Unleash your hidden superpowers: Prep Calls and Debrief Calls

  By Kathleen Kurke  |    Monday August 28, 2018

Category: Columns, Expert Advice


We all learned how to do prep and debrief calls when we first started in the business because they were two of the 30 steps in the placement process as made famous by Anthony Byrne. Part of the fundamental basics. 

Chances are, your enthusiasm for prep and debrief calls waned with time. They weren’t as sexy as closing calls. They didn’t create the immediate gratification of a recruiting call. It was hard to get people on the phone to do them. Reminding them to take a shower or wear clean clothes didn’t seem to really make a difference. Seemed like they took more time than they were worth. Regardless of the reason, over time, our habit of making prep calls diluted into hastily left messages that sound something like: “hey, have fun at the interview. It’s at 3p. Call me when you get a chance.” And our debrief calls sounded like “hey, how did it go”. No surprise, those calls neither made a difference to the outcome of the interview or added any value to the process. 

Such a shame. 

Prep Calls and Debrief Calls are your hidden superpower. That’s Prep Calls and Debrief Calls starting with capital letters. 

Prep and Debrief Calls can catapult your interviews from ordinary to effective. If you do 

Prep Calls and Debrief Calls with superpower, you’ll discover you can:  

• Shorten your decision processes to help you make placements faster;

• Help you uncover questions or concerns early enough in the hiring process so can make placements that otherwise might not have happened;

• Set you apart from other recruiters by creating meaningful conversations; and

• Elevate your status to trusted advisor based on your knowledge of business issues.



Just as Clark Kent must don his cape to trigger his supernatural powers, so must you complete your Prep Call and Debrief Call set-up to engage your superpowers.

The Prep Call and Debrief Call set-up happens when you first engage with a candidate and make plans to connect the candidate with a client to begin an interview process. Here are the important elements of a setup. 

Tell the candidate: “We’re engaging in the interview process to get answers to these three key questions:

Are you clear on what they (prospective employer) need done?

Can you do what they need done?

Do you want to do what they need done?”

(Note: That’s it. Clear and straightforward. Yes, each of those questions has sub-questions, but these three key questions are the most important questions we all want to get answered during the interview process. No surprise, there is a parallel version of these questions we’re asking to clients.)

Communicate the benefit of getting clarity on these questions: “By focusing on these three questions during the process, we’ll always be putting what you want to do and what you want to learn as our top priority.” 

Confirm agreement with candidate. “Make sense? Can we agree that these three questions are the ones to which we need answers during this interview process?”

Inform the candidate: “These three questions are what we’ll use to prep and debrief for each interview, so we’re always focused on what you need to know to make the best decision for you.”


This set-up forms the foundation for your Prep Calls and Debrief Calls. 


Prep Call


Creating value for the Prep Call is easier now that you’ve done the set up. Here’s sample scripting:


“Candidate, here are the questions we’ll want to discuss after the interview, so we can decide together how to move forward to the opportunity. 

Question One: Are you clear on what they need done? 

To be able to answer that, consider asking these questions during the interview:

Tell me about the business challenges that make this role critical?

What are the problems that the person in this role needs to solve? The opportunities they need to generate? 

How does this role help the company make money or save money?


Question Two: Can you do what they need one?

To be able to answer that, consider asking these questions during the interview:

What are the results you’ll want to see in the first 90 days from the person you hire?

What will ‘great job’ look like after the first year?


Question Three: Do you want to do what they need done?

To be able to answer that, consider asking these questions during the interview:

Tell me about the type of person most successful in this work team? In the company? What type of person is least successful in environment?


Candidate, do these questions sound like they’ll help you learn about what’s important to you? Great; we’ll go over these same three questions when we talk right after your interview.”


Debrief Call


With the proper set-up and Prep Call, you’ve set a strong stage for a productive Debrief Call.  Here’s sample scripting:


“Candidate, tell me about the interview.

Are you clear on what they need done? Tell me what you learned.


Note: Does what you’re hearing from the candidate match what you’ve heard from the client?


Can you do what they need done? Which of your past experiences best prepares you to tackle this challenge?

Note: Gather evidence you can use to support this candidate when you debrief with client. 


Do you want to do what they need done?

Note: this is where you review how this opportunity does (or, does not) align with the candidate’s motivation for making a move. Be sure to review all the candidate’s criteria, including challenge, location, advancement, money, and people. Ask about the motivations that will propel the candidate to have the courage to make a job change.


Great. Let’s plan the next steps.”

These Prep Calls and Debrief Calls are meaty. They add value to the process. They set you apart. You’ll have superpowers in the placement process. Now, go put on your cape and make some placements. 

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