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Why some Candidates you Interview don’t match your Brief

In 10 minutes you realise the candidate your recruiter has sent for interview doesn’t match your brief. The reason why isn’t as straight-forward as you might think.

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner
Frustrated manager lying face down on his desk covered in documents

It’s frustrating isn’t it, when you get sent candidates for an interview, only to find out 10 minutes into it they don’t match your brief? Or they don’t understand what the job is. It’s stressful on many levels – the embarrassment of having to wind up the interview early, the waste of time, the frustration of not being able to find the right person, the feeling of being let down by your recruiter.

Six reasons why interviews fail

There are a few reasons that explain how this happens. Some of the reasons are on you, but some are on the recruiter.

1. The Job Description your recruiter is working to is out of date

This one’s on you, I’m afraid. When we’re recruiting a role, a good recruiter uses the Job Description and the KPIs embedded in it as a roadmap. A current JD helps us quickly identify all the skills, experience and personality traits required if the person is going to be the right fit for your business. And that means our search activity and advertising campaigns can be highly targeted and much more effective.

2. The recruiter hasn’t asked enough questions when taking the brief

This one is on the recruiter! Rather than taking a JD on face value, a good recruiter will ask lots of probing questions to make sure they fully understand what you are looking for. And to make sure the job description is current! Things like; How recently was the JD updated? What are the ‘deal-breakers’ when it comes to skills and experience? What are the essentials versus the ‘nice to haves’? What is the management style of the person they’ll be reporting to? Why was the person previously in the role successful (or unsuccessful) in it? What are the business objectives of the company in the next 12 months? Because our job is to find you a person who will help you meet those objectives.

3. The ad campaign has not been designed to target candidates for your job

This one is a recruiter responsibility. The truth is that sometimes, recruiters run ads that are designed to boost their own databases rather than meet the needs of their clients. If the recruiter is paying for the advertising then so be it, but if you are paying for it, you have the right to expect the ad to be targeted to your role.

4. The interview process has not stayed true to the selection criteria

This can be a shortcoming in both the recruiter’s and your processes – the interview ends up being about things other than finding out of the person is truly the best fit for the role based on their skills, experience and personality. A shared passion for skiing, a person in common, the school one went to – all very interesting but nothing to do with whether they can do the job or not!

5. Psychological bias has kicked in

Again, neither you nor your recruiter is exempt from this one. Sadly, it is all too common – we rely on representativeness heuristics to inform our decisions. A recruiter may be sending the wrong candidates based on their own bias or they might recommend a great candidate and your own bias prevents you from recognising that. A good interviewer is aware of the five main traps:

Confirmation bias – when decision makers seek out evidence that confirms their previously held beliefs, while discounting or diminishing the impact of evidence in support of differing conclusions.

Overconfidence bias – when a person overestimates the reliability of their judgments. This can include the certainty one feels in his/her own ability, performance, level of control, or chance of success.

Halo effect – in recruitment, it’s the perception that if someone does well in a certain area, then they will automatically perform well at something else regardless of whether those tasks are related, so there’s no need to ‘test’ for those skills.

Anchoring – this is the overreliance on an initial single piece of information or experience to make subsequent judgments, which can limit one’s ability to accurately interpret new, potentially relevant information.

In-Group Bias – simply, In-Group Bias refers to the unfair favouring of someone from one’s own group. So we tend to prefer people who are ‘like us’, regardless of whether their skills and experience are relevant.

6. You’ve changed the job a bit and haven’t told anyone!

This is more common than you may think – a client starts out with one idea and that slowly morphs into another. Which is all well and good if you share that with your recruiter! Remember your recruiter is working to the original brief and unless you let them know the brief has changed, then you will most likely be sent ‘unsuitable’ candidates!

Changing things for better

So, now you know how it happens, you have the power to make sure it doesn’t happen in your organisation. Working closely with your recruiter is the best way to avoid wasted time and unsatisfactory outcomes.

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner

Bernadette Eichner, Cofounder and CEO of Just Right People, is a recruitment industry entrepreneur and thought leader in Australia, totally committed to improving the recruiter experience for clients and candidates alike. Her secret to life is to “just do the next thing that needs to be done”.

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