When considering prospective leaders for your organization, it’s important to find ways to differentiate between what a candidate can do and what they will do. Many experienced interviewers have found that an employee’s personal preferences can be masked during the interviewing process, only to emerge after they’re hired. Creating a clear strategy of asking in-depth questions, truly listening to the responses and delaying your impression of the person until well into the interview, can help safeguard against hiring the wrong candidate.
Proven strategies that will help you make accurate and informed selection decisions
- Know what you want. Before you interview the first candidate, develop a written job profile so you’re clear about what’s expected in the position and the primary criteria the person must satisfy to perform the job effectively. The clearer your understanding of what the position requires, the better the chances are that you will find someone who’s a great fit.
- Don’t rely on first impressions. If you initially like someone, your natural tendency will be to relax, turn off the thinking side of your brain, maximize the positives, minimize the negative and sell the person on the job. Counter this tendency by not making hiring decisions within the first 30 minutes of an interview. If you like the person after the first 30 minutes, take the next 30 to probe harder for specifics and ask tougher questions.
- Call first. A phone interview will minimize the first impression phenomenon, enabling you to quickly weed out people who may not be appropriate for a variety of reasons, such as someone who talks a good game but is short on required skills and experience.
- Get specific. Don’t ask hypothetical questions about how someone would handle certain situations. Remember, past performance is the best predictor of future behavior, so ask how the person has handled the type of situations they may face as a part of your team.
- Listen carefully. Ask open ended questions and probe for thoughtful responses. Ask if the candidate has performed a specific task, the challenges they encountered along the way, and how they responded to them. Let them do most of the talking.
- Get past the hype. As you dig deeper into a candidate’s responses, make sure that they were directly responsible for accomplishing certain tasks or meeting goals and determine how they went about accomplishing their objectives. There’s a big difference between a person who contributes to doing something a person who is directly responsible for getting it done.
- Be consistent. Ask the same questions of all candidates and develop a custom checklist of key elements you want to include in each interview. This will substantially help boost your accuracy and keep all candidates on a level playing field.
- Look for that extra spark. The best candidates typically do more than they must, and aren’t interested in just getting by. Listen carefully to responses to determine who consistently has gone above and beyond the call of duty to get the job done. For example, you might ask, “When was the last time you identified the problem in the workplace and develop a solution for it?” A good candidate should be able to cite several examples and explain how they were accomplished.
The bottom line: Hiring is far too important to leave to chance, and it’s much easier to find the right person once you have a clear strategy for the interviewing process. Be sure to look beyond your gut and examine the candidate’s head (what they know), heart (what they’re driven to do) and feet (what they have done) before you make your final hiring decision.