CareerSherpas: Climbing the Mountain

When you’re on the way, it helps to share the load

Archive for April, 2009

Playing the Recruitment Game

Monday, April 27th, 2009

A recent article from Harvard Business Review presented some very strong ideas on how to improve recruitment efforts by companies. While all the advice is terrific for those on the hiring end, there’s also some useful information for the interviewee looking to find the right fit.

While it’s a tough market out there, avoiding walking into a job you’ll hate is still a worthwhile goal. If you can see trouble coming, it might be worth passing or seeing if your potential employer is flexible enough to adjust and make everyone’s lives easier. And being up front with any potential employer about what will make your work successful in their organization always moves you up in the pack.

So to that end, here are the rejoinders for the interviewee from HBR’s recruitment best practices:

  • How does the position fit into the direction of the company? While this might seem like an obvious question, relatively few people ask it. The answers (or lack thereof) may also surprise you! If the people doing the hiring don’t have very strong ideas of where this position needs to go, you have the advantage of suggesting how the role, with you in it, can help the organization. Don’t be shy to show how you fit into the spot described either!
  • What is in place to support the role? You need to step into the breach with specific capabilities and traits to make the position work, but to be effective your new employer will need to come to the table with the support to get the job done. Remember to ask what they’re looking for from a candidate and what the role has to work with to overcome the challenges you will inevitably face.
  • Understand the size and quality of the talent pool. You’re not usually going to be the only one interviewing for the position, so try to get a sense of who else is swimming alongside you. If you’re working with an outside recruiter you trust it can be easier to get the information, but don’t take the answer at face value. Try to get an idea of where you sit going in and ask what might help.
  • Have stories at the ready. You can’t anticipate every question, but you can prepare answers. Employers hire people to solve problems they’re facing, and being able to describe how you’ve solved similar problems in the past always puts you in a better position. Have broad stories ready and be prepared to narrow your focus to one or two points from them to answer the specifics of the question.
  • Draw out the pros and cons. Sure it’s a great managerial position, but what are you facing when you move into it? If you don’t walk out of the interview knowing what the advantages and challenges are, even if you get the job you might find some surprises that limit your success. If there isn’t a lot of energy around filling the position or the direction of the company, there might be a story you aren’t getting.
  • Find out about the on-boarding process. There are lots of ways to handle new hires and if the company can tell you how it manages new employees you’ll get a picture of how they handle all employees.

In the end, recruitment is a dance between a company’s needs and the people available to fill them. You are as much in control of the kind of world you work in as any employer, so make the most of all of the chances you have to learn about what you’re walking into and presenting yourself in the best light.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, conducting high-level business analysis, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.