Season 1: Finding and keeping great people

Suky Sodhi Founder, Recruitment Coach and Speaker

Uncovering Candidate Motivators: 3 Strategies for Successful Recruiting

In an era post-pandemic, and if some are to be believed, we are in the midst of the global markets softening. Some even believe we’re heading into a recession. Only last week, Salesforce laid off 10% of its workforce, as other technology companies did in the previous month.

Many have referred to the mass layoffs as cost-cutting measures to prepare for the next downturn. While that might be true for some companies, I believe it’s simply “right-sizing” for most, especially within technology. Over the last two years, we have all seen crazy salaries being offered to secure talent, which has increased salaries dramatically. I’ve seen recruiters’ base salaries increase by 20% and, in some cases, as much as 45%. Without a doubt, some were previously underpaid. But these are not the recruiters I’m referring to.

As a result of the company’s “right-sizing,” there is some fantastic talent on the market looking for their next career move. But how do you, as a potential employer, ensure that you’re hiring the best available talent on the market? Not those that simply moved to get a high base salary but failed to achieve the agreed-upon expectations?

Here are three strategies to incorporate into your current hiring process.

Ask questions with a healthy dose of curiosity.

What exactly does this mean? After all, isn’t the whole idea of an interview to ask questions? Yes, it is. But in my experience, many hiring managers will have behavioral interview questions or a set of predetermined questions that they ask in a particular order.

Instead, start having actual conversations and simply get curious. Allow the ample candidate time to take the conversation along any path they choose. Join them on that journey with a healthy dose of curiosity. Where appropriate and relevant, interject with straightforward questions adding that healthy dose of curiosity. Let’s be clear here. The aim is not to try and catch them in an exaggeration or a lie. The aim is to allow the candidate to tell their story in their own words. Your job is to listen, ask clarifying questions, to assess their suitability. The reality is that some candidates simply get incredibly nervous in an interview. Adopting a more conversational approach allows the candidate to relax and not feel like it’s a pass or fail.

Stop and listen.

Often during an interview, we’re so busy formulating our next question or looking at that list of questions in front of us that we fail to stop and listen to what is being said or not being said, as the case may be. When we stop and genuinely become present and listen, we allow ourselves to truly understand the candidate’s journey, personality, and motivators. In return, it allows you to assess their cultural fit and area of expertise. In other words, can they do the job?

More importantly, take this one step further and listen to what is not being said. Often, golden nuggets get missed as we formulate our next question. An example could be a candidate who never acknowledges how they contributed to a problematic situation. Human nature is such that when something goes well, we tend to share the experience but shy away from talking about the less positive side of life.

How do they acknowledge and take accountability when things don’t go right? A great example is a salesperson leaving their current employer because they don’t like being micromanaged. Listen to how they talk about their current manager—the pressure they are feeling. In other words, do they recognize that if they were “doing the activity,” the manager might not be putting so much pressure? We all know no manager wants to micromanage, but sometimes they end up micromanaging because the individual won’t self-manage.


Traditionally we all like to do some form of reference or employment verifications after an offer has been extended and verbally accepted. Even then, a reference from their current employer is not taken until after the candidate has resigned.

Consider asking a hypothetical reference question. Be very careful to set the stage correctly with your candidate. (You don’t want your candidate to think you will call their current manager). Ask this one-pointed question, stop talking, become present, and listen. “If I were to call your current manager and ask for a reference, what would you think they would say?” Most candidates have never been asked this question and need a moment to process and think through their responses. Regardless of how they answer the question, I want you to bring that curiosity hook back and explore this further. This will give you an insight into how they view their current situation, their relationship with their hiring manager, and their level of accountability.

Ultimately, we deal with people; and that means there is no one way of interviewing. As such, we need a combination of strategies in our interview toolkit. Culture is not built by machines. It’s built by individuals. The success of the company is built by the individual’s technical skills combined with your ability to uncover the “golden nuggets during your hiring process.