Attention Hiring Managers – Interviewing Effectively

So you’ve done this hundreds of times, right? You’ve narrowed your search to the top candidates for a position in your company and it’s time to schedule interviews. You have this down to a science! Really? This is actually the hardest part of the hiring process. How can you tell if this is the right candidate or just someone who interviews well?

We’d like to offer some tips to help you interview effectively. Here are some suggestions to help guide you through this process. Let’s assume you already have a well-defined job description: responsibilities, skills/education required, experience required, etc. If you don’t, put this together before starting any interviews so you have a clear picture of who you’re looking for. Here are some basic tips:

  • Do your homework prior to the interview
  • Make it a conversation
  • Prepare questions in advance
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Ask follow-up questions
  • Spend some time answering questions
  • Describe your process
  • Contact references and check your network
  • Follow up with all candidates

Let’s take a look at these suggestions.

Do your homework – take as much time reviewing the resume of your candidate as you plan on speaking with them. A 30-second perusal of their resume prior to their walking in the door is not enough. They’ve already passed your initial screening so they’re already hit all the required notes. But what information is not there? What was their original career goal? Are there any gaps in their employment history? Are there jumps from one job to the next that don’t make sense? Look for things you can ask about and discuss.

Make it a conversation – instead of an interrogation, try to make it a conversation. Much more information will be revealed, not only about your candidate’s experience, but about intangibles such as willingness to work with a team, sense of humor, how they communicate, how they respond to supervision, or how effective they are as a supervisor. You will both be more comfortable and will both get more out of the process.

Prepare questions in advance – this is only logical. You want to make sure you touch all the bases with each candidate. Don’t read from your list, but use it as a guide to make sure your conversation covers everything you want and need.

Ask open-ended questions – seems like a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating. Ask about problems at previous positions and how they were solved. What specifically did they contribute? Don’t just ask what their greatest strengths and weaknesses are, but how do they utilize their strengths and how do they compensate for their weaknesses? How did they find out about this job? What interests them about this job? Why are they leaving their current position?

Ask follow-up questions – if you’re having a good conversation, hopefully you’ll have a candidate relating how they contributed to a bottom-line or some other measurement of success. Dig down and ask specific questions. It may reveal quite a bit about how your candidate thinks and approaches problems.

Spend some time answering questions – towards the end of your time together, allow your candidate to ask you questions about the company, history and the specific position. Your candidate’s questions will reveal a lot about what they find important. Did they go directly to salary and benefits? Or perhaps advancement opportunities? These are important issues, but shouldn’t be the first questions out of his or her mouth.

Describe your process – spend a little time at the end of your time relating your hiring process so all candidates know what to expect. Let them know if there will be more interviews, if so, when, and if not, how and when you will be letting them know about the position. And from time to time audit your interview process to honestly assess whether you are including too many or too few people from the team.

Contact references and check your network – do contact the references provided and have, hopefully, a candid conversation with previous employers or supervisors. But in addition, ask around, check with people in your network. Someone will know someone who knows someone. The references provided will always be good ones. So check outside that box and see what you can find out. But be discreet and respect confidentiality. You don’t want to be the reason someone loses their job because the supervisor found out they’re interviewing.

Follow-up with all candidates – you should always follow-up with all candidates, whether you interviewed them or not. We know that’s hard these days, but if candidates have taken the time to show an interest in your company, the least you can do is let them know the outcome. Failure to do so results in negative PR for your company.

Hopefully, this process will not only allow you to get to know your candidate, but will also let the candidate get to know you. This is an important decision and it will pay dividends to do a thorough job of it. It’s important to remember you are doing this to find the right person for the job (not just the right person out of the people who applied). Perhaps you don’t find the right person on the first go-round. But you will learn a lot about what you expect and what you are looking for, just by going through the process. You and your company will reap the benefits for long after.

Please share your interview tips and techniques with us by leaving a comment!

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