Interviewing 101 For Employers

 

You hire new employees for your business for one of two reasons: either your company is growing or you’re replacing a former employee. In either of these situations, that new team member will bring all of his or her skills, traits, experience and preferences into your business. Your workplace is already a melting pot of personalities, procedures and best practices, so the question is: How will your new hire fit into your overall business? 

This may seem like an easy question to answer. You may be thinking, “Of course they’ll fit in. After all, I hired them, didn’t I?” However, keep in mind that when you hired them, you were forced to make a significant business decision with very limited information.

To avoid hiring employees who just don’t fit in the long run, the key is to make the absolute most of the time you have with each candidate. To do this, you must know how to interview effectively.

Keep these two goals in mind when interviewing candidates: First, make the candidate want to be a part of your company so that if you offer the candidate the job, it will be accepted. Second, get enough information about the candidate to confidently decide whether to offer the job. 

If you follow the suggestions for each step below you’ll increase the candidate’s desire to become part of your team, and you’ll maximize the information you get about the candidate during the interview period.

Strategy And Planning

Effective hiring requires an investment. If your company tries to wing it, you’ll fail. Like the saying goes, “It takes a village ... ” , so assemble your village. Convene your management team monthly to discuss potential hiring needs throughout the year. This team is the key to successful interviewing. Prior to every new hire, the team should determine answers to the following questions:

  • Why are we making this hire?
  • What is our business goal?
  • What experience level, skills and personality type are most likely to succeed?
  • How can we best identify candidates with these desirable traits?

The input your management team gives when answering these questions will help you plan much of your interaction with candidates and create a formalized scorecard that will be used to evaluate each candidate.

The Resume

Resumes are a controversial topic within the hiring and recruiting community. Some people swear by them, while others view them only as somewhat useful background information. While resumes provide a helpful overview, candidates are always more dynamic than they appear on paper. If the candidate’s resume shows he or she is even a marginal fit for the role, you should invest the time in a phone interview to learn more. After all, when deciding who to hire, the goal is to get as much information as you can about the candidates, and to do that you’ll need to connect with them directly. 

Phone Interview

The phone interview is critical. It provides you with your first touchpoint with the candidate and acts as a screening opportunity. However, questions and answers should not be your main takeaway from the phone interview. That will come later. What you are looking for with this conversation is rapport. The candidate’s personality will come through on the call so ask yourself:  Would I enjoy getting a cup of coffee with this person?

If their personality is a fit, proceed to schedule an in-person interview. If not, thank them for their time, wait a few days and decline them. 

Many hiring managers rush the process and skip the phone interview entirely. By doing  so, they are passing on a critical touchpoint that, if done correctly, will provide that vital piece on the candidate.

Behavioral Interviewing

Many tactics and strategies are used when it comes to interviewing candidates. The most recent and most effective is called behavioral interviewing. Behavioral interview questions are based on the philosophy that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. These questions require candidates to cite a previous situation in which they displayed the behavior that you are asking about. The candidates will share the situation they found themselves in, the task involved in that situation, the action they took to address it and the result.

Behavioral interviews are extremely powerful because they strip away the hypothetical and canned answers, and get down to the real action a candidate took in a similar situation. Thus, the more you know about his or her past behavior, the better decision you can make.

In-Person Interview

The chemistry between the interviewer and the candidate will be established in the first few minutes of meeting each other. In that time, be sure to make the following observations about the candidate:

  • How is the candidate dressed?
  • What did he or she bring to the interview?
  • Are they nervous or relaxed?

Armed with your formalized scorecard (see below), you should dive right into your questions. Take succinct notes and listen very closely to everything the candidate says—and doesn’t say. While the candidate speaks, note the following observations:

  • Is the candidate confident?
  • How does he or she react when a statement is challenged?
  • Is he or she taking notes?
  • Did the candidate prepare adequately ahead of time?
  • Does the candidate show passion for the job?

Use the 80/20 rule. The first 80 percent of the interview should be comprised of you asking questions that get you the information you need to make the best decision possible. Use the last 20 percent of the time to sell the company, the position, the opportunity for advancement and the company culture. Use this face-to-face situation to brag about what makes your company better than your competitors. You want the candidate to leave the interview dying to be a part of your team.

Ideally, make two to three other members of your management team available to interview the candidate in quick succession. Take the candidate on a tour around the office and see how they react. When the interviews are complete, walk the candidate out to their car, if feasible. They won’t expect it, and you’ll most likely get them to drop their guard a bit.

There are several optional additions to this process. Depending on the level of the position, a dinner involving the candidate, his or her spouse and the management team are common. Many companies will give their final candidates a take-home assignment to get an idea of how they handle projects. Anything that adds to the information you have about your candidate should be considered.

Management Review

Get together with your management team later the same day of the interview and compare notes. 

  • What were their first impressions?
  • Did they touch on a topic you had overlooked?
  • Are there any red flags?
  • Where does he or she rank among your other candidates?

It’s critical that you formalize your interview process as much as possible in order to get the best candidates. Invest the time and create a scorecard that is a reliable indicator of future success. Whether you are hiring due to growth or to turnover, this interview process will engage candidates and allow you to maximize the information you get before making a hire. 

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Candidate Scorecards
A scorecard is a form that each interviewer can use to grade candidates. Most forms use a five- point scale to grade the candidate’s skills, competencies, strengths and weaknesses. Points are then tallied and each candidate is ranked based on their total. Download a scorecard you can use by searching for this article at pubs.ppai.org.

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Conversation Starters
To create your own behavioral interview questions, try these starters:

  • Tell me about a time when…
  • How did you…
  • Describe a situation…
  • Have you handled…
  • What do you do…

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Patrick McHargue is director of talent at PromoPlacement, a recruiting firm focused on the promotional products industry. He grew up in the industry, earned an MBA in international business, and he managed a $35 million sales territory before focusing on the development of tools and services to benefit the promotional product industry. patrick@promoplacement.com

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