Qualifying Candidates and Compensation Conversations

Qualifying Candidates and Compensation Conversations

If you read our previous blog, “Recruit Interested Candidates Faster & More Efficiently”, then you know there are right things and wrong things to do when a candidate says YES to hearing more about a job opportunity.
Following the new process for qualifying a candidate, there are essential next steps to take when a candidate truly expresses interest in pursuing the opportunity by responding with the completed information you’d requested.

Review Responses Carefully

First, look at the answers provided on the returned Candidate Information Sheet (CIS) and review their resume.

  • Do you see the right kind of work history that makes sense as a fit for the job description?
  • Did they answer the questions clearly?
  • Can you see they’re in the right salary ballpark?
  • Does the person appear to be a viable candidate to move forward?

If you believe so, then you need to send 3 emails promptly:

  1. Email the candidate
  2. Email the two references given


Sample Email to Candidate:

Hello Mary, I received your information this morning and would like to schedule a time to go over it in more detail. I’m free anytime 3:30-5:30 this afternoon, or 7-8 this evening if that works better for you. Please let me know what time we can connect and the phone number you prefer.

Thank you.

Note: You are scheduling time for the conversation, and not jumping on the phone as soon as you see their email response to CIS. You’re making sure that you’re focused on that candidate at a time when they’re available to talk and have the privacy to speak freely.


Sample Email to Reference:

Hello Jess, Mary Jones recently gave me your name as a professional reference. I am working with her as she pursues the position of Marketing Manager with Jake Toys Inc. I’ve taken the liberty of attaching a copy of the job description for you to review. If you would simply take a few moments to share your quick impression and thoughts on Mary, it would be greatly appreciated – please add your answers to the attached questions sheet and email back to me.

Thank you for time.

Attachments: Job Description; Reference Check Form

Note: If you have requested peer references, you may also invite those references to send you their resume for future opportunities as well. Your reference check outreach may produce new candidates for you!


Qualifying Interview

Now when you’ve received a response from your candidate to schedule a conversation to review their CIS in detail, you step into the next phase of Qualifying. This is the critical conversation that will allow you to determine if you’re going to present this person to your client or not. During this conversation, you’re going to ask detailed questions about their resume and compensation.

Resume Review

Looking at the candidate’s resume, review their job progression/work history. Make sure there are no gaps in employment that require an explanation. Identify changes in title that appear to be steps back in their career path. Give a keen eye to education to see if a degree was actually earned or if they only attended for 4 years. Look for discrepancies to minimize any surprises later in the process. Get ahead of any potential issues by asking for clarifications up front.


CompensationOnce you’ve reviewed the resume carefully and feel confident in the information provided and answers the candidate has shared, then you’re going to talk about money.  This critical compensation conversation must happen shortly after you receive a completed CIS from your candidate.


  1. If your states regulations permit, discuss the candidate’s current compensation and benefits – as you talk about money, you want exact dollar amounts, not just yes/no answers. Emphasize that the client may want to confirm with samples of recent paystubs, so you need exact dollar amounts of true base line.
    • Base salary, bonus potential, actual bonus, vacation, 401K match, profit sharing, health insurance, employee contribution, professional allowances (ex. car, cell phone, laptop, etc.), tuition reimbursement, other perks such as flex time, health center, childcare, cafeteria, etc.

  3. Discuss the candidate’s salary requirements – talking about their expectations is the first step in negotiation and it’s critical! This is the moment you set that candidate’s expectation for what an offer is going to look like, and they need to align with what the client is willing to pay.
    • Base salary, bonus, vacation, relocation; would you owe current employer for relocation or tuition reimbursement? Review answers from CIS and discuss them seriously and candidly. If something is missing, get an answer.
    • If their compensation expectations are unrealistic for the marketplace, you will not successfully make a placement, so don’t waste your time. Realistic is approximately 10% more than they’re making right now, maybe 15% for a unique expertise.



In our next blog, we address the qualifying interview questions that take place when your candidate is a fit for the opportunity AND has realistic salary expectations.