Are your interview questions revealing the talent you seek?

Most organizations large enough to have in house recruiters and an HR department have a hiring process.  That hiring process will include a resume screening, phone screening and a series of interviews.

Once the candidate “passes” the recruiter’s or HR’s screening they will most likely be interviewed by the manager they would report to and maybe the team members they would be working with. Although these individuals may be top performers in their roles they often dread hiring and all that it entails. All they want to do is get the position filled and go back to doing their own jobs. So in an effort to get to know the candidate, they’ll ask a series of hypothetical questions like “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”.

Consider that a candidate’s behavior in a job interview is similar to how they would behave on a first date. They’ll be on their best behavior and adapt to the situation and the interviewer in order to make a good impression. But in order to discover if a candidate is a match to the job, interview questions must reveal if the candidate possesses the talents that are required for top performance in that job. Of course, there are several characteristics which we would all agree are necessary in any job such as being a self-starter, having a sense of personal accountability or being able to work with a team, but there are specific talent traits that will be essential to a specific job.

A thorough job interview will include both generic and job specific questions.  Whether your hiring process includes 1, 2 or more interviews, those interviews should include:

General questions:

  • Why did they leave each job on their resume?  The answers to this question can reveal a trend.   
  • Why do they want to work for your company? This will reveal how much they researched about your company and thought about why this job is attractive to them.

Job specific questions.   Let’s say you’re interviewing someone for a sales role, you might ask:

  • Behavioral questions about their achievements in their previous role(s).  The key is to start the question with: “give me an example of when…” These questions make the candidate think about specific instances of when they accomplished something.  
  • Ask questions about examples of when they failed at something pertinent to the role they’re applying for.
  • What are the candidate’s goals relative to this job.  How can this job get them to where they want to go?

Job specific questions should be crafted in advance. Think about what success in the job looks like and then create questions that will reveal if the candidate has the talent traits required. So let’s say the sales role you’re filling typically has a long sales cycle and success in the role often requires strategic thinking. You might ask:  “Give me an example of when you’ve developed and applied a successful sales strategy in selling a product with a long sales cycle.” “How long was that sales cycle?”  “What did you learn from your success/failure?”

In my experience, using an assessment to help craft these questions brings an elevated level of discussion to the interview and helps the hiring manager get to know the candidate on a deeper level.

If you’d like to learn more about using assessment to help craft these questions that will help you see the true candidate, instead of the first date version, let’s talk!

Is Your Candidate Really Available?

It’s still a candidate’s market and that means it’s imperative to understand your candidates’ intentions and remember they have alternate options.

Here’s a real-life scenario that I experienced with a client recently.

A company was looking for a Vice President in their Operations organization. After going through the normal hiring process they narrowed down the field to their top choice. The candidate made it all the way to the finish line and the company offered them the role, only to learn the candidate took their offer back to their current company and negotiated a retention bonus to stay in their current role.

This happened not once, not twice, but three times.

And this is not the only one of my client’s who this has happened to recently. Is it a strategy on the candidates part or just the company’s bad luck?

Neither. It’s the market and as a company looking for a superior performer who will be a great match, this is an element you must take into consideration.

Here’s an extreme (but accurate) comparison. Try to put yourself in this situation:

You are on a business trip and sit down at a bar to grab some food. Another business professional at the bar offers to buy you a drink. You thank the person and strike up some small talk. The added attention is nice and you appreciate being noticed. However, you’re happily married and have no interest in anything other than friendly conversation. That doesn’t mean you don’t participate in the conversation and see what comes from it.

I realize this is an extreme example, but it’s one that paints a similar picture. If a candidate is unemployed and applying for a role you should consider a different approach than if you’re courting someone who’s gainfully employed and looking for different opportunities.

A few weeks ago I shared three interview questions you should be asking. If you have a candidate whose employed and looking for alternate opportunities, wouldn’t it be nice to know why they’ve left each role they’ve had up to this point? If your candidate is not currently working, wouldn’t it be nice to know why and for how long?

These seem like no-brainer questions to get answered, but you’d be shocked at the number of candidates who make it to the final stages of the process and remain a mystery.

Want help identifying a process that works for hiring and takes into consideration the true availability of a candidate? Let’s chat!

Hiring Is A Process

Having a Hiring Process is critical to your company’s growth and stability.  

Here’s why:

  • Hiring is expensive and doubly expensive when you hire the wrong fit and have to start over.
  • It’s easy to fall in love with a candidate and forego all that pesky vetting.
  • Whether your company is large or small having a hiring process means you level the playing field – every candidate goes through the same process.
  • With the exception of recruiters or HR executives, most people don’t have experience in hiring.  Having an agreed upon hiring process provides guidelines to follow.

What should your process include? Below are some essential steps which should be performed by someone who will have a working relationship with the new hire.  If your company has a recruiter or HR executive in charge of recruiting/hiring then no. 1, 2 and 3 might be performed by them. Otherwise these steps should not be delegated to anyone who will not have a working relationship with the hire.  

  1. Resume screening:  a careful reading of the resume looking for job specific experience and candidate’s objectives.   If impressive proceed to next step.
  2. Phone screening: this should be a short get-acquainted phone call.   If impressive proceed to next step.
  3. Face to face interview:  this can be done in person or virtually and should include the person the new hire will report to.   If impressive proceed to next step.
  4. In person interview:  depending on the job and who they report to, this step may include more than one interview with different people.
  5. Talent assessment:  if your company utilizes talent assessments to determine talent match to the job this is where I recommend you administer it.     
  6. Reference checks:  call references and be sure to include questions about their working relationship with the candidate and when they worked together.   
  7. Final interview: can be one on the phone or virtually.  By now the candidate has really impressed you so this interview is to ask those final questions (often highlighted by the assessment results) to make your final decision.  

Adhering to a Hiring Process may appear to take more time in the beginning but I can tell you that my most successful clients are the ones who hire slow because they stick to theirs.   

3 Questions you should be asking your candidate (that you probably aren’t)

It’s a candidate’s market. There are currently more open roles in the US than there are candidates to fill them.

As a hiring manager you’re likely only hearing about how quickly and how desperately your team needs the open role filled. Without someone in the position everyone is taking on more responsibilities, has more work to do, and less time to focus on the role they were hired to do. It’s taxing and takes a toll on efficiency, productivity, and morale.

Let’s be honest you just want a person to fill the hole.

It would be nice if they met all the requirements. It would be super if they got along with the rest of the team. It would be superb if they believed in the company’s vision, lived the values and were an engaged part of the culture. But you don’t have the time to find the perfect match.

Sound familiar?

Making a hiring decision too quickly has the potential to do more harm than good in the long run.  I’ve been assessing candidates for clients nationwide for over 20 years and can tell you that the companies that have a hiring process that they stick to are more likely to find the best match for their positions. Whatever your hiring process it should always include the same steps for every position. Each step needs to be taken by the appropriate level within the hiring authority of your organization. This means you don’t delegate the resume review to someone in a junior role when the candidate will be reporting to a manager.   

The first step in most companies’ hiring processes is often a phone screen. The following three questions will often give a lot of insight into the candidate and give the hiring manager enough information to decide whether to move the candidate to a face to face interview.    

  1. What’s the reason you left each job on your resume?  
    • Candidates are often overlooked because they’ve changed jobs too often.  This isn’t always a bad thing and asking that simple question will give the candidate a chance to tell you a lot about themselves.
  2. Why are you available (not employed somewhere else) right now?
    • The answer to this question will tell you a lot about what the candidate is looking for in their next job.
  3. Why do you want to work for us?
    • Has the candidate taken the time to learn about your company?

How the candidate answers those three questions will help you decide if you want to move them to the next phase of your hiring process.  That’s when I usually come in and assess the candidate utilizing powerful tools which identify the next level of questions to ask.

I was recently told by a client that I make them think about questions they would never think to ask. Part of my job is to hold my clients back a bit and make sure they know as much about who they’re hiring as possible.  Having clarity about the talent you bring into your organization is key in hiring the best talent match for the job while also ensuring that you have a happy and productive employee.

If you’d like help with additional questions or throughout the entire process of hiring a new employee, lets chat!