How to Identify Great Candidates — From an Expert

By: Sade’ Smith-Tillman

My name is Sade’ Smith-Tillman, I am the owner of Next Generation Career Coaching, and a former HR and lead recruiter. Like most recruiters, I have had my share of not-so-great hires. I have put together this article to share means of identifying great candidates early on during the screening process. Read on to learn how you can avoid the high cost of bad hires.

Start with a clearly defined role.

Taking this initial step will set your recruitment process up for success. As a recruiter or hiring manager, one of the best ways to recognize a great candidate is by picking up the phone and reaching out. Conducting an impromptu conversational phone screen will reveal a lot about the applicant. So often, employers fail to properly pre-screen candidates. Before disqualifying an applicant because their resume lacks a few skills, allow them an opportunity to share information about their previous experience with you, and explain why they expressed interest. In brief, do not expect all candidates to be expert resume writers, you could be overlooking quality talent by counting people out too soon.  

Be sure to follow up.

If you decide to pass on an applicant after thoroughly screening them, do not leave them in the dark questioning whether they are still being considered for the job. Feel free to provide them with suggestions and feedback like working with a career coach or resume writer to help them better communicate their strengths. My company, Next Generation Career Coaching is a great option for job seekers looking to boost interviewing skills and/or stand out with a tailored resume. You do not want to leave a bad impression on an applicant, as this could be someone that may very well be a good fit for a future position. The key to establishing a robust pipeline is cultivating relationships with potential candidates.

Make sure to network.

Speaking of cultivating relationships, are you networking? Networking is just as important for recruiters as it is for job seekers. Ensure that everyone in your network is aware of the job opening that you have and share the job description with them. You will be surprised at the number of awesome resumes and leads that you receive. Also, do not shy away from utilizing current employees because one of the best ways to find great candidates, is to have your current, great employees refer others. Employee referral programs serve as an awesome tool for finding strong, reliable candidates.

Figure out what makes a good candidate.

An important question to consider during the recruitment process is, “what makes a good candidate?” All employers should look for some skills and attributes regardless of the position because they constitute a solid candidate. Some skills can be taught, others not so much. Look for qualities like keen communication skills, leadership, teamwork, confidence, willingness to learn, agility, reliability, problem-solving, critical thinking, and so on. If the candidate does possess top employability skills like the ones mentioned, they are valuable, likely to perform well, and capable of handling just about every task assigned to them.

Additionally, gauge the applicant’s interest. How much do they know about the company and position? Did they do their research? Are they prepared? If so, this is a good indicator that they are interested and serious about the opportunity. As you look for your ideal candidate, there should be a strong connection between the candidate’s character and the company’s goals and values.

Include other employees in the process.

It is also a great idea to include others from the respective department in the interviewing process. This may seem like an extra unnecessary measure, but people who work directly within that position or department have extensive insight, as they fully understand the everyday challenges of the role. They are in a great position to determine which candidates are well-suited and which are not.

Thoroughly vet your candidates.

Finally, finish strong by thoroughly vetting candidates. Do not move forward with a job offer without administering reference and background checks. This step should be a part of every hiring process. With such a huge investment like the cost of hiring at stake, failure to properly verify the information that candidates have shared with you could be detrimental. Partnering with legitimate firms like FirstPoint can help you achieve this last step with confidence.

For over 100 years, businesses have trusted FirstPoint companies to provide the highest level of decision data. FirstPoint Background Screening Resources gives you the information you need, delivered the way you need it, to make the right hiring decisions because poor hiring decisions are expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hiring an unproductive employee can cost employers up to 30 percent of the employee’s first-year earnings, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only does a bad hire cost you money, but it is also bad for business all around. Protect your bottom line by including the suggestions mentioned in this article in your recruitment and hiring process.

Best of luck finding great candidates!

About Next Generation Career Coaching    

Sade’ Smith-Tillman is the owner of Next Generation Career Coaching. As a career development coach, she helps professionals navigate their way through career transitions. Next Generation Career Coaching offers programs and a resume writing service designed to help professionals create a bright future and achieve career fulfillment based on personal strengths, resource leverage, and a credible professional image. If you are currently in the market for a new career, visit

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