to provide more than the names of the positive and negative factors.
- The expected level of job and company background research — in addition to knowing the company culture, some hiring managers expect a top candidate to have done more than a perfunctory Google search on the firm. So in those cases, it’s okay to recommend the best company and job information sources and to encourage candidates to visit the LinkedIn profiles of key interviewers. If the company is particularly proud of new initiatives or products that are hard to find out about, limited guidance might be appropriate.
- The appropriate dress for the interview — inappropriate dress can also be an instant knockout factor. So to completely alleviate anxiety about this factor, provide a candidate with details covering over- and under-dressing. Refer them to corporate website pictures and provide them with a list of stress related dos and don’ts. If this hiring manager has issues related to visible tattoos, body piercings, excessive jewelry, etc. a heads-up warning may be appropriate. Some recruiters even provide “right before the interview” fine-tuning advice on how they are dressed to ensure that the candidate looks their best.
- Make them aware of their strengths — candidates are often in the dark about many things, including what specifically you liked about them. So you can reduce at least some of their anxiety by letting the candidate know what impressed you and the top reasons why they would likely be successful in this job. This positive information can help build their confidence and allow them to focus on other less-certain areas that might require additional information and support during the interview. Some recruiters also mention areas of concern, so that candidates know that they are expected to provide more information in these areas.
- The types of interview questions to expect — obviously, you don’t want to reveal the actual interview questions. But if you know them, you should at least consider making candidates aware of the types of interview questions they are likely to get from this hiring manager. Including behavioral questions, brainteasers, line-by-line questions from the resume, walk me through the steps or standard questions (strengths/weaknesses, your goals, where would you like to be in __ years, tell me about yourself, etc.). A few recruiters even remind their candidates that glassdoor.com and other similar sites may be helpful in giving them some idea of the typical interview questions used and this firm.
- What to bring and what not to bring to the interview — one lesser but still important area that can create uncertainty is what to bring to the interview. Let the candidate know if they need to bring extra copies of their resume, a photo ID, reference letters, and any required certifications or licenses. For security reasons sometimes it is desirable to let them know not to bring laptops, mobile phones, cameras, and even weapons.
- Miscellaneous areas to cover — once again, take actions to reduce anxiety and improve the candidate experience. For example, if travel is involved, let the candidate know about the process for getting reimbursed. If you know it, reveal the expected timeframe before they receive feedback. And if you anticipate them getting a second interview, some recruiters take the time to describe that process, if it is different.
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