Interviewing can be a tough job, but it’s one of the most important things you’ll do as a leader. This is your biggest chance to ensure you’re making the right hire throughout the entire hiring process, so let’s make that easier on you.
Streamline your scheduling process
One of the most time consuming parts of hiring is the interviewing process. Don’t make it harder and longer by individually scheduling each interview over the phone. Streamline your process by scheduling via email ONLY. You want candidates that are digitally saavy, right? Who are responsive, right? Well then this is your first test – can they respond in a timely manner with professional communication through the email that they provided in their application? If not, you don’t want them!
Schedule your interviews in a time block that works for you and the others on the interview panel and offer those time slots on a first-come, first-served basis to your invited candidates. Give folks at least 3-5 business days of lead time so you aren’t being unreasonable with them being able to get off of work, but then stick to your schedule. You want to know that they care about the job enough to make it work AND it’s important to interview your candidates back to back if you can so that you can make clear comparisons and decisions.
Bonus tip: utilize a service like Calendly to make this even easier! With a service like Calendly, you can create an event, input the available times for your interviews, copy the invite link and email that to your candidates so they can pick their times themselves. This makes sure you have no overbooking, you don’t have to go back and forth with candidates via email, and the appointments are automatically confirmed and sent to your calendar! PS – you can also add directions, further information, and ask questions of your candidates if there is anything else you need to know before they get to your office.
DON’T GIVE AWAY THE ANSWERS
This is BY FAR the biggest mistake I see in most companies hiring processes – they give away the answers their looking for while they’re asking the question! You should not be giving a few minute explanation to any of your interview questions. EVER.
Let’s say for example you need someone who is fantastic at Excel because this position is going to be inputting and analyzing a ton of raw data. First, I hope this was listed as a duty and skill in your job description – meaning they already know this is something important to the job because they should know the job description pretty well by the time they walk into an interview. Here’s an example of a bad way to phrase an interview question to gauge this person’s Excel competency:
“So this job requires a ton of time in Excel. You’ll be taking raw data points from many different reports from staff, combining them into a single report, and then creating an analysis report to present to leadership every month. You’ll be analyzing for performance of the teams you oversee, trends in sales, and return rates. You’ll then be making recommendations to the leadership team regarding what products should be pulled, what products need to be pushed, what team members are performing highest and why, how to train others based off of that high performance, etc. Knowing that, can you tell us about your experience with Excel?”
My nightmare! Okay now let’s look at a good way to phrase an interview question to gauge this candidate’s Excel competency:
“Can you please give us an example of how you’ve used Excel in the past to analyze raw performance data and present recommendations based on that data to your leadership team?”
See the difference? I hope so. The first question leads the candidate exactly to what they know you need to hear from them and also allows them to give a vague answer that matches those needs. The second questions forces the candidate to talk about their actual experience doing what you’re asking and only gives enough context for the candidate to focus their answer. Don’t make this mistake!
“Why do you want to work for our company?” is your most important question
Your first question should always be, “What do you know about our company and why do you want to work with us?” You know why? Because you want a candidate who does their research, is prepared, and shows you that they want to work for you specifically – not just take any job. I can’t tell you how many candidates I’ve weeded out off of this question alone. I’ve heard from candidates, “Wow, I’ve applied for so many jobs lately I’m not sure how to answer that.” BULLET DODGED. I’ve heard others try to fluff their way through saying super generic things praying that they are along the right lines but clearly knowing nothing about our company. And then I’ve heard the candidates I really want, the ones that have written down our mission and vision, can pull stats or info directly from our website and share those back to us, basically someone that shows me they took the time to look into us. If a candidate hasn’t done so – they aren’t your RIGHT talent.
Bonus tip: Your second question should be, “Tell us what you understand of this position and why you want this job?” Same reasons – you want to know that they aren’t applying to just ANY job and that they took the time to get to know the job description.
Only ask open-ended questions
If any of your questions can be answered with a yes or no, they are not appropriate for the interview. You can ask yes or no questions through your screening (like I mentioned in last week’s blog utilizing Indeed’s free screening tools), your interview time should be focused on deeper discussion. Using the Excel example again, you could ask, “Are you proficient in Excel?” which is a bad question OR you can ask, “Can you tell me about a project you created in Excel and its benefit to your team?”.
Ask for examples
As you may have noticed in the examples above, your secret weapon is asking for examples! You don’t want to hear those generic answers of, “I’m a team-player, super organized, and pay attention to detail.” Rather, you want to hear an example of how they’ve been a team-player in their previous roles, or you want them to tell you what system they utilize to stay organized, or how have they prevented a problem in the past by paying close attention to detail? And if they start giving you a generic example or a generic answer, call them on it and bring them back to an example. If they don’t have an example then you have your answer.
Always have a second interview
Always, always, always have a second interview! Your first interview all of your candidates should get the same questions (you want to be able to compare clearly). However, that’s not enough to hire someone. You always want to have a second interview to personalize the interview questions to your concerns of the particular candidate in front of you and to provide more situational questions with more depth on the position (now that you know they’ve done their research). You’d be surprised how many candidates can ace a general interview, but when the interview gets more specific on the second go around they have trouble explaining away your concerns. Don’t make the wrong hire because you’re in a rush – it will cost you much more time (and money) in the end.
Listen to your red flags
If you have a red flag or that gut instinct that something is off – LISTEN TO IT. Trust me, I’ve made this mistake before. I noticed that a candidate was SUCH a talker, like hard to get her to stop and hard to get a word in edgewise, and then I even heard from her references that she was chatty, but I thought that was no biggie. It was a HUGE biggie. She wasn’t able to perform, was poisoning our team, and eventually I had to fire her (which to this date was my worst experience firing someone EVER). Had I listened to my gut, I wouldn’t have been in that situation but more importantly I wouldn’t have wasted her time or the company’s time with the wrong hire.
Diversify your questions
You want to ask the typical questions like I’ve shared above and “where do you see your career in 3 years?” or “what’s your weakness and how do you work to overcome that weakness?” but, you also want to make sure you’re asking questions that directly relate to the needs of the position for which you’re hiring. If you utilize a certain system or machinery and you know you won’t have time to train someone from scratch, then make sure you have questions to gauge the candidate’s experience to ensure they’re the right fit.
DO NOT ask about anything that could relate to protected classes
Okay, I know this sounds like a given but I’ve realized many well-intentioned interviewers cross this line without even realizing it. For example, let’s say you ask your candidate, “Tell me about yourself,” and they respond telling you about their 3 children and how much they love to be involved in their lives, etc. If you stop there and don’t ask any questions related to family, you’re most likely safe. However, if you then say, “Oh that’s so exciting! How old are your children? What kinds of activities are they involved in?” Seemingly innocent right? Nope. Now you’ve asked questions about their children which they could misconstrue and make a case that you were asking their children’s ages and activities because you wanted to discriminate against them as an involved parent due to your fear of them being out of the office with their children.
These kinds of conversations often happen in the waiting room or on the walk to the interview room, and can still be used against you. Anything you ask from the moment they step onto the premises to the moment they leave can be utilized in a discrimination case.
Limit your interviews
How many candidates – how long each interview is – how many questions and interviewers you have
You’ll want to limit your interviews in several different ways. First, limit how many candidates you’re bringing to each level of the interviews based on how many open positions you have. I’d suggest no more than 6 candidates scheduled for your first interviews for one open position, no more than 8 for two open positions, and no more than 10 for 3 open positions. Above that, I’d suggest doing your hiring in rounds.
Then I’d suggest no more than 3 candidates move on to the second round of interviews for one open position, no more than 4 for 2 open positions, and no more than 6 for 3 open positions.
Next you’ll want to limit the amount of time your interviews run. For first interviews I suggest a 30-minute time slot and for second interviews I suggest a 45-minute time slot. As you’re thinking of that timeline I’d suggest now more than 3 interview panelists that are asking questions (you can have more in just to listen and observe). I’d also suggest no more than about 5-7 questions in both your first and second round interviews.
So, What Now?
Share with me in the comments how you’re going to implement these tips to streamline your next hiring process! Also, share with us any other interviewing hacks you have that help you find the RIGHT talent.