You’ve just sorted through the stack of resumés in your inbox. Certain candidates have passed the phone screen. Up next: in-person interviews. How can you evaluate a near stranger from a relatively small set of questions? How many people should be involved in the process? How do you know whether the candidate will be a good fit?
As employment prospects improve and graduates are inundated with options, selecting the right fit for a job or organization has become more and more problematic. “Pipelines are depleted and more companies are competing for top talent,” according to Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a senior adviser at global executive search firm Egon Zehnder and author of It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best.
Applicants are entering the recruitment process more well-informed than ever before due to career websites such as Glassdoor. John Sullivan, an HR expert, professor of management at San Francisco State University, and author of 1000 Ways to Recruit Top Talent says that much of the “mystique and mystery” of the selection process has been removed by candidates’ pre-interview research. Here a few ways to make the interview process beneficial for you — and for them.
Six Tips for a Successful Interview
- Prepare your questions: Before beginning the whole selection process, you need to write down what your ideal candidate looks like to guarantee that you’re asking the right questions. Sullivan recommends looking at your top performers and consider what desirable characteristics they all have in common. This will help you build a relevant criteria to model questions around.
- Reduce stress: Job interviews are often a highly stressful scenario for candidates due to the uncertainty associated with the process. ‘What questions will they ask? Am I the most qualified candidate?’ However, this self doubt can be reduced by informing the candidate about the topics you’d like to discuss in advance so they can prepare. Your goal is to make them comfortable so that you have an authentic conversation and can accurately assess whether they are the right fit.
- Involve others: It’s important to seek advice from colleagues when making personnel decisions. Fernández-Aráoz recommends having three people interview the candidate: “the boss, the boss’ boss, and a senior HR person or recruiter.” Incorporating peers’ opinions is critical because it gives your team a say in who joins the work environment.
- Ask for real solutions: Don’t waste your precious time with abstract questions like: What are your weaknesses? Rather, ascertain how the candidate would navigate real situations associated to the job. Explain a common problem your team faces and ask your candidate to explain how they would solve it. Consider their answers and cross-reference with your list of desired traits, says Fernández-Aráoz.
- Consider “cultural fit,” but don’t obsess: “Cultural fit” is often obsessed over in the realm of recruitment. Look for signs that “the candidate will be comfortable” at your organization, says Fernández-Aráoz. Consider whether they work better in a team or in solidarity, in addition to how they cope with pressure. But, says Sullivan, your perception of a candidate’s disposition isn’t necessarily indicative of whether they can adjust to a new culture. “People adapt...what you really want to know is: can they adjust?”
- Sell the job: If the interview is going well and you can envision the candidate excelling in the position, spend the second half of the interview selling the role and the company. “Make the process fun,” says Sullivan. Ask them if there’s anyone on the team they’d like to meet. The best people to sell the job are those who “live it,” he explains.
- Make an effort to reduce your candidates’ stress levels
- Ask situational and behavioral questions
- Sell the role and the organization once you’re confident in your candidate
- Forget to accumulate a list of the attributes of an ideal candidate and use it to construct relevant questions
- Involve too many colleagues in the interviews — multiple checks are good, but too many people can impede the process
- Put too much emphasis on “cultural fit” — remember, people adapt
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