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“Failure to prepare, prepare to fail” – Benjamin Franklin – Scott Burnett

It’s always been a mantra close to my heart. Last year I was honored to be given the title of best man at my best friend’s wedding back home. I’m a visual learner and the only way I passed uni was mind maps so, during the 8-hour wait in Doha I put all my thoughts into an A3 piece of paper and mapped out my speech. God bless my poor wee fiancé who was instructed to quiz me at the drop of a hat. I wanted to learn it by heart because I didn’t want to fumble through multiple pieces of paper while former classmates and ex conquests silently judge me. You’ll be happy to know it was a success but that was only due to my diligent swatting motivated by a crippling fear of failure. Preparation is key in our business, both on the client and candidate side. You want to ensure you’re asking the right questions at your client meeting, that you know what roles are live for your candidate interview and that you know every aspect of the profile you’re presenting.

The prep that I do nowadays is split between prepping a candidate for an interview or prepping a would-be consultant on the recruitment industry. The first is something which my fellow recruiters will be more than familiar with if done correctly, it is a component of the recruitment process that can significantly increase your chance of a placement. If you write “interview prep NZ” into google Michael Page, Robert Walters, Robert Half, Yudu, etc. all have tips and guides on how to interview correctly. You would think that dealing with recruiters’ day in day out that they wouldn’t need a lot of prep, you’re wrong. A gentle reminder of the basics is always a good idea and gives some much-needed perspective on what your candidates go through.

I would suggest to candidates to have a look at those helpful tips but for me, the biggest thing when it comes to interviews is questioning and this is for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is a perceived notion that as you are being interviewed you sit quietly and answer questions, that is an interrogation, not an interview. You are more within your rights to ask questions back and I actively encourage it because it flips the dynamic. A quick “what do you enjoy about working here” resets the tone of the interview and reverses whatever ‘power’ you have voluntarily given over, all of a sudden you’re getting the business sold to you! Secondly, it shows that you’re inquisitive which, as I have said previously is a crucial strand in a consultant’s DNA. It also shows enthusiasm, a person who is interested in a role asks questions about it! No client likes to hear “nope, think you’ve answered pretty much everything” when they ask if there is anything else, it smacks of wanting to get out of the interview as quickly as possible.

I have some clients who are just impossible to prep candidates for. Very abstract and off the wall line of questioning; if you had a family crest what would be on it? What colour would you be and why? The last book you read, what character did you identify with most? In fairness, it has the edge on the usual strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, and motivations as it lessens the chance of generic answers. I mean how many times have you heard “workaholic” or “Perfectionist” when asking a candidate about their weaknesses? I feel it can be a fine line regarding prep. On the one hand, you want a candidate to stand the best chance of securing the role that they have been coveting. However, you also want them to be hired because they have shown themselves as the best person for the job, not just a parrot who is regurgitating buzz words. I tend to encourage candidates to do their own research; LinkedIn profiles, About Us sections, putting the name of the agency into Seek to see what jobs are live. It is better for them to organically ask questions about the aspects that are of personal interest to them; development, progression, culture. I would be interested to know what tried and tested methods other recruiters use to prepare their candidates? I would also urge all consultants to take a look at how you currently prep your candidates and if there are areas you can improve, do it! Both you and your candidate base will see the benefit.