By Nicholas Buck

An appointment process should essentially be a conversation. There are two parties – candidate and hirer – and it’s important that both get as much relevant information as possible throughout the process. This discursive approach benefits everyone, ensuring alignment of skills, motivation and professional drivers for the preferred candidate.

I’m conscious that this is not always the case. In the recent years, I’ve noticed that it is interesting, and not uncommon, to hear candidates describe prior recruitment processes that were more ‘inquisitorial’ than expected, with little or no disclosure from the hirer as to key aspects of the organisation/role. This unilateral approach to information sharing should, I think, be a red flag for savvy candidates.

From a candidate’s perspective, some aspects of an applied-for role are harder than others to ascertain. Yes, there is a thorough position description (PD) that accurately describes an important overview of what is required in the role. But what about organisational culture? Team engagement? And the temperaments of key stakeholders? All of these have a significant impact on your ability to be effective in – and enjoy – your role, but can often feel nebulous and difficult to deduce.

Below are a few pointers to ensure you’re well appraised as to a prospective hirer’s team and organisational culture:


  • Go deep with the position description. At shortlist, if not earlier, I would encourage checking two aspects of the PD: Is it current and accurate? And what are the points of emphasis? Assuming the PD is accurate, it’s important to ascertain where they want you to focus your attention, as not all competencies are created equal. For example: is financial acumen more important than network building, even if both are listed? Is people leadership a mission-critical competency at the moment, or is the current team autonomous and high-performing? Understanding the subtext and subtleties of a PD can be just as important as knowing the document chapter-and-verse.
  • Go public. In particular, an organisation’s annual reports and social media presence can provide excellent ‘intel’ on corporate culture. Glean what you can.  
  • Tap networks. Who do you know who has worked at the same place and/or with the same people? This kind of reverse reference checking can be an excellent, first-hand insight into an organisation. Bear in mind that perfect objectivity is impossible with this kind of account giving, i.e. choose trustworthy sources and, even then, take what you hear with a grain of salt!
  • Ask the hard questions. Preferred candidates have earned the right to comprehensive information about the context they’re stepping into. So, if you’re nearing the end of an appointment process and don’t feel you have the requisite information to commit to appointment, ask them. Are there any (as-yet undisclosed) burning platforms? Be diplomatic but directive.
  • Embrace (some) ambiguity. Notwithstanding the point above, understand that ‘comprehensive’, in this context, is a relative term. You will never know an organisation deeply until you are part of it – make peace with this, and know too that you will, if appointed, be a contributing member of an evolving organisational culture.


I hope the pointers above are useful and wish any current candidates the very best in their job search. Should you have any more enquiries on this or other candidate-related topics, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Posted in: News

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