coaching a candidate

In today’s fast-paced world, most companies simply don’t have that much time to dedicate to recruiting and hiring. Although employees are the backbone of any organization, companies often end up with a haphazard process of finding and hiring top talent. In most cases, this occurs through no fault of their own—finding good employees is hard and even with the help of recruiters, companies can still end up with bad hires.

This, then, becomes an opportunity for recruiters. Recruiters are hiring specialists who use their expertise to find the most qualified candidates for a job. The hiring decision ultimately lies with the hiring manager, of course, but hiring managers tend to rely heavily on recruiters’ recommendations. Whether the recruiter works within the company, for an agency, or is independent, the recruiter’s job is to seek, vet, and recommend candidates. Companies depend on recruiters to find the perfect candidate, putting a lot of pressure on recruiters. This can potentially lead to problems if recruiters think that coaching their candidates will make them more attractive.

What does it mean to coach a candidate?

Recruiters can seek candidates in any number of ways—from within the company itself, through industry contacts, on social media platforms, or even by poaching them from competitors. Once a recruiter finds someone who seems like the perfect match for a position, the recruiter begins a process to bring the candidate on board. This can include making the initial contact, conducting a preliminary interview, and coaching the candidate.

The process of walking a candidate through what to expect and what to say at the job interview is known as “coaching.” While there can be many benefits to guiding an applicant through the interview process, this can also lead to false appearances and a potential bad hire.

When is coaching a candidate a good idea?

Coaching a candidate can be appropriate in certain circumstances, such as when a recruiter helps a candidate identify what to highlight during the interview. Say a recruiter finds a programmer who seems perfect for a certain position within a tech company. Through coaching, the recruiter can help the candidate identify personal and professional strengths—the skills and experience that will make the applicant stand out from the rest. The recruiter can also help the candidate determine how best to describe those strengths so the hiring manager will have no trouble grasping the candidate’s expertise.

A candidate who tends to get nervous or hasn’t had many interviews in the past can also benefit from coaching. In these instances, the recruiter can do mock interviews with the candidate in preparation for the real thing. That way the candidate will feel more comfortable and better prepared to meet with the person doing the hiring.

When is coaching a candidate a bad idea?

Since some candidates can clearly benefit from coaching, when is coaching a candidate a bad idea? The answer: coaching is wrong when it enters the realm of deception, exaggeration, or interference.

In some cases—such as when recruiters’ earnings depend on how many people they place—the pressure that recruiters feel to find candidates can lead them to push the wrong candidate for a job. For example, a recruiter may know a candidate doesn’t have the right skills for a job, but will coach the candidate to say things a certain way to make it seem like the skills are there. Because the candidate was practically handed a script, the job is offered and accepted, and in time it becomes clear that this new hire was the wrong choice.

Helping a candidate identify and highlight strengths is one thing, but coaching can lead candidates to exaggerate their expertise to the point of deception. The company ends up with an employee who is ill-prepared for the tasks at hand, and has to spend more time and money finding someone new.

Coaching candidates on how to show their best side is useful, but making them into someone they think the company wants—someone the candidate is not—is a real problem for the company, the recruiter, and the candidate.

For the recruiter, continuously placing unsuitable candidates can lead a company to stop using the recruiters’ services.

For the candidate, being placed in a job that’s the wrong fit means potentially having to quit and start a job search all over again.

Even worse for the company, a candidate might decide to stay even though the candidate neither has the right skills nor fits in with the company culture, thus becoming the cause of slower productivity and potentially bad attitudes or lower morale.

What are other pros and cons of candidate coaching? Do you think it’s a worthwhile practice, or should recruiters stop coaching candidates?

Eric Friedman

eSkill Author Eric

Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of online skills testing for pre-employment assessment and benchmarking. Eric has degrees in Psychology and Business, and a fascination with matching people with roles they’re best at, and that they enjoy.

A company built on exceptional talent from Internet technology, test development, and iterative product development, eSkill leads as an independent assessment company helping HR departments with relevant and accurate job-based tests.

To learn more about Eric and eSkill, visit the company website at, or contact him on LinkedIn.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick