The Talent Scout Episode 20: How to pick a winning candidate
4 minutes | Posted 07 July, 2020

If you’re an avid fan of us here at Scout, you probably tuned into the recent webinar held by our specialists. They discussed how to pick a winning candidate and all things shortlisting, interviewing and candidate testing.

If however, you missed it, then don’t worry, because we have you covered with a bitesize run-through of the expertise they shared.

Shortlisting and Selection

Shortlisting, selection, interviews – these are probably some of the first things that come to mind when we think of recruitment. That point when your candidates are engaged with you, you’ve got some incredible people to choose from, and you’re trying to keep everyone warm while you zone in on who your winning candidate is going to be. Even just saying that is a little bit exhausting.

But how do we go about making this part of your recruitment process as seamless as possible? How do you successfully pick that incredible candidate?

Well the first thing that you need to do happens long before you get to the interview stage, it even happens before the candidate attraction stage, and that’s nailing down your criteria and universally agreeing to it. Whoever your hiring team are, they all need to be aligned on what you’re looking for. Otherwise finding a winning candidate will be impossible because you’ll all have a different perspective on what winning looks like.

It’s also worth establishing at this point the availability of your hiring panel. If availability for interviews is going to be a challenge for some of the panel then it may be worth considering delegating the duty to someone else. Being available for an interview at both 9 am and 10 am instead of just 10 am could be the difference between securing an incredible candidate or not.

Winning interview questions

Of course, it goes without saying that picking a winning candidate requires a winning interview. Now, all interviews are different as all criteria are different and whether it’s a first or second interview makes a difference too. However, with that said there are a handful of questions that we here at Scout ask in almost every interview because they are very successful at getting you the information that you need from a conversation.

  • The first that come to mind are housekeeping questions. These are questions around the role location and whether it works for the candidate, the salary, the candidate’s notice period, and if they have any vacation coming up. This is vital information that you should know about all of your candidates before you make a decision.
  • You’ll also want to take some time to review your candidate’s resume and if there are any overlapping time frames or gaps it’s better to find out why they exist then be left to speculate and assume the worst.
  • A less housekeeping, but an equally great question to ask is – ‘what initially attracted you to the role’. This will give you some insight into your candidates’ motivations and let you know how much research they did which is a pretty good indicator of how much they care and how invested they are.
  • In a similar vein, asking a candidate “How does this position fit into their career path” or “what they’re looking for from the role in terms of progression” can also help you understand your candidate’s motivation better. This can be particularly interesting if it looks like your candidate is making a lateral move by allowing you to better understand why they want to make that move. Perhaps they wish to broaden their experience.
  • Another great question you can ask depending on how much information you’ve gathered from your previous questioning is – “What is your wishlist for this role?” Again this will really help you dig into a candidate’s motivations and possibly establish just how long they’re going to be willing to remain in the role.
  • Finally, it’s always great to round out the interview by asking the candidate what they’re looking for in a work environment that would keep them committed long term to the company. The answers here can really open up a lot of insight into your potential candidate’s overall commitment and interest.

There are countless other questions you can include within the interview to tailor it towards your needs and your organization as well as drilling deeper into behaviour, skills and experience.

The ones that I’ve mentioned are just some great ones for learning more about your candidates. But whatever you do, try to avoid those awful trick questions that are paraded about the internet, I think the worst one I ever came across was – “If you were a song what song would you be”. No one enjoys questioning like this, it doesn’t help you find a culture fit, it doesn’t help you find a good candidate, it’s just awkward.

Getting the most out of background checks

Once you’ve completed those incredible interviews and you’ve established who your superstar candidates are. It’s then time to carry out some background checks. If it’s applicable you’ll certainly want to carry out a criminal checks.

Though many people disregard them, carrying out a reference check and asking the reference if they’d hypothetically hire the candidate again can also be eye-opening. Scout carries out reference checks on behalf of clients around the clock on a daily basis and we couldn’t count how often those phone calls reveal some red flags about a candidate.

However, beyond these checks there are also an array of behavioural check options available. The one we use most frequently use on behalf of our clients is McQuaig. But whichever tool you opt for you’ll gain some insight into a candidate’s temperament.

When we speak of a candidate’s temperament what we’re really talking about is the way that they are going to go about executing a task, project, or even their whole life outside of the workplace when left to their own devices. Temperament fashions the way we apply our values, attitudes, and beliefs but does not alter them significantly. Testing for behaviour and temperament isn’t going to tell you everything about a person and there are no perfect temperaments. But some are significantly more suitable for some roles over others and using behavioural testing as part of your recruitment arsenal can really give you a clearer picture on your candidates and help you pick a winning candidate over someone who is very good at interviewing.

As all things recruitment, picking a winning candidate takes time and hard work. If you want the best person for your role you can’t really cut corners. As I said, use all of the tools in your recruitment toolbox. Put in the effort you need to in order to find that person who is going to drive your organization forward.

For a deeper dive into this topic, you can watch a recording of our recent webinar here.

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