Have you ever hired the wrong person? If so, you remember it well — and the cost to both you and
your group. Bad hiring decisions are both expensive and painful to correct.
Because your performance — and that of your group — depends on your making good hiring
decisions, the stakes are high when you hire. You need to take full advantage of every opportunity to evaluate a candidate’s qualifications for a job. One of those opportunities is the interview, when you look the candidate in the eye and form an opinion.
How to make the most of an interview? Focus on three tactics:
Prepare for the interview
Pose what-if scenarios, and
Avoid common interviewing mistakes
The first of these interviewing tactics is to prepare for the interview. Too often, harried managers,
dashing from meeting to meeting, arrive at an interview of a job candidate completely unprepared. Sometimes they haven’t even read the person’s resume — or do not have a clear idea of the position
the person is interviewing for.
One manager made the mistake of confusing the interviews for two different positions. He walked into the interview after a morning of meetings and asked the candidate why she was interested in a full-time position with a lot of travel. The candidate looked perplexed and, after a second, responded, “I’m here to interview for a six-month contractor position with no travel.” Not a good beginning.
However busy you are, treat interviews as if they were precious — for indeed they are. What you learn
in interviews will help ensure that you make sound hiring decisions. Find the time to study the resume, cover letter, and any other materials you have from the job candidate. Talk to everyone who interviewed the candidate before you. What questions did they ask? If you cover the same ground again, you will not gain any new insight to help make the decision — and you will bore the candidate.
Don’t forget that interviews are, after all, two-way. Candidates are observing you, deciding whether
they want to work with you. They are evaluating whether your organization offers them what they are looking for. By being prepared for the interview, you can use the opportunity to sell yourself and your organization to the right candidate.
The second interviewing tactic is to pose what-if scenarios. Ask the candidate, “What would you do
if…” — and then describe a particular scenario the person might encounter on the job. What-if scenarios are a way of diving deeper than the surface of the resume and typical interview questions. They allow you to assess personal qualities such as motivation, leadership and problem-solving capabilities, and teamwork skills.
Hugh, a product development manager, makes a point of using what-if scenarios when he interviews. His group releases new products quarterly. The pace is hectic, and different groups of end users need different types of support. Hugh is trying to fill an open position for a trainer in the group. He poses the following what-if scenario to all the candidates for the training position. “How would you address the training needs of our different customers, given that we release new products every few months? What types of training would you use? How would you reach out to the customers on such a frequent
Candidates’ answers to this what-if scenario help Hugh identify which of them has the necessary skills to excel in his organization’s fast-paced culture. Posing this scenario also gives him an opportunity to assess how well candidates might apply their existing skills to solve challenges in a new and different organization.
Hugh has learned to carefully analyze the answers to the what-if scenarios. The best answer is not necessarily the one from the candidate who talks easily in interviews and knows how to “play the interview game.” In a recent interview for another position, a candidate had the confidence to tell
Hugh that he didn’t know the right answer — but then outlined the steps he would take to find the
answer. Hugh hired him the next day, instead of another candidate who made up a passable answer on the spot.
The third interviewing tactic is to avoid common interviewing mistakes. Let’s look at a few. Many
managers equate the ability to talk easily and interview well with competence. Other managers are overly impressed with a person’s maturity and experience, or overly dismayed by a candidate’s youth. Still others respond positively to candidates who are similar to them, and they can imagine as friends. Simply liking a person is not a sufficient basis for hiring — you must ensure the person can do the
Another common mistake is being overly impressed with a candidate’s academic qualifications. For example, a highly motivated candidate with relevant experience is likely a better fit than someone with impressive but unrelated credentials.
Sometimes managers focus on a single key strength — often one that might have been lacking in a
former employee or might be missing in the group. While that expertise may well be crucial to the job, you still want to look at the total package. Does the candidate have what it takes to both do the job and be a solid addition to your group?
Employ these three tactics — preparing for interviews, using what-if scenarios, and avoiding common mistakes — to take full advantage of interviews. You will then greatly improve your chance of making the right hire.