Some Tips on Interviewing Potential Employees

Business Success Comes From Finding the Right People 

Hiring, Business Success

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, explains that one of the first priorities in transforming an organization to greatness is, “first get the right people on the bus and then get the wrong people off the bus.” The bus, of course, is a company or organization wanting transition from being good to being great. Who to hire and who no longer belongs are difficult decisions subject to much uncertainty. They are made by business owners and managers, especially during the hiring process, based on extremely subjective criteria.  It always seems to be a gamble, so let’s see if we can consider some ways to improve the odds.

It’s been our observation that the hiring decision is often based on job history and experience. We read the resume, ask some questions about job skills, get a general feel for personality and make a decision. Concerns may develop from the interview, but they seem to be outweighed by the candidates other positive attributes. In many cases, a candidate just does not fit in with the culture of the group. They may not be able to work productively with others in the group. There may be an attendance issue. There may not be willingness to learn or understand the systems used in the new company and may always revert to the way it was done where they worked before. How do we sort through these issues before making the decision to hire? Let’s consider a few basics.

Be a Good Listener

HiringI have often sat in on an interview where the great majority of the talking was done by the interviewer, not the candidate. Of course, the interviewer wants the candidate to understand all of the aspects of the job so that they know the challenges and opportunities. In some cases, the interviewer is selling the job and in some cases painting the difficulties involved in order to scare off those of little confidence.  Either way the candidate is not being given the opportunity to reveal underlying attitudes and personality traits.  Make the interview a conversation not an examination.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Close-ended questions are those where the response is a short statement and invokes no further discussion. “How tall are you?” I am 6 feet tall. That is a close-ended question. An open-ended question invokes a response which can lead to a further clarifying question. This  leads the respondents into a more revealing conversation. These types of questions allow the interviewer to learn more about the candidate and become a good listener. For example:

  • Question- What did you like best about your last job?
  • Answer- I liked the travel associated with visiting customers?
  • Question- What was it about the travel that you liked?
  • Answer – I liked getting away from the office and the boss.
  • Now you can ask several questions at this point which can reveal much about the candidate’s attitude towards work and in particular being supervised. Pick one for yourself.

Let Others Interview

Some managers believe that they alone should do the interviewing, because it’s their decision and Interviewno one else understands what is required for be successful in the open position. Maybe that is so, but getting several points of view can be very beneficial. Every person has a unique perspective in evaluating others based on their own personal experiences and prejudices.  Each one of us is not as objective as we may think. We need those other points of view to truly understand the attributes of the candidate.

Several people should interview the candidate separately. Don’t do a group interview where one interviewer will feed upon the others previous question. Remember we are looking for different personal perspectives, not a group perspective. Come together after all of  the interviews are complete and compare notes. The person responsible for hiring then has an opportunity to hear others’ impressions of the candidate and make amore educated decision.

In a small company, you may not have others within the company whose opinion you would strongly consider in evaluating candidates. Ask a friend or even your spouse to meet with the candidate. Those not directly involved in the business can often provide some interesting insights.

Some Questions for the Interview

Consider some of these questions during an interview. They are open-ended and give you an opportunity to listen.

  • Who is your role model?  Why?
  • What things do you not like to do? Why?
  • Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
  • Why have you had X amount of jobs in Y years?
  • What questions do you have for me?

Making a wrong hire is a costly decision. Some may say, ”oh well” but think about the time spent on interviewing, the money spent on advertising, the time spent on training, and the opportunities lost in business. It all adds up.

These are just a few items to consider when hiring, we would appreciate hearing from your experiences.