Coaching the Un-Coachable

The staffing industry is in every vertical, some just more so than others: IT, health care, construction, administration to name a few. While each candidate is a presumed expert in their respective field, they are definitely not experts in the interview process.  As a recruiter, this is your domain and you should feel empowered to coach candidates since you do this for a living. Taking the time to coach your candidates on their resume, their interview, and their professionalism (including attire) are all part of your core competencies – never sell yourself short! Positioning yourself as a trusted advisor helps you make the placement while solidifying a strong relationship.

When attempting to coach someone, it’s best to start out soft.

Approach inadequacies in their resume or professional dress with tact. By letting your candidate know that you are on their team, you can move out of the competitive zone and into the cooperative zone. The “compliment sandwich” works well to establish this kind of dynamic. An example for someone with a less than stellar resume:  “the companies you have worked with really jump out on your resume, but make sure to add bullet points that make your work stand out as well – this will allow the hiring manager to form a positive opinion of not only the companies you worked with, but how and what you contributed.”

Ask questions that empower, not degrade, your candidate.

As a recruiter, you have had professionalism drilled into you since day one. It has become a part of you. So when a candidate bombs an interview over reasons that may be incomprehensible to you, keep in mind that they do not participate in the interview process every day of their lives. By asking questions that lead your candidates to the answer, you can coach without technically coaching, making your candidate feel empowered and as a result, more cooperative.

Knowing when to disengage.

There’s an old adage when it comes to sales, and I’m paraphrasing here, but it goes like: “lose fast.”  Make sense?  Sometimes you get the un-coachable or the candidate who knows all and you do not have the ability to influence them.  That is a recipe for disaster.  As a recruiter, your colleague on the BD side took a lot of time to cultivate the relationship with the hiring manager so you can position yourself as a trusted advisor to your candidate – be very weary of candidates who can jeopardize that relationship.  If you feel your advice isn’t resonating, you have the ability and duty to disengage that candidate from the interview process.  It’s better to lose a deal than lose a relationship.


Don’t be afraid to coach and know how to deliver a critique. Most importantly, listen to your intuition.  If you get the feeling that candidate isn’t taking your advice in an interview prep, don’t be afraid to cancel the interview until they are coachable. 


Kate Jacoutot

Spire Workforce Solutions, 5575 Peachtree Dunwoody Road Northeast, Building C, Suite 240, Sandy Springs, GA, 30342, United States