6 Interview Strategies for Candidate-Driven Markets


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we’re witnessing some of the lowest unemployment figures in the past 18 years. While there’s much to celebrate, the shifting trend has also brought with it some challenging consequences for hiring managers.

In some industries and areas of the country, the disparity between demand and supply are being reported to being as high as 3 jobs for every 1 qualified candidate.  Top performers are being heavily courted, and companies that do not treat their workforce well are experiencing the double whammy of increased attrition, plus difficulty in filling open roles.

Because of this, in-demand candidates are in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose between multiple offers. According to USA Today, a startling number of candidates,  estimated to be anywhere from 20-30% , are not even showing  up for the initial  interview!

The fact is, in this candidate driven market, there are some key differences in how companies should modify their current interview protocols.

To assist our readers in landing the best talent available, in this blog, we’ll present the top interview strategies for candidate-driven markets.

Be Flexible!

If a recruiter delivers a high performing candidate, consider the wisdom in not mandating that they have an updated resume prior to interviewing. If we are able to convince a passive candidate …ie a person that is currently doing well in their role and not actively looking, …to explore another opportunity, it makes sense to be flexible on your interview requirements. Often times a link to their LinkedIn profile can suffice to outline their job history.  Also consider making yourself available after hours or during the weekend to accommodate someone that is currently working full-time.

Put on your Selling Hat!

One of the biggest differences we see in this type of market is the mindset of the candidate. For passive candidates in particular, it is important for the hiring manager to make a point to put on his selling hat, and talk about the company culture, career path, etc. Hopefully if you are working with a good recruiter, she will tell you the key motivation for someone willing to consider making a move, so you can then focus on that topic in particular.

  • When a candidate and a hiring manager meet and both expect to be ‘sold’ on the other, it never ends well.

Regardless if your candidate is a ‘passive’ candidate that a recruiter brought to your attention, or if he is actively looking, the fact is that exceptional candidates are currently in the enviable position to pick and choose who they work for, so spend some time at the onset of your meeting to expand on the positives that your company offers.

Little things do add up, so be sure to offer the candidate a beverage,  and consider having an informal seating arrangement as opposed to the standard desk and chair to conduct the interview.

Meeting for coffee or lunch is also a terrific idea especially for passive candidates, that may be uncomfortable going into a direct competitors office space.

Ask the Right Questions

For starters, please prepare for your meeting!

Study the candidates background prior to your interview, and please be on time!  It is not a great first impressive when a candidate comes in for a meeting and is left cooling their heels for 45 minutes in the lobby.   Prior to the actual meeting, a lot of thought needs to be put into the job description, and the mandatory and preferred skill sets that your ideal candidate needs to have. After the initial 15-30  minutes when you focus on what the company has to offer in terms of stability, culture, etc., you can then start to delve into the actual role, and you can start to drill down into the interviewee’s background and experience, seeing how it matches up to your current hiring needs. What sort of soft and hard skills should a suitable candidate have? What sort of certifications must they possess? Should they have multiple specializations? These questions enable the interviewer to focus on the core aptitude and skill set necessary to carry out the job. A simply google search will offer 100 good interview questions. Study those and then expand and customize them to fit your particular needs.

Speed up your Interview Process!

Make no mistake about it…your competitors are courting top talent and are flying them through their vetting process. While by no means are we suggesting that you cut corners, we do want to stress how important it is to have a streamlined interview process in place.

You should have a clear step-by-step process, that involves evaluating a candidate’s qualifications, and having them meet key decision makers within the company.

  • If your interview process takes more than 30 days from start to finish, you are not being competitive, and it will ultimately be a waste of time for all involved.

While interviewing for a job is obviously business, there are still a lot of personal feelings that are involved. When it takes a week or two to get back to a candidate inviting them to move forward in the process, a plethora of negative emotions have already happened.  If your competitor has an initial meeting and is so impressed with a candidate that they immediately set up a secondary meeting, and you are not getting back to them for a week, which company do you think the candidate is going to feel better about?

There is a massive difference between having a candidate engaged in your interview process and having the next meeting scheduled, as opposed to simply being told they are still in the evaluation process, with no  further meetings scheduled.

Even if you need to wait a week for the next step, having that scheduled lets the person know that they are actively engaged in the process and are definitely moving forward. Simply telling them that you are continuing to interview other candidates and will get back to the ones that you decide to move forward with sends an entirely different message, and it isn’t good!

When a candidate is not scheduled for the next step, but is left to linger, they inevitably feel that the company is looking for someone better, and feelings of rejection come into play.

Ideally, if an interview goes well, smart hiring managers set up the next meeting prior to having the candidate leave the meeting.  

Determine the Cultural Fit

Given how diverse workplaces have become, gauging the candidate’s adaptability is vital. Formulate questions that help you check a potential candidate’s attitude towards the job and whether they would fit into your business culture.

For second round interviews, utilizing situational interview strategies will provide a wealth of information in how your applicant will respond to situations that he may well encounter while on the job.

We also suggest taking advantage of some of the tremendous behavioral testing tools that are now available. Utilizing tools such as Predictive Indexing will allow you to determine if a candidate will mesh with your current employees. Study after study shows that one of the primary reasons that people quit a new job within the first 90 days is because they do not feel like they fit into the company culture. The importance of evaluating the match culture wise as well as technical skills cannot be over-emphasized.

Let Them Down Easy!

For those candidates that take valuable time to explore employment at your firm, that you do not choose to extend an offer to, please take the time to alert them that they are no longer in consideration. Sending a well-crafted letter, thanking them for their time and letting them know that it was a difficult decision, will go a long way to help with a company’s reputation.

It is amazing how many companies do not extend the most basic of courtesies when passing on a candidate. Word gets around, and today’s rejected candidate may be tomorrows superstar that is being heavily pursued.

It literally just takes minutes to do the right thing, and everyone that invests the time in an interview deserves to know exactly where they stand in the process.

Companies that fail to do the ‘little things’ typically fail to do the bigger things as well, and  if you claim to value your employees, and declare that you treat them with respect, that should also extend to all people that have expressed an interest in joining your company.



These are just a few strategies that can help companies secure top talent in today’s candidate-driven markets.

Still facing difficulty in filling important positions? International Search Consultants has been a leader in executive recruitment since 1999 . Please feel free to reach out to us for help in strategizing on your ideal candidate profile, and to ensure that you have a solid pool of qualified candidates for all of your critical fill roles.  Contact us today to get started!

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of ISC and can be reached at or direct dial at 888-866-7276.

Anna Souers  is Director of ISC’s team of Financial Services Recruiters. Anna can be reached at or direct dial at 800-450-3808.