Not every business has a highly trained hiring manager or the option to hire through recruiters where interview techniques are highly polished. Sometimes it’s the business owner, department manager, or senior employee doing the interview. If that’s the case, are you getting the most out of those interviews and discovering the right person for the job?
Like job postings, it’s easy to want to rush through the process and just get the position filled, but you have to consider the risk of doing so. You can easily hire the wrong person increasing your turnover, your onboarding and training costs, and time wasted. It’s also easy to fall into the “warm body syndrome” trap, especially when you’re really short staffed, but this trap tends to have the same consequences. Besides a good interview doesn’t need to take hours. The amount of time can vary depending on the position. You don’t need to spend an hour with someone who’s going to be a cashier (unless you wish to), but you also don’t want to spend 15 minutes interviewing a department head. An effective interview can lessen the amount of time, but don’t skimp on those higher ups interviews.
So let’s get started!
Before the interview:
· Do a little homework. Decide the most important things you want to know about: their skills, their personality, how well they’ll fit in, their experience. Write a set of questions that reflect what you really want to know about each candidate. Avoid yes and no questions whenever possible; you won’t learn much that way. Open ended questions are better as it keeps the conversation flowing, and you’ll get to know them better. Use behavioral questions, too. They require more extended answers.
· Read their resume, cover letter, application, or any other document you asked for. You’ll find person specific questions to ask. Did they accomplish something significant? Ask them how they did it or what made them strive to achieve it. Do they state that they’re self-motivated? Ask them about a situation where they showed that characteristic.
· Avoid using too many common questions. What are your strengths? What are your weakness? Tell me about yourself. There nothing wrong with these questions, but are they really meaningful to the job you need them to do? For an efficient interview, you don’t want to ask more than five to ten questions so you’ll want them to be as specific to the job as possible. Remember that you’ll have to take notes of their answers so you don’t want have to do too much extra while you are listening.
· Don’t schedule interviews back to back. If you’re interested in a particular candidate, you may want to spend a little extra time with them, or they may have questions themselves. Or you need to take extra notes. Whatever the reason, you don’t want to cut a good interview short.
On the day of the interview:
· Make you and your interviewee comfortable. I know we don’t all have big cushy offices, but you shouldn’t be doing your interviews in a broom closet either. It makes for unnerving personal space invasion in which no one will be able to relax. A quiet corner in your building during off hours will suffice. You may also be able to “borrow” a space in your local career center for an interview day. You’ll also want to start the interview with a soft question or two, like “did you find us okay?” or even” how did you like your college experience?” It should be conversational and intended to relax the interviewee as well as you.
· Make sure you’re uninterrupted during the interview. Put up a meeting in progress sign, tell staff to hold your calls, shut off your cell phone, whatever you need to do. You need to create an impression equal to what you expect of your applicants. You’re setting the first example for them; don’t make it unprofessional.
· Be flexible with your questions. Your candidate may answer a question before you ask it so then asking that question will make you look like you’re not listening. You don’t want to make a bad impression either. Also the interviewee might say something that begs a follow up question, so ask it.
· Don’t forget fit. The person looks good on paper and interviews well, but consider the staff they will be working with and your company’s culture. Will they fit in? If their work/management style is too different from what your company’s style is, ask some questions to check their adaptability see whether or not they still have a chance.
· Let them ask questions. Their questions are just as important and telling as your questions. It’ll show their level of interest and whether or not they think they will fit in.
· Sell the position. If you’re interested in the candidate, you’ll want to sell the position and your company. Talk about the company, its goal, and where the position fits into those goals. Make sure they know they’ll be a valuable team member with a career path at your company.
· Let them know the next steps. At the conclusion of the interview, tell them what follow up is involved. Will there be another interview? When will you call them concerning the position? What is your timeline to fill the position?
After the interview:
· Check their references and former workplaces. Of course, you can expect their references to say something good about them, but they may be able to help you confirm your decision. Talk to their former employer’s HR person or their supervisor. Granted, many companies have policies about stating much more than the fact that they worked there and when. However, one question may get passed them: Would you rehire them? Even these companies are willing to answer positively to such a question. If they refuse to answer, that may not bode well for the candidate (though some HR are sticklers for the rules). See what other employers have to say.
· If you can’t decide between candidates or you have one but aren’t completely 100% sure, do a second interview with whoever will be their supervisor or even a staff member. A second opinion can be exactly what you need. Also they may think of questions you don’t. For example, when I worked at a hospital in a non-clinical capacity, I always asked applicants if they had a problem with blood, vomit, strong odors, etc. and warned them that all things were a possibility. It was a question the director typically didn’t ask but could make the difference between someone making it or not.
· Follow up. Professionally speaking, you should call all your interviewees and let them know their status. Nobody likes to make those calls, but it’s the right thing to do. Of course, you’ll want to contact your selected candidate and be enthusiastic when talking to them. Let them know that you’re excited to have them on board if they choose to be. After all, they do have the choice.
Have any good tips, tricks, or questions you use during interviews? Let us know in the comments!