Understanding your applicant thoroughly: Guidance for managers

Managers often encounter this scenario: a candidate appears ideal on paper and performs well during interviews, yet doesn’t turn out to be the perfect fit once employed. This situation is frustrating for both the manager and the employee. How can managers genuinely understand a candidate within the limited timeframe of the interview process? Els de Bruin, Head of account management, offers her expert advice.

Marjolein Jansen
Marjolein Jansen

Mastering the matching process

“Managers should not underestimate the significance of a personality match,” Els advises. “Aiming for a lasting partnership, the compatibility must extend beyond job responsibilities to include team dynamics and company culture. The candidate’s motivations and genuine interest are as crucial as their professional qualifications. It’s essential to ascertain whether they truly wish to join your organisation to prevent mismatches during the hiring process.”

“Els recounts a young professional who was hired for his exceptional communication skills during an impressive interview. However, the role demanded more technical expertise than anticipated, resulting in a mismatch. Despite this, the management recognised his value due to the strong personal connection and successfully reassigned him within the company. This example highlights the importance of personal compatibility, offering more flexibility and solutions.”

Creating the right environment for a positive beginning

The interview’s success is not solely determined by the questions asked but by the atmosphere established by the manager. “Creating an approachable environment is essential. The initial conversation sets the tone for future interactions and determines whether the candidate will feel comfortable addressing concerns,” emphasises Els. “A candidate’s nervousness typically indicates the interview’s significance. Maintaining an accessible attitude on your part by beginning the conversation in a relaxed manner can alleviate the tension. As a result, the genuine personality of the candidate may surface earlier.”

Selecting the appropriate interviewer can significantly impact the candidate’s comfort and engagement. “For instance, selecting a young, international colleague to interview a young professional can foster a stronger connection,” Els notes. Representation matters in creating an inclusive atmosphere.

By reviewing the candidate’s resume and preparing personalised questions in advance, managers demonstrate their genuine interest. “Exploring their career choices provides insights into their values and decision-making process, revealing more about their personality,” Els explains.

Beyond the standard questions

Uncovering a candidate’s personality, skills, and cultural fit in a brief interview is challenging but essential. Presenting complex scenarios that require thoughtful responses can shed light on the candidate’s adaptability and creativity.

“Introducing realistic challenges tests their practical skills and cultural alignment. Discussing your company’s core values and how the candidate would embody them in real-life situations offers a clear perspective on their integration into your team and culture.”

lachende vrouw portret


If you want to discuss scenarios during the job interview, there are several approaches you can take. The first option is to introduce a general case during the conversation. In this instance, the specific answer is less important than the journey to that answer. This approach provides a clear insight into the candidate’s reasoning and thought processes. How does the candidate think, is the explanation logical, and when do they seek assistance? Another option is to ask the candidate how they envision achieving success in the first three months. How realistic (or not) is their response? Do their expectations align with reality?

Identifying true motivation

Genuinely motivated candidates offer in-depth answers, understand the company culture, and link their skills directly to the job requirements. They pose insightful questions, indicating thorough preparation and a real interest in the role and organisation.

“Watch for inconsistencies or vague responses. Authentic motivation is detailed and personal, while superficial interest often manifests as general or unfocused answers. Engage in an open dialogue, allowing candidates to express and reflect,” Els recommends.

Transparency about the role and the organisation enables a realistic assessment of the candidate’s fit and motivation. “Conveying the actual challenges and opportunities allows for an accurate evaluation of the candidate’s potential contribution,” Els adds.

So, I heard a manager say to an applicant: “This isn’t the glamorous department where we’re crafting the model landscape. We deal with a lot of data and complex systems; you’ll be getting your hands dirty here.” It might feel strange, but it’s always best not to sugarcoat things!

"Some questions that we ask with good intentions can be considered rude in other cultures, leading to misunderstandings."

Addressing cultural and generational nuances

With an increasing number of internationals in the workforce, it’s crucial to understand and respect cultural nuances during interviews. “Proper preparation and understanding of the candidate’s cultural background promotes respect and understanding,” states Els. “Adapting your approach to suit the candidate’s cultural context can prevent misunderstandings. “In our individualistic culture, it’s common to talk about yourself, your hobbies, and where you’re from during an introduction. In contrast, in a collective culture, a personal introduction during such a conversation typically focuses solely on work.”

Some questions that we ask with good intentions can be considered rude in other cultures, leading to misunderstandings. For example, the common interview question “What are you proud of in your career?” can be quite unusual and therefore uncomfortable in a collective culture. In such cases, it’s better to ask a different question.

Leading diverse generations requires openness and appreciation for different perspectives. “Show respect for the insights of younger generations and the experience of older ones,” Els concludes. “Understanding the characteristics of various age groups can improve the interview process and mutual learning. “Demonstrate that you value both the fresh insights of younger generations and the experience of older ones,” Els continues. “Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of the different generations in the workplace. A young candidate can learn a lot from your team, but also consider what you can learn from the candidate. Be curious!”

Want to know more?

With our extensive experience in mediating between young professionals and managers, we know what works. Els is here to discuss how to refine your interviewing techniques.

Arrange a meeting