In a previous article, we had discussed how to nail a job interview, from both sides of the table. Here we will cover some more tips on how to prepare and how to get as much information as possible from your potential candidates when interviewing them.
Having a checklist
An interview checklist lays out what you need to do during the interview process. Some employers might not need that if they're looking for a very specific skillset and are just meeting the candidate (whether on a zoom call or in-person) and want to get a feel for their personality and if they'll be a good match for the rest of the team.
But even then, interviews can be nerve-wracking for everyone involved. And when nerves are involved, best-laid plans often go awry, as the saying goes. Having an interview checklist can keep you, your client or employer, and the candidate on track during the process.
Interview checklists are also a good way to keep consistency between multiple interviews for the same position. You can use the same interview structure for each candidate and ask the same questions, which allows for easier comparison.
Taking the time to plan the interview process ensures you are prepared.
Structure the interview
Having a preset structure before you conduct the meeting makes it easier to stay on track, keep within the time frame, and stay focused on all items that need to be addressed in the interview.
Allot a certain amount of time to each step of your interview structure, and give yourself a little extra time as a contingency.
Here is an example structure you could use to guide you through interviews:
- Introduce yourself and give a rundown of the interview structure.
- Ask the candidate to introduce themselves to everyone on the call or in the room.
- Ask about the candidate’s experiences.
- Inform the candidate of any skills that they'll need on the job and if they feel there might be any challenges there.
- Ask questions about the candidate’s values.
- Discuss the company and the position.
- Go over salary range.
- Ask if the candidate has any questions for you.
- Conclude the meeting.
Values and Culture
When asking about the candidate's values, what you're reaching for is an insight into whether they'll be a good match with your company's core values and if they'll be an asset to the corporate culture that you've built.
Here are some questions you may ask that could open the door to discussions on that subject. If your company has very specifically defined core values, then you can make your own list to see how well the candidate will align with those.
- Do you have any outside-of-work passions?
- At this company we feel strongly that ______, how do you feel about that issue?
- Would you value _________ more than _____________?
- What are you looking for in an employer?
- Have you ever gone above and beyond for a customer? What did you do?
- Do you typically get along with your co-workers and management? How important is that to you?
When embarking on improving the culture of your business, one of the primary areas to look at is defining your core values.
While experience and knowledge can be picked up on the job, values are not so easily taught, and employing someone with the wrong fit can sometimes do more harm than good. Developing a list of questions that allow you to assess a candidate’s cultural fit with your business can help to avoid hiring anyone who may not hold the same core beliefs.
Sharing your values with the outside world can also be great for attracting new talent. If you’re able to demonstrate how your organization looks after its staff and that it is clear what is expected of them, the right candidates will be drawn to your business and will want to stay for longer.
Retaining someone whose views or actions clash with your company’s values will ultimately cost you.
To avoid bad habits becoming the norm, make your values part of the interview process, and also a part of regular performance reviews. This will communicate the importance of your values to every member of your company and show that you are keeping track of how well the team is performing as a cohesive group.
The little things
When interviewing someone for a position that they're clearly interested in, they are most likely going to be on their best behavior, trying to put their best face forward. This is obvious. But what can you look for that will tell you a wealth of information about the candidate, without them saying a word.
The concept of "look, don't listen" is applicable here. LOOK at the person. Are they well-kempt? Are they dressed well? Do they look like there could be some personal hygiene issues?
Beyond what's physically visible, what about the other things you can look at? What about their references? Have you called them and asked them tough questions? References are put on an application knowing full well that the candidate will get a good review from the reference, so why not dig a little deeper than "was this person a good employee?"
Ask them what job the person had at the company when they departed, and what was the reference's position in relation to the candidate. Did they work together directly? Or hold some position completely unrelated? This will tell you a lot about who the reference is, and how they were connected to the candidate.
Ask why the person left that company. This usually catches people off-guard. You should have already asked the same question and got an answer from your candidate -- now you’re cross-checking. It can be interesting to see two very different versions of the same story come to light.
Some other probing questions to ask:
- What was [candidate's] strengths and weaknesses?
- What is your opinion on [candidate's] best qualities and your number one memory of them when you worked together?
- What were some of [candidate's] day-to-day duties?
As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. There are many things you can look at to get a much more rounded picture of a person during the limited interactions you have while interviewing someone.
How well does this person communicate? Were their emails and written correspondence composed professionally? Do they take a long time to respond or are they relatively fast? Did they pick up the phone when you called?
Were they on time for the interview? If it was a zoom interview, was there a messy room in the background? The real-world version of this same idea would be if there's an in-person interview, walk them back to their car and take a look inside. Is it tidy or does it look like a dog's breakfast? Is there trash left on the seats, covered in fast-food wrappers?
These little things add up to a lot when considered as a whole.