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Qualifying Quality Candidates: A Brief Lesson in Psychology

man_strings_smallQuality and Qualify are words we often hear in the staffing industry. We talk about qualifying candidates. We qualify job requisitions. We promise to deliver top quality talent. On the surface, this all seems rather straight forward, but concentrating on finding and delivering those true quality candidates is not an easy task. Qualifying for a true quality candidate requires diligence and perhaps, some light psychology.   

The perception of quality can be easily clouded by a recruiter's eagerness to deliver submittals and make placements. In the face of ever burgeoning competition and falling unemployment, our desperation to submit a candidate can often lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. We want to find a candidate so badly, that we wrongfully convince ourselves that our candidate is a quality match. While from the client’s or hiring manager’s perspective, the match is an obvious mismatch.

In business, we define quality as “the non-inferiority or superiority of something” or more simply stated, something’s “fitness for purpose.” From a recruiting perspective, we determine a candidate’s fitness by asking questions. The questions we ask, and more importantly how we ask them, are a major factor in making such designations.

From the vantage point of the staffing supplier, how well a candidate’s skills and experiences match the client’s requirements are only a small piece of the pie. On paper, a candidate may appear to be a dead ringer, but other factors, which cannot be easily discerned from the resume, can quickly detract from a candidate’s overall quality.

When determining how to best qualify a candidate for quality, refer not only to the industry best practices below, but consider how the principles of psychology factor into your conversation. 


Principle #1: Habit

The simplest strategy to effectively qualifying talent is to have an honest conversation. Take a commute, for example. A long commute can affect performance, result in habitual lateness and in effect, diminish our ability to close the deal. Asking a candidate if they are “OK” with a prospective commute is a great example of how not to phrase the question. This allows the candidate to reply with a single word without actually having to consider the commute.

A better approach would be to ask questions like: “How long will your commute be?”, “What is traffic like in this area?”, or “What route will you be taking?” These questions force the candidate to think through each step of their commute, giving them a better picture of their day-to-day life will be like.  If they seem to be hesitant when that picture is presented to them, they may not be the right fit for that role.   


Principle #2: Will

The same rationale can be applied to conversations concerning compensation. It is important to determine if the rate or salary you are offering is higher or lower than the candidate’s current earnings. Candidates often think of submittals as “coals in the fire.” When faced with unemployment or financial hardship, it makes sense to gather as many coals as possible. They may agree to be submitted at a rate that is not actually viable.

To properly qualify the candidate compensation rate, it is imperative to peel back the layers and find out if you are offering them a raise, or conversely convincing them to take a lateral move in the spirit of greater opportunity. This intelligence is critical when it comes time to close the candidate.


Principle #3: Emotion

Remember, this is your time to get to know the candidate. Understand their motivations. Make sure you dig in by avoiding leading questions, or those that can be answered with a simple “yes” or a “no”. Make the candidate explain themselves, and force them to sell you on why this move makes sense.

Most importantly, do not be afraid to push back. Inject some skepticism into the conversation. After all, if a candidate is easily dissuaded or concedes doubt on the initial qualification call, there is little chance you were going to deliver them. Submittals, interviews, and offers are great, but candidate delivery and retention are the factors that influence your bottom line.

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Ryan works as a Technical Recruiter at Yoh in the Information Technology and Services sector. He earned a Bachelor’s in Economics from the University of Miami, and considers himself an avid foodie. In his spare time, you will probably find Ryan in his kitchen attempting to emulate some of the fine dishes available across Philadelphia’s vibrant restaurant scene.

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