Applicants and candidates: same same but different

  • Post published:05/04/2011
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Why do so many HR people and line managers display an air of arrogance when interviewing people? Don’t shoot the messenger now (that’s me) but applicants and candidates tell me that. I hear horrifying stories about how companies shoot themselves in the foot and simply scare away good people who came to interview.8448_Pot of Gold_coins_web

Now, let me ask you this. When you are hiring people to your organisation, do you see lines of applicants and candidates queuing up outside your company, like shoppers do outside the shop, hours before the opening for the special summer sales?

I have previously referred to a United Nation’s research about the contraction of the labour markets around the world. And how the pool of people entering the labour market is shrinking by the day. Just a few years from now, both China and Singapore will even see their labour market start to contract. That happened in Japan some 15 years ago.

The scary thing is, that if you think it’s difficult to find really good people in today’s market, I’m sorry to say that you ain’t seen nothing yet.  My point is that unless you consider interviewing to also be a sales activity (assuming that the candidate is a match to your requirement) you will likely not be considered a prospect for the applicant or candidate.

Today, they have a choice. They don’t have to come and work for you. Just like you are assessing the applicant or candidate’s fit to the job and your company, so do they assess your performance as an interviewer and the whole experience from they arrived for the meeting.5300_candles_-_red_-_web

Applicants come for an interview but candidates come for a meeting. Read that again. Same same but different. If you somehow get the two mixed up, you may not stand out as the employer of choice that you thought you were.

Applicants apply for a job and are considered active job seekers. Their resume is typically well drafted, is short and to the point, shows lots of bullet points with accomplishments. They turn up on time, well dressed and rehearsed. Be careful though not to succumb to their dance. They might not be what they appear to.

Candidates on the other hand, they come for a meeting. They will be individuals that headhunters (executive search firms) have probably helped you find. Many talented people who I meet in my job, have not had a resume for years. Never needed one. They come to meet our client because they have been nurtured, because they have been presented with an interesting Employee Value Proposition which have cleverly been sold by the headhunter.

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Here are 10 Great Tips how you prepare for your next interview

  1. Don’t use your lobby and reception area for stock keeping. Even worse, don’t block your entrance and staircase with scrap waiting to be picked up.
  2. Inform the receptionist that you are expecting a person at this time of the day. Remind the receptionist to smile and say: “Nice to see you Khun Sombat”. If his name is Sombat 🙂
  3. Make sure the meeting room has been cleaned from the previous meeting. Remove half empty coffee cups, paper clips, pieces of paper, pens etc. Wipe the white board and put the chairs back in order.
  4. Be on time for the meeting. Show some respect to the applicant or candidate. After all, the person has most likely taken a half day off to come and meet you. Being late for the appointment is a sin and senior managers simply don’t do that.
  5. Be prepared for the meeting. That is not picking up the resume from your secretary as you head for the meeting room. Preparing means reading the resume, preparing the questions you want to ask, sampling annual reports, brochures or a slide presentation, the evening before for the early morning interview. Or first thing in the morning for an interview later in the day.
  6. Please stop using the Application Form. It’s old fashioned and will kill the atmosphere even before you meet the applicant or candidate. I bet you already have their resume so use that wisely. If it turns out that you like the candidate and wish to move to a second round, then at the end of the meeting you may pull the application form out of your hat. If you have to. Even better, wait with these forms until the first day of employment and resist becoming a victim of some silly HR procedure.
  7. Switch off or mute your mobile telephone. Tell your staff that you cannot be disturbed and cannot write cheques at the same time you concentrate on assessing an applicant or candidate. It’s a Do-Not-Disturb hanging on the door handle.
  8. Use behavioural based interview technique which is based on the assumption that past performance and behaviour is the best predictor of future performance and behaviour. They also say leopards don’t change their spots. Questions start like this: Tell me about a time where you, what was your role in, give me an example of when you, describe the part you played in. You should ask for a specific example in a real instance of the candidate’s own action that illustrates, suggests and proves competence in a particular quality such as sales, service, problem solving etc.
  9. End the interview by telling the applicant or candidate what happens next. When do you intend to let them know the result of your process? Keeping the promise of giving feed back is another small piece of the puzzle. You are almost there (if you have done the first eight things on this list). Don’t loose it now.
  10. Return to your desk. Write your observations from the meeting / interview. Make a few points as a conclusion to your assessment of the applicant or candidate you just met.


Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.