When Great Recruiters Shine

By providing coaching to candidates, recruiters can ensure they don't overlook potentially great talent.
By: | June 4, 2018

For job seekers frustrated by rejection, the resulting self-examination can take a toll, raising unanswered questions about what they’re doing wrong and right. Most recruiters recognize the signs of frustration, and it’s difficult to see talent wrestle with doubt. That’s when the great recruiters have a chance to step up and make a real difference with coaching that can pull a candidate out of a slump.

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With the right guidance and confidence, a struggling candidate can prove to be the ideal solution for a company with a critical role to fill. To bring out the best in the candidate, the recruiter has to know when to take a step back from the sea of details — the search for opportunities, phone calls and emails, resume reviews — and provide fundamental career coaching. There is no single formula for drawing the most out of a candidate every time, but our work with some of the best recruiters in the business reveals three ideas that inform conversations in nearly every successful coaching effort.

Start the Dialog

Great coaching begins by pulling the candidate out of the cycle of what-ifs that can overwhelm both the candidate and the recruiters. Instead of analyzing the last interview or the candidate’s resume, the recruiter steps back and starts a new conversation. What is the candidate’s real skill set? What is her background — not just the list of past jobs, but how does she feel about those experiences? What are her aspirations?

This is not easy to do because it requires a leap of faith that an open-ended exploration will lead to a productive outcome. Likewise, a recruiter has to guide this exploration without knowing the answers. After all, nobody fully knows the answers to these questions — not even the candidate. You never really know the type of job you want or achievement you’d like to make until you’ve done it.

The revelations can be large. For example, a candidate who has been turned down for a director of product development job might reveal she would like to pursue marketing based on successes in positioning products in her last two roles. Perhaps she’s willing to accept that she may not start with original salary expectations, but is excited by the idea. The result is a candidate who is transformed by simply stepping back and taking an honest look at herself.

Big revelations won’t come with every exploration, but what the conversation does do is bring out the idea that the candidate can think positively about what direction she’d like to take. It also helps the recruiter better understand what kind of opportunities would best fit the candidate.

Be True to Yourself

Following a real exploration of a candidate’s needs, the recruiter and the job seeker are then armed with a new perspective that can inform the next phase of the hunt. This stage is where the candidate can return to the details of resume building and thinking about interview questions — and do so with the most honest outlook possible.

For example, perhaps after exploring his needs with the recruiter, a candidate has decided that applying for a managerial role is not for him, as people respect him as a hands-on problem solving “guru,” not as a maker of presentations and budgets. He realizes that he can apply up to a more senior-level technical role and continue on a better career path than possible as a manager. With that in mind, the candidate and recruiter return to the resume and adjust the headlines and messaging to accentuate the real strengths and aspirations. Buzzwords are not necessarily the secret to conveying the message. Rather, the candidate may choose to mention different accomplishments in his past experience.

The outcome of the effort will leave the candidate prepared to speak honestly and confidently about the direction they want to take. He knows what kind of organization he’d like to join, what kind of leadership he’s likely to work with, and how to contribute in such an environment. He may also be armed with questions to ask the recruiter, turning an interview into a confident, two-way conversation. All of these will be in the candidate’s favor as they pursue their next opportunity.

Forget About the Perfect Match

Finally, the coaching process is a great time for a recruiter to help the candidate understand job seeking is not a win/lose proposition. If a candidate wins a job that’s poorly designed and not reflective of the job description conveyed, the overall experience will prove to be a great loss. Likewise, losing the same role might be a blessing in disguise.

In fact, research supports the idea that there are good matches, but not always perfect ones. An Allegis Group survey of nearly 7,000 employers, talent acquisition pros, and candidates found that only 28 percent of hiring managers expect a perfect match to a job description. Yet, 53 percent of candidates believe full qualifications must be met — and 50 percent of talent acquisition pros feel the same.

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For the candidate, understanding a job description is not set in stone can be a great advantage in applying for a role. They should feel comfortable in asking questions and having an honest conversation in the interview, both of which may be strengths lacking in previous attempts at getting a job. In addition to coaching a candidate, however, a great recruiter may also work with the hiring manager to better align the job description to reflect realistic needs and priorities. When considering hiring for a role, companies not only need to think about what work needs to be done, they also consider how that work gets done.

Strong Coaching Wins the Game for Both Candidate and Employer

According to the Allegis Group survey, 56 percent of candidates are “somewhat” or “very likely” to discourage others from applying to a job if they had a poor hiring experience with the same employer. On the other hand, 81 percent say they’d encourage others if the process was a positive one. That said, it’s reasonable to assume the recruiter who invests time to cultivate candidates — and makes an effort to get them and hiring managers on the same page — would stand to attract more talent.

Strong coaching means a broader, strategic look at all the factors behind career success for the candidate and positive impact for the employer. If the recruiter takes time to provide guidance, the result is often a win for everyone involved — an ideal role for the candidate, a valuable hire for the employer, and a stronger reputation and possibly more candidates for the recruiter.

Tanya Axenson provides oversight and strategic direction for HR teams across all companies as global head of human resources at Allegis Group, which provides a full suite of talent solutions to clients worldwide. Axenson holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and is a board member for the YWCA of Annapolis.