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!

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.