How do you measure the quality of a candidate?

Everyone agrees that it is important to have the best talent at the top of an organisation.  But how do you ensure that you’re adequately assessing the quality of your candidates throughout the recruitment process?

Over time, the quality of a hire can be measured by the revenue they bring in, the interest their creative work generates, or how they keep customers happy. But what about when they’re sitting opposite you in an interview? What techniques can you use to accurately compare candidates to ensure you’re hiring the right person?

Prepare yourself

The starting point is to get your interview technique in order. Take the time to plan the most appropriate questions for the role. And before each interview, read the CV and headhunter’s interview notes in detail so that you can address any queries specific to the candidate.

Asking the right questions, tailored to your situation, is crucial. Neither you nor the candidate benefit from interviews that don’t give them the opportunity to really demonstrate what they can do. Poorly-prepared interview questions can allow weaker candidates to bluff their way through. And don’t go through the candidate’s CV in order, you’ll end up wasting time on their early career and missing out on important detail from their most senior (and presumably most relevant) work.

Instead, ask open questions, based around examples from a particular point in their career. Focus on competencies, achievements and values, but don’t give them too much information about what you specifically are looking for. The right candidate will bring all that up themselves without having to be prompted. And the wrong candidate will unwittingly bring up any ‘red flags’ to rule themselves out. The more you guide them, the more likely they are to be able to ‘game’ an interview. Furthermore, make sure they know their numbers, and be ready to press them on issues if they sound shaky.

Asking the right questions will also give you plenty of opportunities to sell your company, and the opportunity. And this is crucial, especially if you’re interviewing headhunted candidates rather than ad respondents. That means instead of asking “why do you want this job?” you should be explaining why the opportunity is exciting – and you can base this explanation on the motivations you have uncovered in the interview.

Dispassionate judgement

After the interview, ensure that you’re judging everyone on a level playing field. Using the job description, apply a set of scores or rankings to each candidate, based on the specific skills and qualities you’re looking for in a candidate. This is a great way for you to assess the strength of a candidate in a non-prejudicial way. Get everyone who interviews them to assess them up against the same criteria, ideally without conferring first.

There are other approaches you can use to qualify your impressions – for example psychometric testing. Getting the preferred candidates to give a detailed presentation – for example how they would solve a business problem, or what they would do in their first 100 days – can be hugely valuable.

And of course, you can bring in help from external experts. An experienced headhunter plays a vital role in ensuring that the client finds a candidate that is perfect, and this process will be second nature to them.