This is the final installment of a series on Best Hiring Practices. The series is not intended to be all-inclusive, but rather an examination of the most impactful things you can do to improve your hiring process. In the previous postings, we’ve talked about the need to hire well . . . and the high cost of a bad hire. We’ve talked about the need to write a detailed job description including desired behaviors. And we’ve talked about the need to script interview questions that will reveal the behaviors we’re looking for. Now we need to talk about the actual conduct of the interview. If you don’t conduct job interviews very often and are unsure of your skill as an interviewer, please read below.
Prior to inviting an applicant in for an actual face-to-face, in person interview, you should do a brief screening interview on the phone. In a tough job market as we have now, desperate job-seekers will apply for positions even though they don’t meet the job requirements. So the purpose of the telephone screener is to make sure an applicant has the essentials of the job requirements before we devote interview time to him or her. What we’re looking for here are the “deal breakers,” the quantitative things that an applicant absolutely, positively must have . . . if you don’t have these essential job requirements, don’t call, don’t write, don’t stop by because we have nothing to talk about. These would include specific skill requirements, college degrees earned, years of experience, and so forth. The qualitative stuff is what we’ll try to ferret out during the in person interview.
So now we’re armed with well-scripted interview questions and we have some qualified candidates that we want to interview. So what’s next? How do we get the most out of the interview?
• First and foremost, listen intently to the answers an applicant is giving you. Seems obvious, right? But an inexperienced interviewer may see the questions as a checklist that needs to be completed. Such an interviewer is so focused on checking off the current question and formulating the next that he or she misses a lot of what the applicant is saying. So stay in the moment and stay focused. If an applicant’s answer to your question is unclear or needs refinement, be prepared to ask clarifying follow-up questions until you’re satisfied you have the information you want.
• Use your eyes. Look for body language. Is the candidate making good eye contact? Does the applicant appear confident or apprehensive? Is he or she energized or more subdued? A candidate will give you a lot of visual cues if you’re alert for them.
• Take notes, particularly when you’re doing a number of interviews. Otherwise, afterwards, you may have difficulty remembering which candidate said what. If you want to jot your notes immediately after the interview rather than during the interview, that’s OK as long as you capture your important thoughts and reactions about the applicant.
• Keep control of the interview and don’t let it wonder off topic. However, don’t be so tied to your script that you ignore your natural curiosity. If a candidate says something interesting or surprising (but relevant), go with it. Make it a conversation, but keep the conversation focused.
• Consider involving someone else in the interview process . . . either jointly with you in your interview, or separately in a second interview. It’s often useful to have a second opinion when you’re weighing one candidate against another.
Remember, one wrong question, or one critical question you should have asked but didn’t, could result in a bad hire, disrupting your company and costing it thousands of dollars. If you or your hiring managers have not had any coaching or training on the topic of legal interview questions, how to secure proof of a person’s accomplishments, or how to evaluate skills effectively, please call me right now to learn how.