Interview questions and structured interviewing
Username: Password:

Defending Candidates to Hiring Managers

Lou Adler

By becoming partners with their hiring manager clients, recruiters can use their influence to better defend their candidates from dumb decisions and poorly designed practices and policies. The key to the defense requires intervening at each step of the assessment and selection process, while fighting soft emotions with hard evidence.

Here are some things you can do to get started:

Know the job.
Before you start looking for candidates, ask the hiring manager what the person needs to do to be considered successful. Have the manager define the key projects and challenges the person is expected to handle. Then, ask the manager to describe how better people handle these same tasks compared to average people. Talk to the best people you've placed in similar positions. Find out what they did differently than the average performer.

Become a good interviewer.
You'll need to be a better interviewer than your hiring manager clients if you expect to defend your candidates from superficial or narrow assessments. One way to do this is to get detailed examples of major accomplishments related to those described in your job description (above). If you spend at least 10 minutes (each) digging into the candidate's job-related and individual accomplishments you'll have plenty of evidence to overcome generalizations and flawed assessments. On the technical side, too many interviewers dig into areas unrelated to real job needs; so, be sure to challenge your candidate's apparent lack of technical depth by relating it directly to the real job requirements.

Use more outside evidence.
Don't defend your candidates half-armed. Use test results, in-depth references and multiple examples of recognition which the candidate received for doing outstanding work. Point to early promotions, special bonuses, awards and raises as evidence of exceptional performance.

Don't take no for an answer.
This is the recruiter's mantra. Too many people make decisions without all the available evidence. A recruiter needs to fight the tendency to judge competency too soon based on minimal information. Unless the hiring team has enough hard and fast evidence to make a good decision, you'll need to continue fighting for your candidate if you believe the person is being judged unfairly.

Use the "close upon an objection" sales technique.
Even if you don't have ready proof to defend your candidate, use the promise of getting it as a way of keeping the hiring manager open-minded. For example, "If I could present further evidence that the candidate is far stronger than your initial assessment; would you at least reconsider it and postpone your judgment for a few days?" Of course, you'd better get the proof.

Lead more panel interviews.
If you're a good interviewer, why not lead a panel interview? This way everyone hears the same information. By digging deep and getting examples of major accomplishments, the other interviewers learn more about the candidate than they would have on their own. While you lead the interview session, other panel members ask for clarification and examples.

Coach your managers to interview properly.
If you can teach your managers how to improve their interviewing skills, you're instantly recognized as an expert in your field and an invaluable member of the hiring team. Using job-related behavioral interviews will set you apart as an expert and a leader.

Lead the debriefing session.
To ensure that superficial information is not used to eliminate (or hire) a person, it's vital that the recruiter be present during the debriefing session. The collective judgment of the group is a valid means to assess competency if everyone involved presents hard evidence. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Usually the dominant person's opinion prevails; or the concerns of one or two people overshadow the positive judgment of others. To prevent this, it's best if the recruiter leads the debriefing session to ensure that all the evidence is considered in an objective manner.

I've had the fortunate opportunity to interview some true leaders over the past years. Some were just starting their careers, others were seasoned pros. A few things stood out among them all. First and foremost is that they take on responsibility to change things, typically without being asked and often without permission. That's what leaders do. And they don't just talk about it: they push their viewpoint and achieve real results. So when you're interviewing your candidates, look for these leadership qualities among their major accomplishments. Then use this information when you're leading the debriefing session. In the process, you'll become a leader yourself. Bottom line: that's how you defend your candidates from stupidity, and how you become a true partner in the process.


Finding Candidates

Interviewing Basics

Interviewing Best Practices

Laws & Documentation

Line Manager / Recruiting Partnership


Pre-Planning & Retention

Reading the Candidate

Recruiting Basics

Recruiting Best Practices

Useful Links