January 27th, 2021

TJ Kastning

Here’s some advice that probably won’t sell well in this candidate tight market but it needs to be heard since the candidate crunch is motivating interviewers to oversell the job.

Overselling causes unmet expectations and lots of painful turnover.

If you are not ‘unselling’ the position in the interview you are missing an opportunity to cut your turnover.

Each company and role has expectations that aren’t for everyone. If you’ve seen turnover and conducted exit interviews, you should know how to share these to scare off those who will struggle in the position or in your culture.

By sharing the reality of the position you can empower the interviewee to wisely decline or conscientiously commit. This is closely related to another article we published on employment expectation setting.

Trying to empower the wrong people to succeed is a herculean waste. Often you won’t want to hire again after that kind of experience.

The right candidates will find their attraction and resolve to join the team even greater when shown the challenge and unique cultural nuance.

This is the kind and honest way to interview. You can feel really good about helping candidates self-select out.


I recruit for recruiters but you can transpose these examples to your own context.

Recruiting has been teaching me painful lessons for a while now and I’ve been taking notes.

I know why people fail at my firm. I know why they fail generally in the industry. I know, to some degree, how my firm might differ from others on culture, process, and values. And I’ll never stop studying this.

When someone fails at my firm, I take it as my own failure.

  1. I failed to ask the right questions
  2. Failed to set the right expectations
  3. Failed to perceive their character properly
  4. Failed to spend enough time to get past their interview veneer


In recruiting, the bar for entry is very low and the bar for success is very high. Consequently, industry turnover is ridiculous. Industry-wide (not ASG), the pipeline is largely college graduates with little life, sales, or business experience. It is brutal for the fledgling recruiters and frustrating for the poor victims they learn on.

Side note; this is why recruiting has a stigma for being unprofessional. There are gobs of green recruiters trying their best to survive like little sea turtles trying to make it to the sea before the gulls get them. A lot goes wrong.

As you know, turnover, particularly in high-training positions, is exhausting. It takes at least one to two years as a recruiter to get a grip on what the whole process looks like. It’s hard (impossible really) to set expectations because it’s so complicated. The only way to see if you have what it takes is to try.

I’ve been doing this for 13 years and see unprecedented weird situations every week. There are broader trends but then people do really strange stuff. No one has seen it all.

Turnover is common in sales roles, and particularly extreme in high-stakes consultative sales where either party may not share their cards.

Selling a physical product that doesn’t change its mind sounds wonderful.

I like to tell candidates that “It’s a terrible job, but a wonderful career.”


So my recruiting candidate needs to understand what they are getting themselves into. They might be successful in another firm but that doesn’t mean we have the same expectations.

What do they need to understand?

  • They need to understand how hard it is to understand the human complexity of recruiting from the outside looking in. Most recruiters we’ve hired, despite hours of painstaking expectation-setting (job shadowing, showing the challenges, warnings of emotional ups and downs, etc), still say they didn’t really understand how deep recruiting is when they joined.
  • It can be boring. There are immense numbers of candidates to find, sift, engage, categorize, and screen and a huge skillset to do just that. And that’s before the person has even talked to the client.
  • Recruiting demands quick thinking and articulation. People make credibility judgements fast. You must be helpful faster to earn trust.
  • Leveraging technology is a must, thus, you must enjoy it. The fax machine and the roledex are gone. It’s all about AI, database quality, data sources, texting, email, and finding things online that other people can’t.
  • It’s not about the money for us. This one is hard because people go into sales to make money. You have to find fulfillment in service here. This is a big one.We know that if we serve well, the money will come. But get those out of order and you have a recipe for terrible unethical recruiting that hurts everyone. Not only is unethical recruiting reprehensible immoral, it’s also dumb.We expect our recruiters to have a long-term perspective, a career perspective, that prioritizing the truth and goals of clients and candidates is the ONLY way to build a sustainable successful recruiting business. Sometimes there’s an immediate perceived financial cost to honesty, but the payoff is priceless trust.
  • The list goes on, but you get the point.


If you are introspective you will recognize how your firm or team is different then the average. Industry networking and hiring outside perspective can all help.

Your culture and process has unique demands to succeed within it. Can you articulate them?

Do not assume because someone was successful with a strong peer competitor that they share the same motivations, processess, or definitions. Unspoken naive assumptions are the most frustrating and preventable reasons for things not working out.

Both your and the candidate’s assumptions are out to get you. They will teach you yet another painful lesson that you DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS!

If recruiting has taught me anything about companies, it’s that they are as diverse as the people who found them. Can you specify your version of that diversity?

Companies become leaders in their sectors because they are passionate about getting the details right. That takes excruciating work. Every excellent company has jobs with high expectations.

What are your high expectations?


As we are discussing all these gory details I keep asking some version of “Are you sure you really want to do this? This is super hard. What makes you think you would be successful and enjoy it here?”

And I don’t chase candidates. If you persuade people into joining a huge challenge, they are much more likely to quit when adversity shows up. They have to know what they are signing up for.

I pay close attention to their motivations and help them see how the job is or isn’t in alignment with those motivations.

So I really mean it when I say “To not make the wrong hire is a big win.”

Some might see the time that is “wasted” but you have to interview those people anyways. Cut your losses at the interviewing hours. Don’t let that sunk cost fallacy suck-punch you.


This isn’t badmouthing your company. Be proud and be clear.


  1. Develop more insight by conducting rigorous exit interviews of people who leave AND those who managed them. If you were the manager, have someone interview you. Look for inconsistency in perspective between manager and employee. Learn what the perspective should have been on that candidate and how expectations should have been set. This is a test of organizational integrity. In a blame-focused company, people will shade the truth to look good and turnover will not improve.
  2. Ask employees why they stay. What do they like? How would they describe the culture? What’s unique in their perspective?“What adjectives? Why those adjectives?”
  3. Pay close attention to your interviewee’s motivations and don’t be afraid to question them if something seems off. If you hire them, what are you on the hook to help them accomplish? Can you do it?!“I understand you are interested in earning more but tell me why you think this would be a good fit since it takes a few years to learn this business and develop greater earning potential?”
  4. Be disciplined about sharing challenges and setting expectations. Don’t wing it. You will forget key details that may be the crux of future disappointment. Use a checklist.
  5. Ask lots of follow-up exploratory questions about how the candidate perceives the job, challenges, and opportunity. This should be a robust conversation.

This kind of interview is really hard to game. It’s raw. It’s honest. It’s collaborative. It’s time-consuming!

People respect it though. They see the care you have for your team, culture, and company. Good candidates will work hard to make the hiring decision self-evident.

Convincing the wrong people to join our team makes life way too hard and business unenjoyable