Skip to main content

The Recruitment Poker: Playing Your Best Hand with Candidates

As aged care recruiters it’s high stakes for the talent recruitment we do on a daily basis. The demand has always outweighed the supply. Every move counts, and knowing how to play your cards right can make all the difference. Much like a poker game, talent recruitment in aged care requires strategy, keen observation, and sometimes the courage to admit a misstep. We’re going to explore various facets of the recruitment process in this Blog, focusing on the importance of recruiters and hiring managers collecting data from the beginning, evaluating candidates beyond the interview, and the crucial decisions that shape the success of talent acquisition.

Collecting Data Points from the Get-Go

The foundation of any successful recruitment strategy is the collection of data. From the moment a candidate enters the pipeline, it’s essential to gather as much relevant information as possible. This isn’t just about their skills and experience—which are undoubtedly important—but also about understanding their behaviors, preferences, and potential cultural fit. Utilising a comprehensive applicant tracking system (ATS) can help in capturing these data points efficiently. This system not only stores information but also analyses data to highlight trends and patterns that might not be immediately obvious. By using surveys throughout the recruitment process (which we do), we have benefited by collecting intel about the candidate we have interviewed, which brings up additional data that can cut them off at the pass if needs be. That is ‘pull the pin’ on a candidate, based on these answers and other behaviours. 

Performance vs. Post-Interview Behavior

One critical aspect of talent recruitment is discerning the difference between how candidates present themselves in interviews and how they behave once they’ve left the interview room. Interviews can sometimes be misleading, as candidates are often at their best—meticulously prepared, neatly presented, and highly cautious about their responses. We’ve experienced false positives before, but to be able to pick this up in the recruitment process prior to the job offer, is a great outcome. Sometimes, the real measure of a candidate often emerges in their post-interview interactions.

Follow-up emails, the way they communicate informally, and how they respond to casual follow-up questions can reveal much more about their genuine character and suitability for a role. As mentioned above, we send out surveys to candidates after we interview them, one of the questions is ‘what salary would you need to be offered to accept this role’. Very rarely do we get a response from a candidate that is outside the salary range discussed with us at interview. Sometimes, however, a candidate will answer with a salary well above what was explained at interview. This is a big red flag and often results in us calling them directly to unpack this. 

The Courage to Reassess Candidate Fit

Admitting an error in judgment is a daunting prospect in any profession, particularly in talent recruitment as a Recruitment Consultant, where decisions are frequently scrutinised. The ability to pick up the phone and reassess a candidate’s suitability can be uncomfortable. It may feel like a step back or even a personal failure. However, admitting a mistake in candidate assessment should not be seen as losing face but rather as a commitment to integrity and the long-term success of the organisation.

Consider the scenario of a false positive—where a candidate seemed perfect on paper and performed exceptionally well in the interview but later showed signs of not aligning with the company’s values or team dynamics. Recognising this mistake early and acting on it not only saves the company from potential future conflicts but also protects the candidate from entering a job where they may not succeed.

Pulling the Pin: Quality Over Quantity

In the quest to fill positions, there’s often a push to line up as many candidates as possible for the final rounds of interviews. However, quality should always trump quantity. It’s vital to be selective early in the process, pulling the pin on candidates who might not be the perfect fit rather than pushing them through to meet quota or fill interview slots. This approach ensures that those who make it to the final stages are genuinely the best fit for the position and the company culture.

It’s about listening to not just what is said during the interview but also observing what happens afterward. Does the candidate follow up? Are they still enthusiastic about the role? Do they continue to engage in a way that reinforces their initial presentation? These observations are crucial.


Talent recruitment is as much about strategy and skill as it is about intuition and honesty. Like a good poker player, a skilled recruiter knows when to hold onto a promising candidate and when to fold when something doesn’t feel right. This happened to me recently when I had presented a candidate to a client for a CEO role, and post-interview (with me) behaviour of the candidate with me made me realise that they weren’t the right fit for the job, so I ‘pulled them’. It was a difficult conversation to have both with the candidate, when I’d presented them to my client, and also the client. I do believe it built respect with my client however, which is a good thing. Showed that I’m not going to present just anyone, that they need to ‘fit the spec’ or I won’t present them. Talent recruitment involves a continuous learning curve and the humility to acknowledge that not every hand can be a winning one—but with the right approach, the odds of success can be significantly improved.

In navigating executive search and recruitment, recruiters must rely on a robust collection of data, an understanding of human behavior, and the courage to make tough calls. Only then can they truly play their best hand in the recruitment poker.