One of my least favorite tasks to do in my role as a leader used to be interviewing. Interviewing someone to join my team is probably one of the most important tasks that I am charged with. After all my decision to hire or pass on the applicant has a direct impact on my success as a leader in my organization. The stronger more productive the team the more we can accomplish. I always want to make sure I am making an informed and valid decision when I select my next team member. You should also look to hire someone who is smarter than you are. Here is how interviewing went from being my least favorite task to one of my most favorites and suggestions on how to interview better.
Know what I need
There are a lot of areas to evaluate when you are hiring someone to join your team. The business need, the measures of success, common attributes of your more successful employees and your team’s and organizations culture.
There are many things that I can teach someone new and many things that I cannot. When looking at the business need you are really looking at the minimum level of acceptable training the job candidate has had. For example if you are hiring someone whose job is to coach and develop your front line agents they would need to have some level of experience in coaching and training.
How I will measure the potential applicants success is critical. If they will be measured on their teams performance, for example, I want someone with a demonstrated history of improving the performance of a team and what methods they used to accomplish that.
In looking at my current team I evaluate what we do well and what areas we need to improve in. This helps me find someone that will complement our strengths and weaknesses. If I don’t keep these things in mind I could end up adding to our weaknesses and diminishing our strengths.
Finally, I need to really understand the culture that exists in my team as well as the culture of the organization. I need to evaluate if the applicant would be happy in those cultures and would their belief system support it enough for them to follow and teach those principles. You also need to evaluate their personality, interpersonal skills and interests to make sure they mesh with the current team.
Do your homework
I used to only spend a few minutes looking at the applicants resume prior to their arrival. I was not able to truly engage them in conversation or ask strong questions because I hadn’t done much research on the person. Instead I just went down my list of questions provided by HR and rushed through the interview so I could get back to work.
Put yourself in the applicant’s shoes and review the resume. What did I accomplish? What projects did I work on? Why did I advance into other roles? What was accomplished at my current job that hadn’t been done in my previous ones? What does this say about my interests and drive? Why did I leave my last job? Try to look past the facts and read between the lines to get a sense for the applicants interests, goals, successes and failures.
Search social media to try to understand their personal interests, what they do in their spare time and who they network with. If you find that you are connected to the same person make a note of that as they could be a good reference or a talking point during the interview.
Just like you would research a company and the person you would interview with prior to your interview do the same but for the applicant. The goal is to learn as much about them as possible prior to sitting down to have a conversation about them joining your team.
Have a conversation and ask follow-up questions
The best interviews are ones that are a conversation. Listen slowly and pause giving the applicant time to think and more than likely they will fill the silence with additional information or explain other perspectives. This will help your questions to be more thoughtful which will allow the applicant to open up because they will know you are truly listening and not just asking questions to check off some invisible list you have.
After hearing the initial response ask why or when or how the situation ended. What made it a success or what was learned from the failure? Follow-up questions get you further than the rehearsed responses the candidate is already prepared to speak to. The better the details they higher the change you have of finding an A player.
Don’t just ask the questions answer them
High-quality candidates understand this isn’t just their interview. They are also interviewing you and your organization and are trying to understand if they want to work for you. Give them time to ask and make sure your answers are thoughtful and accurate. Don’t sell them, instead have faith that they will see if they are a good fit and what opportunity may exist for them should they join your team.
Solicit feedback from others
The potential job applicant will come into contact with many people who are not officially interviewing them. The receptionist is the first person they meet in your organization. Find out how they acted, how they treated them and what they did while waiting. At Televerde, we sit every applicant down with 1 or 2 agents as well as members of our support staff. I always follow-up with them to understand the questions they asked and how they felt the candidate would fit into our culture. I often will prep the women so they understand what I am looking for to help them evaluate the applicant on those qualities.
References – you have to check the references
Many HR departments have stopped checking references. This is mainly due to the fact that most companies will not provide any relevant information for fear of being sued. However, as the hiring manager it may be easier for you to do so. Don’t just stick with the references the applicant provided. That is usually a list of 3-4 hand selected people who are usually prepared to be contacted.
Even if you feel this candidate is exactly what you are looking for have one more interview. That could be lunch, coffee, dinner or a social event. Ideal candidates won’t mind the extra step especially if they have come to the conclusion that you and your organization are a fit for them.
If you take some time to prepare for the interview well in advance of the applicants arrival you will ensure a smooth process for both involved. Hiring a new team member is really one of the more important things you will do that day. Asking the right questions, having a solid conversation and gaining an understanding of who this person really is will help ensure you find the right person who is the best fit. Otherwise you will spend the next 90-180 days trying to understand why they aren’t working out. Would you rather waste 3-6 months or invest in 2-4 hours on the interview?
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