How to Interview (for keeps)

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We've all been there – uncomfortably sitting in the lobby, making small talk with the receptionist, resisting the temptation to play Angry Birds, all the while waiting for the hiring manager to call your name. But what if you are on the other side of the table?

No matter which seat you are in, interviewing can be daunting (and scary). As the interviewer, hiring the right person the first time around can save you and your company a considerable amount of time and expense through training, on-boarding, and management distraction. No pressure! Fortunately, there are a number of ways to put both yourself and the interviewee at ease – and make sure you get all of the information you need to make a smart decision.

  • Slow down! It takes a lot of time and effort to find and hire the right person. Yet most people begin the hiring process later than they should and end up trying to rush the process. The result is shortcuts and mistakes. Smart companies are always looking for the best talent, not just when there is a vacancy. Don't be afraid to re-advertise for the position. If you didn't find the best candidate the first time around – try, try again!
  • What is your end game? Most people would rather hire correctly than quickly, wouldn't you agree? It's important to keep your end goal in mind (which I'm assuming is): creating strong value through finding and hiring the right talent. Start the interview by making small talk. Establishing a rapport with the candidate will make both of you feel more comfortable.
  • Have a plan. This goes back to my first point – what are you trying to accomplish through this interview? Make sure the same questions are being asked of each candidate and are related to the key accountabilities previously identified for the position. Ask open-ended questions such as "What are the three biggest accomplishments in your career?" Make sure to dig deeper with follow up questions as this makes the candidate abandon pre-planned answers.

Your interviewee's responses and non-verbal cues will give you insight to his knowledge, attitude and sense of humor. Does he seem to be alert, interested, and willing to engage in a conversation or is he slouched, avoiding eye contact, and giving one-word answers? You will very quickly get a sense about whether this candidate will be a good fit for your department and within the larger corporate culture.

Be sure to leave time at the end of the interview for the candidate to ask questions – remember, this is more of a date than a beauty pageant. Here is where you as the interviewer need to do a little homework of your own. Assuming the interviewee has done his due diligence, he will want to know (among other things) why the position is now open, what your expectations of the new hire are, what the current status of the company is, and where you see the company in the next five years. Trust me; you don't want to be caught with your mouth open, fumbling for an answer.

Finally, end the interview by letting the candidate know what to expect next. How much longer will you be interviewing? When can he expect to hear from you? Show some consideration by keeping him informed – who knows – one day YOU could be on the opposite side of the table!

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Guest June 25 2017
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