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It’s a Monday morning. You grab your cup of coffee, start up your computer, and quickly browse your inbox before jumping over to your calendar. Your day is jam-packed, including an intake meeting with a hiring manager for a new client.

You totally forgot about it. You were supposed to do some prep this weekend but never had a chance. You think to yourself, “No worries! I’ve done these before. This one shouldn’t be any different.” Then you proceed to clear out your inbox and make a few calls without giving the meeting a second thought. You later arrive to the client site no better informed than you were earlier that morning.

Sure, your meeting goes alright. You ask the standard questions, fill in a few missing details, and go on your way ready to source for the role. Except, sourcing candidates for this role will be a lot like trying to solve a puzzle without all of the pieces.

Yes, you’ll have an idea of the big picture, but you’ll inevitably forget to ask important questions and will likely miss key details. Details that are important to making a great hire, and great hires mean more business.

Preparation is key, and the smartest, most experienced recruiter in the world can’t outperform someone who has done their homework. The problem is you won’t notice the negative effects until after you have put in hours recruiting for the role.

To make sure you never again go into another intake feeling unprepared, develop and commit to a repeatable process to help with your preparation. Here are some things to consider.

Block Time on your Calendar for Prep

This one is so obvious that it almost feels unnecessary to mention. But against all logic, I’ve decided to add it to this list. Why? Because we have all had those days. Days where you wake up feeling so ambitious that you feel like you can take on the world or at the very least tackle your entire to-do list. Except something inevitably pops up that derails those plans. In my case, something that is only supposed to take one hour inevitably turns into four with no end in sight.

It’s a fact of life. The problem is your intake meeting will still happen whether or not you prepared. Instead of assuming you’ll eventually get to it, be proactive and block some time your calendar for prep as soon as the meeting is scheduled. Most importantly, stick to it. Your future self will thank you.

Review the Client’s Glassdoor, Careers & Social Media Pages

Any person who has ever spent more than five minutes on LinkedIn knows they should research the hiring company prior to their interview. But, that advice isn’t limited only to job seekers. As a third-party recruiter, put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and spend some time researching the company.

Look for materials and resources you can share with candidates later on to generate excitement or help influence their decision. Also, look for red flags potential candidates may point out, discuss them with the hiring manager, and develop a strategy for how to address them when the question is asked.

Build a Form to Cover the Basics

Every intake meeting follows a similar format where a lot of the same questions are asked time and time again — salary range, job requirements, etc. The problem is even on the best of days you may forget to ask something important, or worse, you may make assumptions based on what we already know.

Part of being a great recruiter means knowing which questions to ask and then actually asking them. Using a structured form to guide you allows you to breathe easy knowing you won’t forget to ask something and offers consistency across all your intake meetings.

Review the Job Description

Have you ever sat through a presentation where the presenter read right from the slides? I’m sure you have been there. I usually end up silently looking around wondering why they didn’t send me the deck to read on my own and watching others who are too captivated by their phones to notice what is happening. Going into an intake without carefully reviewing the job description is pretty much the same thing.

Be respectful of the hiring manager’s time as well as your own time, and thoughtfully review the job description before you go into the meeting. Take notes, suggest edits, and jot down any questions you may have. There’s bonus points if you find a way to incorporate your notes into the form mentioned in the previous step.

Share Resumes of Possible Candidates

Full transparency here. I stole this one from Stacy Zapar’s recent presentation at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect 2017, but it’s so good it needs to be shared.

Stacy recommends coming prepared with resumes you sourced based on the spec and have the hiring manager read them out loud. While the hiring manager is reviewing them, you’re likely to learn all sorts of new things, including preferences and dislikes. Information you are unlikely to learn from your standard questions.

Ask for Timelines & Set Expectations

I learned a valuable lesson recently. Perception is everything. Yes, if you’re my previous boss or you know him, you can tell him he was right.

The truth is no matter how hard you work or how many hours you spend on a task, all people know is what they see. It’s up to you to manage perceptions.

A good way to build a strong working relationship with the hiring manager is to ask for timelines and set expectations upfront. Then, meet them. When you do, there’s never any ambiguity or cause for alarm, and you build trust. If you happen to surpass expectations, well chances are their next open req is coming your way.

The truth is these steps are simple. Things you have likely heard a million times before. But, talent only gets you so far. It’s preparation that separates the great recruiters apart from the rest.

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