Interview Tips

Have you ever made a poor hire within your team?

I hate to admit it, but I have.

Have you? Was it because the candidate professionally seduced you?

Ask yourself some questions:

Let me ask you a couple more questions – as a hiring manager:

  • Do you really know how to interview a candidate?
  • Are you the kind of interviewer who talks about how great the company is and how everyone gets on well with each other, and how lovely the offices are?
  • Do you properly probe the candidate’s experience and capabilities?
  • Furthermore, have you ever been formally and professionally trained on how to conduct an effective interview?

I bet many of you are secretly saying no to this last question!

Very early on in my recruitment career I came to the realisation that ‘Effective Interviewing’ was an art form that takes years of practice. Today, I am astounded at the number of clients who struggle with how to interview prospective candidates properly. The number of times I have heard post interview feedback from candidates who say “well, the client didn’t really ask me anything specifically about my skills, they just talked about the company, so I’m just not sure about the role”.

Interviewing is like speed dating:

Interviewing is like ‘speed dating’ – you have a short period of time to get to know someone and decide if you want to meet again, and maybe ultimately have a relationship with him or her. Only this relationship, if it gets to a job offer or appointment, will be a professional one. If the relationship goes well it should last for years and make you, the candidate and the company very successful. If it’s a bad relationship, you are in for a world of pain. A poor hire can devastate a team and business.

Interviewing…speed dating…call it what you will – a candidate with a great suit and nice smile and a good amount of general conversation can ‘seduce’ an interviewer and talk their way in to a role, but is that what you want? Of course not!

The secret is to prepare for the interview and be clear exactly what you want to get out of the meeting. ‘Behavioural’ or ‘Competency’ based interviewing is not new, but it is an extremely proficient approach to take. As they say “past performance is usually a good indicator of future performance” so taking a good look at what they have actually achieved in their career will help you.

This type of interviewing requires you to ask specifically targeted questions (which you will have prepared before hand) and for the candidate to speak at length about their past professional experiences and accomplishments. These questions should centre on specific tasks/duties that will be important to your vacant role. The candidate will need to draw on real life experiences they have encountered, and evidence to you that they can actually do the job. You will easily spot the fakers.

Q. What is the best question you can ask a candidate at EVERY interview?

A. Can you please tell me about your biggest career achievement to date?

This is such a simple and yet powerful question as it really puts the candidate on the spot. Many will flounder here and give a weak response about academics, or they will talk about their general skills. The best candidates however will have a specific answer, and it will be a detailed response about a project, assignment or piece of work, which no doubt they are proud of. This achievement will have a specific outcome and will probably have made or saved money, it may have improved company productivity, or raised client awareness of a brand. They will probably be able to even quantify the outcome in $$$ saved or made. These are the people you want in your business.

A few simple reasons why asking behavioural or competency of questions works:

  1. Detail: These types of questions get the candidate talking in detail. They will be open questions, which require a comprehensive response with a situation and outcomes. Let them talk, they should do far more of the talking during the interview than you do.
  2. Verification: These questions allow you to verify that the experience on a CV is legitimate. The candidate must come up with specific work experiences and tell you how they solved a problem or performed under particular circumstances. When put on the spot, most people will struggle to come up with a response if they have not lived through the problem themselves
  3. Explanation: These questions allow a candidate to give in-depth information about the work experience they know qualifies them for your open position. A suitably experienced candidate will want to share with you their past experiences, and they will want you to understand their work ethics and style.

Conclusion:

So in summary, preparation is critical. You expect job candidates to come to the interview prepared with an understanding of your business, so you should be held to the same standard. Research each candidate so you are familiar with their past experience and skill sets before they arrive. Have your questions ready based on what you want to know

Make sure you have a detailed Position Description on hand. Maybe have an annual report, a company brochure, or something else valuable for the candidate to take away.

This approach will ensure you don’t fall in to the trap of being seduced by a great talker who will probably not last the year out. You will quickly find the best candidate and hire the best person for the job, surely that’s what we all want, right?

Author: Paul Simms is an executive recruiter with 15 years of experience across the Australian and UK markets. He is the founder of Wright Executive a specialist business within the Accounting and Professional Services sector. If you would like to contact Paul, connect via LinkedIn here.


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