Ask The Headhunter: How Smart Employers Can Help You Get Hired

HR managers who tell you what to expect in the interview are doing you -- and their employers -- a favor.

By Nick Corcodilos

An employer who tells you what to expect in the interview -- imagine that! There's no benefit to the employer in trying to trick the interviewee. Photo courtesy of David Gould via Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees -- just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: I'm a training and placement specialist and a long-time subscriber to the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter. I'd like to share an email one of our clients received confirming an interview. I've changed the identifying information, but otherwise this is exactly how it was written. I love it when employers tell us what they expect. Too often, we are left to guess. What do you think of this approach to interview invitations?

Chris Walker Employment & Training Solutions Akron, Ohio


Letter received by a job applicant:

Dear Joe,

You are confirmed to interview on Thursday November 17, 2011. You will be interviewing for the Mechanic position with [XYZ, Inc.]. The meeting will take place at the address and time listed below

ADDRESS 1234 Main St Akron, OH 44313 (330) 888-8888

INTERVIEW SCHEDULE 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

INTERVIEWERS [name], Vice President, Operations [name], Manager, Process Control [name], Electrical Engineer

INTERVIEW PREPARATION During your interview, you should expect to be asked behavioral-based questions where your responses need to be specific and detailed. Be ready to share several examples from your past experience -- jobs, projects, teams, volunteer work -- where you demonstrated strong behaviors and skills, and think in terms of examples that will show off your selling points. Be sure to come prepared with both positive and negative examples.

To learn more about XYZ products and services visit [our website].

Contact me with any questions.

Thank you.

[name], MBA Director, Human Resources


Nick Corcodilos: Gee -- imagine that! An interview invitation that includes the actual names of interviewers a candidate will meet and talk with. Most employers won't disclose this information for fear that the candidate might actually call them prior to the interview. Perish the thought!

That's right, HR managers don't want anyone bothering their managers with questions about an open job -- least of all people who are about to invest their valuable time in a job interview. It's better to let the applicant show up guessing what the employer wants, rather than help a candidate get hired by sharing a clear set of expectations. (The smarter alternative for managers is to open the door.)

Why don't employers do everything they can to help you get hired? For that matter, why don't managers invest heavily in interview futures, rather than shop for talent at the last minute?

MORE FROM NICK CORCODILOS: Ask The Headhunter: You Think YOU Have Job Troubles?

Most employers don't want to tip their hand about what you will be asked in a job interview. That would be giving it all away and it would destroy the element of surprise! Why enable candidates to prepare before they interview? Better to let them show up wondering! Do these same managers also give their employees surprise assignments without any suggestions about how to do the work?

Employers behave like total dopes when they schedule interviews. It's a rare employer that actually helps the candidate prepare. My hat is off to this organization -- it clearly believes that helping a candidate succeed in the job interview will help make a better hire.

But I'd take this further. As an employer, I would:

Call the candidate in advance and suggest specific resources the candidate should use to prepare for the interview. Offer to let the candidate talk with team members to ask questions so he or she can prepare fully for the interview. Conduct a "cook's tour" of the facility prior to the interview, so the candidate can see firsthand what the work -- and the business -- is all about. (See "Kick the candidate out of your office.") Tell the candidate to be ready to explain or demonstrate how he or she would do the job effectively and profitably.

Some employers might scoff that this would be a waste of time and claim that the purpose of the interview is to discuss all these things. I say bunk. A good manager would never blind-side an employee with a work assignment. A good manager would encourage and help an employee prepare in advance to help ensure success. The point of a job interview is to expedite hiring a capable candidate -- so why not help ensure success by prepping the candidate? It's all the same challenge: to get the work done!

Why do managers and HR folks act like a job interview is some sort of trick, where they try to see if they can get the applicant to stumble and make a mistake? Could it be that some managers and HR people have no idea how to assess a candidate's ability to do the job -- so they play childish games instead? Let's keep in mind that interviewing people is a way of working with them to get a job done -- it's not a gauntlet designed to intimidate the applicant.

Dear readers: Help extend my list of what an employer can do to help a candidate prepare for an interview -- and to help the candidate succeed.

What would you like to see employers do to help you get hired -- and to help themselves efficiently fill a job and get the work done? What would you add to the list of helpful information offered by the employer in Chris Walker's example? Is anything "too much," or how extreme could an employer get?

Special thanks to Chris for sharing "a live one" from one of his clients. This is a great topic -- especially if hiring managers are out there listening!

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters...and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?", "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps" and "Fearless Job Hunting."

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow @PaulSolman