To begin today’s newsletter, we’ll start with a reflection exercise: regardless of the number of years it has been, consider your last job application process. What was it like? How did the organization make you feel throughout the process? Were they responsive and communicative, or did the process drag on incessantly? Assuming you were selected for an interview, did you feel the employer understood your value at the end of the process?
Too often, the answer to these questions is not what you’d hope for. Candidates are left wondering about their application status, not communicated with, and if they’re interviewed, may not feel satisfied with the information that was requested following the process. Two or three years ago, we may have felt the need to explain why it was important to have a proven interview strategy designed to identify individuals that will stick with your team. Now, it seems to be stating the obvious.
With remote jobs still continuing to expand and job-seekers enjoying a global market of job openings to choose from, employers need to be better recruiters than ever to hire and retain top talent. Plus, according to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), the average cost per hire is $4,700 – though some employers estimate 3-4x a position’s salary.
No matter what the cost, it is money most organizations don’t want to spend more often than they have to – especially given the additional cost of unfilled positions.
Today we’ll cover a proven process to ensure you’re well-set for your next search by discussing both what you need to include in your interviews, and the tools you should have in place to ensure your overall interview process goes well.
First, we’ll detail a framework for the actual interview. There are six sections to an interview that should never be skipped.
Interview Component One: The Introduction
While it may seem obvious that the introduction is the first step to an interview, it is important to adequately prepare for it and consider it of equal importance to the remainder of the process. Be sure you are setting aside time in your interview process to build rapport, allowing time for the candidate to adjust to the environment.
Remember that the candidate is likely nervous. They’re in competition for something very desirable, and know that they’re about to have to answer unknown questions to strangers to try to validate their own worth for the position. While this comes naturally to some, it does not to all – and that does not always mean an individual is not well-suited for your position.
The more comfortable you allow your interviewee to become, the better results you are likely to get – but be sure to not cross personal boundaries that the candidate may regret sharing. Small talk may help a candidate relax, but after a candidate has disclosed personal details about young children or family plans, they may wonder if they were disqualified for personal reasons rather than professional ones. You can’t stop them from volunteering information, but avoid asking these personal questions if possible.
Interview Component Two: Work History
Begin with open-ended questions that allow the candidate to choose the details they want to share with you from their work history. This will accomplish multiple needs:
- It will help you learn your candidate’s professional history.
- It will help you understand how your candidate prioritizes his or her professional accomplishments, and which results they view as most meaningful and relevant to this position
- It will help you gauge the candidate’s communication style without specific guide rails to keep the conversation within.
As the candidate tells you his or her story, be sure you are actively listening! Take notes to ensure you’re prepared to follow up when needed.
Interview Component Three: Competency-Based Interview Questions
Use behavioral interview questions to assess the competencies and skills the candidate will need to be able to use in the position. Start by reviewing your posted job description. What competencies will be necessary to complete the responsibilities completed by the individual hired? Write these down – these are the competencies you need to measure and assess in the interview process.
Then, draft a list of behavioral interview questions designed to measure those specific competencies. A simple Google search should help you find examples for these. Behavioral interview questions require a candidate to answer questions based on past experience, rather than hypothetical answers. For example, if you are hiring an accountant, a competency required may be data analysis. A behavioral interview question to gauge this skill may ask the candidate to tell the interviewer about a time when they had to make a complex decision with many competing priorities, and to explain the data they used to make the decision.
When taking notes on the candidate’s answers, listen for the candidate to provide you information on the situation they were in, the behavior they personally had to employ to navigate the situation, and the impact of their behavior. This will help you to know where to probe for more information if one of these pieces is missing. (Pro tip: Situation-Behavior-Impact is also a well-studied framework for delivering tough feedback!)
Interview Component Four: Understand the Candidate’s Inputs
Next, ask the candidate about their “inputs” – or how they have prepared for this role in particular. This could be a variety of different things, and you can get some clues on where to start from the candidate’s resume and work history responses. For most candidates, their largest inputs will likely be past employment or education. However, candidates may have many ways they feel they have gained experience that is relevant to your posted position that they’d like to share, including life experience, micro-courses or credentials, self-taught skills, etc.
Interview Component Five: Gauge the Candidate’s Attitude
Our last two sections of the interview, attitude and career fit, do certainly have questions that can help you gauge a candidate’s effectiveness. However, they’ll also be areas that you’ll be listening for throughout the full interview process.
For example, you may be able to gauge a candidate’s attitude the moment they walk into the door – both for better and for worse. In most cases, though, it will likely be more nuanced, and you’ll have to do some probing. You may ask questions around how they’ve handled feedback in the past that there was something they needed to work on to see whether they’re the type to persist and improve or hesitate after setbacks.
Interview Component Six: Aligning Career Fit Expectations
Gauging a candidate’s career fit is not as cut and dry as you may think – this does not imply that every candidate needs to aim to be your organization’s next CEO. In fact, you’d probably have serious culture issues if that were the case.
It is perfectly appropriate for your organization to have a blend of high achievers and strong contributors – what is important is ensuring they are well-placed within their roles and across the organization. Before beginning a search, consider the role you are hiring for. Who do you need for this role? Is it a role where you hope to have a rising star who will develop through the ranks of the company, or would it be beneficial to hire a veteran who likely won’t promote, but hopefully can be retained?
Be sure you’ve considered the type of individual you want, so that when you ask a candidate about their 5-year plans, you can make sure it aligns with your own.
Now that we’ve covered the interview itself, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the challenge that can be associated with the logistics of the interview process. Managing interviews can be a feat, and if your team is not well-organized, you may lose your best candidate due to wasted time or a poor experience. Be sure that you implement tools and processes to help deliver a smooth and efficient process.
Managing the Interview Schedules
Ensuring your schedules are held in advance will help to ensure a better experience both for the candidates and for your evaluation team. Identify your evaluation team early, and explain their roles in the process. Then, as soon as this is complete, hold times on their calendars to accommodate the number of interviews needed. This will make scheduling the interviews much easier, and much less stressful for the interview committee once the times begin to be confirmed. Having blocks of time held in advance will also help to ensure that your evaluation team is able to be fully committed to the process with distractions eliminated.
Using Templates for Consistent Communication
Use templates for communicating with the candidates when possible – but most importantly, ensure their communication is frequent and transparent. If you are able to use an applicant tracking system, automate messaging where possible to ensure standardized practices are in place from candidate to candidate. If not, ensure there is an individual who is accountable for keeping in touch with each candidate and keeping them updated throughout the process.
Preparing Your Interview Committee
Provide an interview packet to each member of the interview committee to ensure they are all receiving consistent information, across the committee and for each candidate. The template should include each candidate’s resume and cover letter, a copy of the interview questions, and an evaluation sheet.
You can also set your interview committee up for success by scheduling debriefs in advance. At the same time that the interview time blocks are held, hold times for scheduled debriefs with the full evaluation committee, as soon as is practical following the interviews. This will help to ensure you provide the committee with active time to complete any necessary paperwork (handing in interview notes, completing evaluations, etc.), but will also ensure that you’re assessing the candidates as a group while the interviews are still fresh in mind.
With these tools to manage the logistics, and a well-defined interview framework planned in advance, you’ll be well on your way to hiring your dream team