Candidate Interviews: What Hiring Managers Should Know

February 12, 2014 at 10:00 PM Kathleen de Lara

recruiting-pano_13570Smile. Shake hands. Ask a question. Smile. Nod. Laugh every now and then. Ask another question. Shake hands.

A candidate interview is fairly straightforward, so it seems, but finding and hiring the most qualified talent takes a lot more than just having a great one-on-one with the company recruiter and hiring manager.

A good professional interview leaves you intrigued to experience a candidate’s ideas and strategies in full swing at your company. In the interview, did you learn something about the industry that you didn’t know previously? Perhaps you should’ve.

Hiring a tolerable candidate isn’t enough to constitute the best fit for your team. It’s actually a bad hire, and bad hires are expensive. Not only does a portion of your salary budget disappear, but think about the hiring fees, possible customer issues, wasted training and re-recruiting time, and all that jazz.

Not fun.

Treat a candidate interview like a college course.

And not in the sense that you don’t show up. What we mean is there should be a basic foundation to achieving success. Do your homework and study up on the candidate’s work profile and resume. Be genuinely engaged during an interview and communicate that through positive nonverbal gestures like leaning forward, nodding your head when you agree, and maintaining eye contact. Avoid talking too much and let the candidate share their answers to your questions keeping in mind the three-fourths rule: Your airtime makes up only about a quarter of the entire interview. Take notes during or immediately after you meet with a candidate to make it easy to recollect only true, relevant feedback instead of mixing up different experiences with multiple candidates. There should be an overall structure and intention for your interview. Adhere to it.

Focus on job performance, not on candidate requirements.

Consider this: When asked to describe the ideal job candidate, are you more likely to describe the person or the position? Reciting a list of requirements isn’t the same thing as giving an idea of a suitable candidate. For example, a master’s degree in business management and four years of field experience is a great complement to a candidate who can actually apply and demonstrate those credentials. Define on-the-job success and forget about employee description. Can the candidate address your department’s key objectives with viable solutions? What is the most valuable action the candidate needs to do to identify him or herself as a surefire hire for the job? What kind of strategy can this individual come up with to become an asset to the team? By narrowing in on what an employee needs to do, instead of what they have, you can help transform their job into a career, helping your company in the long run.

Remember: Being likable isn’t the same thing as being hireable.

Although having both traits is highly desired, hiring someone who is pleasant and does well in interviews won’t do your organization much good. Determine whether or not a candidate will contribute new insights to the team, not solely act as a supplement. Having different perspectives and implementing divergent plans of action can help your company move forward in a more innovative way, separating yourself from the competitors. Think big picture benefits first, then culture fit.

Implement a rating system.

Instead of evaluating a candidate based on interviewees’ first impressions, develop a set of specific criteria to determine whether or not a candidate should move on to the next step in the hiring process. This criteria can be broken down into factors like a relevant skillset, previous work experience, thought process, crisis management, and fit. Also, be sure you’re not selecting a candidate simply because they’re the best of a subpar bunch. If you are, it may mean going back to square one, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Set a deliberate, systemized methodology for conducting candidate interviews and you can prevent your company from making an expensive hiring mistake. When hiring managers take charge of an interview to provide a positive candidate experience, they can promote an even greater onboarding process and make an exceptional hire.

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