How to Recruit Candidates Your Hiring Managers Will Love You For

How to Recruit Candidates Your Hiring Managers Will Love You For

Elizabeth Silas-Havas

Recruiters have a tough job. As one position gets filled, another one opens, and the saga continues as long as companies are hiring. Repetition can lead to proficiency, but (let’s be honest) it can also result in laziness.

Deep in the daily grind, it’s easy to forget the bigger goal recruiters and hiring managers are working toward: finding the highest possible quality candidates, who will perform well, stick around, and take the company further.

In this post, we’ll explore the types of employees that are more likely to excel, so you can keep an eye out for them in the recruiting process. Your hiring managers will thank you for this in the long run.

Take Your Behavioral Interviews to the Next Level

Behavioral interview questions are a standard part of interviews today, but they are also a standard part of candidates’ preparation. When you say, “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker or supervisor,” you are likely to get a stock conflict-handling or teamwork story, prepared long ago and honed by practice and perhaps by paid consultants.

If you want some insight into candidates’ abilities to think on their feet and respond to situations that come up in the specific job you’re hiring for, push your behavioral questions beyond simply asking about the candidate’s past performance in order to hypothesize about future performance. If you develop questions that provide a few details regarding a project, task, or challenge that your open position requires, you can ask candidates how they would actually solve problems or resolve conflicts within the responsibilities and resources of the job you’re hiring for.

For example, if you know that a new hire will have to get team members’ buy-in and participation in some projects, you could ask the generic behavioral question, “Have you ever had to ‘sell’ an idea to a co-worker or team? How did you do it?”

However, if you want more insight into how the applicant will tackle your position’s tasks, provide information about real upcoming project demands: “When you initiate a new site contract, you’ll need to get buy-in from people in marketing, sales, and legal. What are your thoughts on how to streamline that process?”

You can develop these questions by talking with your hiring managers about the stickiest, most time-consuming, and otherwise tricky aspects of the position—perhaps the issues that departing employees have flubbed.

Find Candidates Who Will Grow and Improve

In many cases, your ideal candidate won’t just fit into the position; she or he will improve how the job is done or grow the business. The essential qualities of a good employee are a strong work ethic, dependability, a positive attitude, self-motivation, team orientation, effective communication skills, and flexibility.

Is there a way to gauge candidates’ qualities—or their ability and willingness to develop those qualities to full potential?

Carol Dweck’s research on motivation offers insight into this question. She outlines two distinct mindsets, or ways of thinking about the self, that affect people’s performance on the job (and in the rest of their lives).

If a candidate believes his or her intelligence, people skills, or other qualities are innate and unchangeable, or “fixed,” that person is likely to confront new situations as tests of those qualities. The person will focus on looking smart, appearing friendly, or seeming to succeed. Fixed mindsets often lead people to avoid challenges (which might involve making mistakes or failing) and seek out familiar situations in which they can “prove” they are already capable.

Candidates who believe their intelligence and other qualities are changeable through their own efforts, however, are more focused on improving those qualities and learning new skills. These “growth” mindsets are focused on taking on new challenges in order to become better—or at least learn something trying. They allow for the development of resilience, as people work through problems rather than trying to avoid them.

carol dweck two mindsets
A growth mindset is optimal for many positions and companies in which people must work together as a team, improve processes or systems, or simply expand within their role. Employees who look for ways to improve their own performance can be key players in an organization.

Questions to Probe a Candidate’s Mindset

You can design behavioral questions to investigate what type of mindset a candidate brings to the workplace. Start generic: “Tell me what happened when you got stuck on a recent project,” or, “How do you achieve an objective when you realize it requires skills outside your current skillset?”

Dweck recently worked with a Major League Baseball team to help them interview potential draftees. She advised the team to ask, “Thinking about on-field success in the major leagues, what do you think you’d have to change?” to help them determine which recruits had a growth mindset. They were looking to boost team performance by adding players who would constantly seek to improve on their own.

Your organization might ask similar questions. For example:

  • Offer details about the position, and then ask applicants to imagine what they will need to focus on developing to get up to speed and transition from their last job
  • Ask a question about an applicant’s mindset outside of the work arena, such as, “What would you do if you didn’t need money?

In candidate answers, look for keywords and themes regarding growth, seeking opportunities to learn, and stretching beyond current skills and knowledge sets. Really, many of the behavioral questions you already use may be suitable (or tweakable) if you pay more attention to the underlying mindset in the candidates’ answers: Do they think their talents and skills are fixed or do they think that with effort and will they can grow them?

Hiring a Growth Mindset Workforce Over the Long Term

A lot of startups hire employees with growth mindsets because they need them. Larger companies often get complacent, or they shift their emphasis to credentials and certifications, or their recruiters are under too much pressure and tight time constraints. However, it is growth mindset employees that push companies to the next level of performance.

As you develop your methods for improving the quality of the candidates you hand off to your hiring managers, you’ll need feedback to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. Improve your relationships with hiring managers to get better feedback on who is a good employee currently as well as what is required (and ideal) for specific positions.

It’s important to have performance metrics like quality of hire to see if you’re actually delivering good people to hiring managers over time. If you’re a recruiting leader, consider watching this metric over time and rewarding your team for improvements. Only if you measure the “before” and the “after” can you really quantitatively understand whether what you’re doing is improving hires.

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