Expectations Versus Reality: Candidates in the Hiring Process

From where I’m sitting I’ve seen countless candidates in the market sadly miss out on great opportunities. Often times this was not because they weren’t the best candidate for the position, but rather because they unknowingly sabotaged their chances by making a mistake along the way, or maybe a few. Unfortunately there seems to be a divide between the expectations of candidates and the realities of the marketplace and the hiring process. To make this simple to understand there are typically 4 major areas that I will highlight where candidates simply get it wrong and cost themselves big time.

As a disclaimer, I am generally talking about superior candidates from the passive marketplace. These folks are happily employed, but open to exploring new career opportunities. If a candidate is willing to explore an opportunity with a new organization, it is my belief that their goal then should be to reach the finish line under the best possible circumstances where they can truly make an informed decision as to whether or not this is the best career move. Anything less than this end results and they are doing themselves a disservice.


When it comes to compensation there are two errors that I see candidates make time and time again. The first one is that there is a discrepancy between how much they think they deserve and what is actually realistic/possible. The tough part here is the word VALUE. They deem themselves to have a higher value than a company might. Even if the company does see the intrinsic value of that particular candidate to the organization they often run into internal corporate compression. This means even if they want to offer a certain compensation for a role, they simply cannot because of how much the person above them makes.

The second issue that candidates run into is an inability to weigh present value versus future value. I agree that the now is important, but arguably even more important, especially in terms of career and financial stability is the future. Don’t kill your future because you can’t see past the present. What I’m referring to here is making the initial compensation the entire lynchpin of the candidate’s decision. Even if a candidate is able to negotiate more in a first year salary or bonus, the company will inevitably make up for that with less percentage increase over the course of years and end up in the same spot in the long run. Plus candidates need to consider the overall opportunity in the long run. I often advise them to play things out in a five year side-by-side comparison taking into consideration title, compensation, equity, opportunity, boss, culture, etc… I’ll save the danger of counter-offers for another article entirely.


In any relationship communication is key. The hiring scenario is no different. Candidates that fail to communicate effectively, in a timely manner and with good intentions will be hindering the process and ultimately killing their chances at a great potential opportunity. Time and time again I see candidates, really great candidates, kill an offer or stall the hiring process because of poor communication. Just because they are passive candidates with a solid skill set doesn’t mean they are exempt from using common sense and respectful business etiquette. A particular example I see here is not being forthright about what other options they have in play. I see candidates wanting to stall when they get to the offer stage because they actually are interviewing elsewhere for a competing offer. My advice: a bird in the hand. Don’t jeopardize a current offer with an excellent company and a great opportunity, because as the candidate you may not have as much power as you think in this situation. This is your first time to prove to the new company that you can make decisions in a timely manner and communicate your intentions effectively.


Remaining oblivious to how others view you and how your actions are interpreted by those decision makers that matter can be a death toll. On a regular basis I see and work with candidates who seem to be incognizant or maybe even purposely ignorant about how they are perceived. This presents itself in a few different ways in the hiring process. How a candidate dresses, it matters. What kind of questions a candidate has for the interviewer matters. Candidates need to do their homework on companies and prep for interviews because believe me, the folks on the other side of the desk are taking notice. It’s not uncommon for candidates to call me after an interview and say, “by the end of that interview I was really into the opportunity.” By then it’s probably too late. Their lack of preparation likely killed the deal in the first 10 minutes. In the hiring process and in life in general it is important to have an understanding of how you are perceived by others.


Candidates do have the ability to control their own destiny to a certain degree, but often neglect to take advantage where they can. In the interview for instance I urge candidates to ask the hiring manager exactly what they are looking for in the position. By doing so the candidate can then relate how their particular skill sets in those areas are a perfect match. Failure to do so is like trying to hit a dart board in the dark. You have no idea where it is, let alone, what wall it is even on, making it next to impossible to hit. Take control and illuminate the room so you have a chance to hit the dart board and give yourself the best chance at successfully getting offered the opportunity under desirable circumstances.

If the desired outcome is to get to the finish line so that a well informed decision can be made, candidates need to be cognizant of communication, compensation, perception and control. Being keenly aware of their actions and the realities of the situation in these four areas present the best chance at successfully getting an offer and a possible new opportunity.

If you have any questions, thoughts, comments or would like to discuss further please check us out at The Swan Group or email me at steve@swangroup.net