There is a great deal of information available for job seekers on how to prepare for a job interview. Here are some strategies that can help the novice as well as a seasoned pro conduct an interview that will result in hiring the best person for the job.
DESIGNATED INTERVIEW TIMES
Interviewing a number of people can interrupt the smooth workflow for just about anyone. One effective time management tool can be to block out a few times during your busy week to conduct initial face-to-face interviews. It may be beneficial to dedicate a half or entire day to do multiple interviews, allowing you to make immediate comparisons of the available candidates.
There are three basic objectives to every interview. Your job is to accomplish all three within a limited amount of time. The three objectives are:
- Evaluate the qualifications of the candidate and match to the position.
- Determine whether the candidate's working style, values and personality fit within those of the company.
- Sell the candidate on the opportunity within the company.
SET THE TONE
Welcome the candidate and start the meeting on time – this person’s time is valuable as well and they have set aside time in their day to meet with you. If you are detained, provide the professional courtesy of acknowledging their arrival and make sure they have enough flexibility in their schedule to accommodate a delayed start. Make sure your office dynamics are conducive to a conversation. A good starting point is to ask the candidate what they might know about your organization. This will indicate whether they have done any research or taken the initiative to prepare for the interview. Dependent on what they know, you can provide a brief overview of the company, its history, its goals and the corporate culture. This is a high level overview; do not dominate the conversation as your goal is to learn about this person and their capabilities. You can ask them if they feel they know enough about the role at hand and if not you can quickly describe the position/opportunity and the major areas of responsibility. We recommend you let them know you may be taking notes during the interview to ensure that you will remember the things discussed and express your goal is to exchange information in order to learn more about each other and identify whether the position is a good fit.
FOCUS ON QUALIFICATIONS & EXPERIENCES
During the interview focus on the candidate's past experiences. Find out the types of situations they have been involved in, find out what actions they took in those situations, and what the results of those actions were. Past behaviors are often a good indication of future behavior. Identify the essential elements or requirements of the position you are trying to fill, and tailor your questions around those attributes or experiences. It is important for you to find out not only what the person can do, but what they want to do. Ask them what motivates them, and insure that what they outline will be satisfied by the opportunity. Theoretical or hypothetical answers do not give you concrete information to base a decision on – ask for specifics and ask enough follow up questions to ascertain if the person has legitimate experience.
WORKING STYLE, CORPORATE CULTURE and VALUES
Often times, it is working styles, corporate culture or company values that either enhance or diminish the employment relationship and can have great importance in filling a role successfully. Success is most conducive when there is philosophical alignment between the manager and direct report and the environment naturally matches up to what the candidate thrives best in. “Professional chemistry” is not a bona-fide job requirement and hiring decisions should not be based on that alone; however, it will help solidify who is best suited overall if two candidates have comparable credentials and background experiences.
SELLING THE OPPORTUNITY
You've determined you're interested in the candidate, now it’s your turn to sell the candidate on the company and the specific role in question. Do not be ignorant and consider the selection process a one-way street. High caliber candidates have choices….if you fail to differentiate your opportunity you might forfeit their talents (to your competitor). Highlight the positive aspects of your opportunity and your company. Talk about growth, financial strength, market opportunity and other pertinent information, tailor your message based on what you've learned is important to the candidate. If appropriate, let the candidate know why there is an opening. If it is a newly created position, it shows positive company growth. If the previous incumbent was promoted, it illustrates advancement opportunities from this position. You can also discuss other positive aspects of employment (upward mobility, compensation plan dynamics, stock options, etc.). Avoid salary discussions at this stage. If an applicant asks, the best way to respond to their inquiry is to turn it around and ask what their requirements are. Another way to respond is to let them know you're aware of the current industry salaries and your company is competitive within that market.
CONCLUDING THE MEETING
Thank the candidate for their time. Let them know it was pleasure learning about their experiences. If you have an interest in taking the next step, highlight what the next step is, including timeframes. If there is no interest in pursuing the candidate further, it may be best to explain that you are still conducting initial interviews, and after you've had a chance to speak to all candidates, you will be making a decision and contacting everyone regarding their status. Regardless of your interest, it is always prudent to end the conversation on a positive note.
DECISION MAKING -85% RULE
Once the interview is concluded, review your notes and summarize your comments, both positive and negative, while still fresh in mind. Don't rely on your memory when finalizing the hiring decision. Go back to your original criteria and evaluate objectively. If a candidate has all the mission critical skills consider moving forward. Rarely is someone a perfect 10! In fact, in a tight job market you need to realize that someone who fits 85% of your requirements, demonstrates the capacity to learn and grow, has the intangibles and is within your range is a better solution than holding out for the candidate that may never come to fruition.
TIME KILLS DEALS
Remember the timeframe you outlined to the candidate and stick to it. Finding a strong candidate is difficult; and it is extremely competitive out there, so make every effort to accelerate the hiring process when you have found someone who fits your needs. If the process lacks continuity, you risk losing the candidate and may have significant opportunity costs if you do not move swiftly in your decision making. You are being evaluated by the candidate – demonstrate the company can execute in an agile manner - this only enhances your credibility and reinforces their confidence in you and your organization.