Hiring New Staff: Conducting Professional Job Interviews
July 02, 2014
Choosing the right person to conduct the interview.
One of the core mistakes businesses make during the hiring process is ordering an inexperienced or uninformed employee to read resumes and conduct job interviews. The initial interview is a critical decision-making stage when hiring new employees. The staff member conducting the interview should be fully informed about what the job itself entails and what qualities the business is looking for in applicants. They should also have a pre-defined list of questions to ask during the interviews to keep the process unbiased. In addition to these questions, the interviewer should have at least one question that is unique to the application or resume that was submitted.
Asking the right questions.
Asking the right questions can be tough. The resume told you what the person felt qualified to do. But this is where you test their real time actions and capabilities. Interviewers should utilize at least two of these types of questions and evaluation metrics:
1. Evaluate the applicant’s ability to use available resources to solve a common problem.
REASONING: How adept is the applicant at troubleshooting problems?
2. Ask the applicant to describe how they have handled a high pressure situation in the past.
REASONING: Does the applicant assign blame or take responsibility?
3. Ask about their favorite and least favorite experiences at past jobs.
REASONING: What about your working environment will contribute or take away from the applicant’s job satisfaction?
4. Ask why the applicant left (or is considering leaving) their last position.
REASONING: What business practices or personal conflicts may prevent this individual from making a long term commitment to the company?
Test their skills.
If you wrote in the job description that the applicant needed to have a 50 wpm typing speed, then you should probably test it. Typing tests typically take 1-3 minutes, which adds virtually no time to the interviewing process. Another easy-to-perform test may be reading a paragraph explaining a common problem in the workplace, then asking the applicant to explain the problem in their own words (demonstrating comprehension) and a present a solution (demonstrating critical thinking).
Conducting the interview in a professional manner.
There is a big difference between simply conducting an interview, and conducting one professionally. Nearly anyone can smile, break the ice with a joke or comment and ask questions off of a piece of paper. But a professional interview has a strategic flow to the conversation and the interviewer’s actions and words should encourage openness and enthusiasm from the applicant while also properly conveying the internal image of the company.
A professional interviewer also knows what kinds of responses they are looking for, will take notes on things the interviewee did well and not so well, provide feedback and will personally follow up with the top three to five applicants after the interviewing process is complete. Even if there is only one round of interviews and only a single applicant is hired, following up with top applicants lets them know that they were not wasting their time. If there is a possibility that your business might need to hire additional help in the foreseeable future, you can also take this opportunity to ask about keeping their information on file for future openings. This could save your business the cost of another drawn out hiring process later on.
Tips to an organized interview.
Going into an interview with a plan is one key component of appearing professional for both the interviewer and the applicant. Below is an outline with tips on how to conduct a great interview.
1. Start the conversation off with an ice breaker referencing the applicant’s resume. This lets them know they are seriously being considered and sets the stage for a less nervous interview. Ex: "I was looking over your resume and you have experience with ________. What was that like?"
2. Review the job posting and ask about the requirements and preferred skills also listed on their resume. This provides a good transition into the interview and will immediately give you an idea of whether or not the applicant’s experience truly meets the standards you intended to set with the requirements in the job posting.
3. Perform skills tests. Now that you have broken the ice and gotten to know more information about the applicant’s experience, put their skills to a quick test or two.
4. Ask 2-3 of your prepared questions. Odds are, by this point, some of your questions have been inadvertently answered. You can now pick the most relevant questions remaining out of your prepared list.
5. Ask the applicant if they have any questions about your business or the job opening. This may have come up naturally earlier in the conversation. If not, this is a prime time to clear up any of the applicant’s concerns.
6. Give an honest review of the conversation to the applicant. If a group of employees is doing the interviewing, take a short break to discuss the interview. Then break the news to the applicant. If you don’t think the interview went well, don’t leave the applicant hanging on to false hopes. If you’re pretty sure that this could be the right person for the job, let them know they are seriously being considered for the position and give them a rough timeline for when you will be back in touch.
One of the most irritating experiences when applying for jobs is never hearing anything back from the companies you applied to. It’s reassuring to get a “thank you for submitting your resume” message when you submit your resume; but it can be equally nerve wrecking to never get a real response. When all is said and done, it’s just common courtesy to keep applicants informed about the availability of the position they applied for. Most businesses receive a manageable number of applications for any given job and can easily generate phone or email lists for response. Technologies like third party email services make it simple to handle large lists of recipients and segment them into unqualified candidates, qualified candidates and top contenders for the position. Then, the company can quickly compose and send follow up information to those applicants. This simultaneously avoids a flood of unnecessary phone calls to your business inquiring about the position.