Better interviews, better hires – Part Two

In last week’s post, I shared some thoughts on the types of questions you can ask during an interview. Always keep in mind that as long as the interview gives both you and the candidate clarity on whether this is a good fit for both parties, the interview was successful, even if it doesn’t result in a hire.

Today, let’s take a look some other factors that are important to focus on during the interview process.

The questions asked by the candidate

You want the interview to flow as naturally as possible, so refrain from continuously peppering your candidate with questions. Even more important than the interviewee’s responses is the types of questions that they ask. This includes the list of topics that they have prepared ahead of time as well as the follow-up questions that demonstrate a candidate’s active listening skills. You can even be intentionally brief in one of your answers in order to see if the candidate is inquisitive enough to dig deeper.

Give your interviewee plenty of opportunities to ask questions, and beware of anyone who does not have anything prepared ahead of time. Sometimes a candidate will refer to their initial phone screening and say that all of his or her questions have already been answered by someone else. This should raise a red flag, because the individual is foregoing an opportunity to check for alignment and consistency and to get to hear your points of view. For example, your HR coordinator may be able to provide great insights into a role and your company culture, but wouldn’t you expect your candidate, at a very minimum, to ask their potential manager about those things as well? How about asking about the person who has been most successful in the role and what could be attributed to their success? What about directly asking the manager “What would separate a good hire from a great hire?” I’d also expect questions that are more specific to your company and that really show that the candidate has done their homework (“I understand that your main verticals are X and Y, but not Z. Is that by design? Why?”).

The demeanor

While body language and demeanor are important things to observe, always consider the type of role for which the person is interviewing, their level of experience, and the simple fact that each person is different. Curb your human propensity for over-interpretation in favor of asking insightful questions. That being said, you certainly want to pay attention to the person’s confidence, their ability to make eye contact and to articulate themselves clearly, and to present themselves in a professional and respectful manner. Does the candidate stand up or remain seated when you or another interviewer walk in the room? Do they throw away their cup or leave it for you to clean up after the interview? Does the candidate pay equal attention to everyone in the room or do they ignore someone altogether? Do they have their phones put away?

The written assessment

Regardless of the particular role for which you’re hiring, I strongly recommend giving each viable candidate a written assessment to complete. Good writing skills are crucial, whether you’re dealing with external stakeholders such as customers, or internally with team members. You may consider giving the candidate a few topics to research that are relevant to the role so that you can assess their ability to solve problems independently, their attention to detail, and their level of interest in the job.

The follow up

Follow-ups, or lack thereof, can be deal breakers. If you don’t receive a follow-up email, phone call, or card, it’s safe to assume that the candidate either isn’t willing to put in the minimal effort required to ensure that they’ll be a serious contender or that he or she is no longer interested in the position. When you do receive a follow-up, look to see if it’s a standard thank you template or whether it reflects that the candidate is not only genuinely interested in working for and with you, but understands the alignment between their goals and the company’s.

The ecosystem

Believe it or not, even if a candidate checks off all the boxes in what you had originally identified in characteristics and competencies of an ideal hire, it still doesn’t mean that you must bring them on board. Carefully assess how the individual would fit into and impact your ecosystem. A GM of a professional sports team doesn’t just indiscriminately put together the best individual players on paper but always strives to build a cohesive team to whose success each member makes unique contributions in order to achieve something that only this particular combination of players can achieve. Apply the same way of thinking in your hiring process.

Observe and coach other interviewers

Finally, use interviews as an opportunity to observe your team members, the interviewers. What types of questions do they ask and why? Do they listen and ask thoughtful follow up questions or do they disrupt the flow of the conversation with erratic topic changes? Do the questions they ask and the answers they provide show that they they understand what’s important for this role and for the company? After each interview, solicit their opinion on both the candidate and the interview itself, and provide your own feedback. Part of becoming better at your craft and at management is to continuously get better at interviews and coaching your team members to hone their interviewing skills

What about you? What are your tips for a successful interviewing process?

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