How recruiters can assess the fit of a candidate through conversations

Dec 06, 2018 - Cat DiStasio
  • What’s your greatest strength?
  • How do you handle stress?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
These are all fine questions. Good questions, even. But if the recruiter asking them doesn’t understand how to interpret a candidate’s responses, they may miss out on a great candidate or, perhaps worse, advance a candidate who won’t turn out to be a good fit in the long run. Recruiters know their primary goal is to find candidates who are the best fit for their company’s positions. But a lot of recruiter training doesn’t really teach how to do that. Instead, it focuses more on legal requirements, managing HR systems, and then skips ahead to other phases like onboarding and retention. These are all important areas for recruiters to master, but there’s a gap when it comes to using conversations to meet their recruitment goals.

Putting the human back in human resources

With the rise of AI-powered recruiting tools, today’s recruiters can be relieved of many of the time-consuming administrative tasks that distract from the larger purpose of their jobs. Many of those tools, like a recruiting chatbot, can be a recruiter’s best friend, by taking care of candidates during the initial phases of the application process. We feel strongly that it will be a long time before AI tools ever completely replace human recruiters, mainly because AI and machine learning is too narrowly focused (think really good at arithmetic but not good at writing a movie script) and not yet sophisticated enough to bond with another human. Because of that distinction, recruiters can leverage those emotional connections to learn more about a candidate through conversations. Best of all, conversations can help companies connect with the most valuable candidates of all: hard-to-find and passive candidates who aren’t even in the market. Why does that matter so much? Research suggests that up to 28 percent of new employees quit their jobs in the first 90 days, costing employers precious time and money. The vast majority of reasons that new hires decide to leave are related to poor employee engagement, and the best remedy for that is to head off the problem before it begins. Using conversational recruiting to improve candidate engagement is the best way to do that, particularly because it enables recruiters to better predict employee performance. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner In the current job market, many companies across various industries have identified a lack of skilled candidates. Last year, 72 percent of CEOs reported a concern about the (lack of) availability of key skills, putting even more pressure on recruiters to find qualified candidates and evaluate them adequately. While AI-powered recruiting tools can vet candidates’ claims about job-related skills and experience, at least as far as how they are represented in a resume or an application, there remains a vast array of skills that human recruiters must be able to identify through conversations. It is the conversations that allow the recruiter to verify the claims that the candidate makes in resumes and applications. This applies to both hard and soft skills including problem solving, communication, time management and organization, among others. Some corporate leaders, including LinkedIn’s CEO, say communication is the number one skills gap across the board in the U.S. today.

Why does the recruiting process need conversations?

What better way is there to test a candidate’s communication skills outside of a conversation? Think about the last job you applied for. You may have toiled for hours to perfect your cover letter, your resume and your application answers, but there was still a lot of ‘you’ that couldn’t fit into those documents. Would you have wanted the entirety of the hiring decision to be based on those items? Of course not. Most of the time, it’s the interviews and conversations that allow a candidate to demonstrate their true ability to take on the demands and challenges of the position in question. And those are things you can’t get at solely through the resume and application materials. Only conversational recruiting can offer that insight. More and more, employers are recognizing the value of determining soft skills before making a hire, rather than trying to remediate problems down the road. That’s primarily because these valuable soft skills are extremely difficult to teach, especially while on the job. In recent years, 67 percent of HR managers reported they’d hire a candidate with strong soft skills even if their technical abilities were lacking, while just 9 percent would hire someone with strong technical credentials but weak soft skills. Combined with the concept that predicting employee performance during the recruiting process can wind up saving your company a load of heartache and likely money as well, conversations become a larger focus of the recruiting process. Conversational recruiting boosts candidate engagement, which can in turn be used as an indicator of future employee performance. It’s almost too easy.

How to evaluate a candidate’s potential fit

When you have conversations with candidates with either hard or soft skills in mind, you want to focus on a few key areas. Communication skills, also sometimes called interpersonal skills, are typically the first to be assessed. If a candidate has trouble expressing themselves, has difficulty understanding your questions, or does not answer the questions they are asked, there’s a big red flag. Problem-solving skills are another key area to assess, and recruiters can generally get a sense of a candidate’s abilities by asking specific questions about how they approach certain types of problems. If a recruiter can ask a question like this that is uniquely related to the position in question, even better. Assessing a candidate’s emotional intelligence is another great approach to determining their potential fit. Harvard Business Review wisely steers recruiters away from using personality tests for this goal, and explains that recruiters must ask smart follow-up questions to vague responses. Finding out how candidates respond to stress and thinking on their feet can be the best way to get a true sense of their ability to manage their emotions.

Fostering the success of recruiting conversations

Since the primary goal of identifying candidates who are a great fit is to boost employee engagement and retention, those are the best areas to measure. Helping recruiters hone their techniques for hard and soft skills assessment, either with additional training or mentoring, can improve these areas over time, both for the individual recruiter as well as the organization. For more actionable advice to implement in your recruiting process, check out our Recruiting Chatbot Revolution eBook below: The Recruiting Chatbot Revolution ad

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