Are You a Good Interviewer, or Are You Pushing Candidates Away?

We all hear plenty of hype about how difficult the interview process is for the person in the hot seat, and no doubt it truly is a nerve wracking experience.  The sweaty palms, barrage of questions, and the stakes on the line (your professional career!) are undoubtedly ingredients for a pressure-filled situation.  However, there is as much skill involved in successfully administering an interview on the employer side as there is on nailing an interview on the candidate side.  The stakes are equally as high, as an interviewer is tasked with the challenge of finding the right employees that essentially make a company function.  This is no easy feat.

It is also especially important for interviewers to remember that while you are getting a feel for the candidate to see if they are a good fit for the company, those candidates are also getting a feel for the company to see if it is right for THEM.  Just because you find a perfect candidate and offer them a position does not mean they have to say yes!  So as an interviewer, are you drawing candidates to accept those offers, or is a rusty interview process turning them towards pursing opportunities elsewhere?  Read below for tips from a post on The Daily MBA blog by Jarie Bolander on how you can provide the best interviewing experience for your candidates!

Start Out Right

Most candidates will be nervous when they first meet you. Your first task is to make them feel comfortable. Doing this will ensure that you see the true person and not the nerves. Now, it’s telling to see how a candidate handles stress but don’t use that as the only barometer.  It’s still a good idea to make them as comfortable as possible by using these techniques:

  • Ask if they need anything: Being a good interviewer requires that you take care of your guests’ needs. Asking if they need anything is the simplest and most direct way to do that.
  • Introduce yourself: Before you begin an interview, it’s imperative that you introduce yourself and what you do. That way, the candidate can at least understand who they are talking to and what your role is.
  • Start out with idle chit, chat: Resist the temptation to jump right in to your detailed questions. Warm the candidate up a bit by giving them some easy questions to answer.
  • Tell them what’s going to happen: Explain to the candidate the interview process and what steps they will be going through. Doing this allows the candidate to mentally plan out their interview experience.
  • Ask if they need anything again: Once you time is up, make sure to offer them the use of the restroom or any kind of refreshment that’s appropriate. This is not only the courteous thing to do but also allows you to see how the candidate reacts to normal social interactions.

Some of you may be asking yourself, “Hey, I want to understand how they deal with stress. That’s the culture of my company.” That’s a perfectly valid trait to want to interview for but not what you should start out with. You will have plenty of opportunities to gage your candidates’ tolerance for stressful situations during the interview process. Starting out stressful is not being a good host and shows the candidate that your company does not value making a good first impression.

Be Tough but Fair

Interviews are just a glimpse into the psyche of a candidate. They are only as useful as the interviewer makes them. That’s why it’s critical to get as much information out of the interview as you can. Doing this requires that you to ask the tough questions in a fair way. What this means is to ask questions that truly gets to the candidates character and skill. Now, when it comes to evaluating technical skill, that can get tricky. Technical skills really come in two flavors — mechanics and problem solving.
Mechanics: This refers to being able to design, code or do a protocol. It’s the doing part, kind of like knowing how to drive a car — you may be really good at it but you may not know how the car actually works.
Problem Solving: Challenging problems take an in-depth knowledge of a subject and the ability to dissect complex problems into manageable chunks. A candidate may be great at thinking up the experiment but horrible at actual execution.
Obviously, other skills are important as well but these two are usually the hardest to ascertain from a short interview. Consider the following techniques to get a better idea of a candidates mechanical and problem solving skills:

  • Have them describe a problem they solved: Most people will jump at the chance to explain how they solved something tricky, especially engineers and scientists.
  • Ask them to design or outline a simple device or procedure: For creative people, this is a good one to show you how they think. There is nothing like charging the whiteboard and hashing out a design for some new idea.
  • Walk them through the lab or office space: Giving someone a tour is a great way to put them at ease and see how they interact with staff. It’s critical to understand this people dynamic. If they are nervous, condescending or uninterested, then that’s a big red flag.
  • Ask them to solve a problem you have: Solving a problem you currently face is a great way to determine how well a candidate approaches problems and can also give you some insight into something you need to fix.

Sell the Company

Part of your job as an interviewer is to put your company in the most favorable light you can. This does not mean you lie about reality but you do have to amplify the positive while being honest about the negative. Selling the company really starts out with the first impression you give the candidate, the after interview follow up and their first day. All of these interactions leave an imprint on the candidate that will sway them one way or another. Another important aspect of selling the company is to understand the needs of the candidate. Why are they leaving their job? What excites them? Why do they want to work for your company? What’s their number one issue with their last company?
Of course, going over the benefits, compensation and other perks is important but if your company is competitive, then those things are just the minimum threshold to get past. What you really need to figure out is what itch the candidate needs to scratch. For some, it might be as simple as doing something different. While others, they may just want a shorter commute.

Close the Deal

If you really want the candidate to take the job, then you need to figure out how to close the deal. Closing the deal takes many forms from the direct approach to the more subtle. In fact, the hardest thing to figure out is the subtle clues the candidate has given you as to what they really want out of the job. Again, these reasons are not as obvious as you may think. All candidates have a mental checklist they go through before accepting an offer — your job is to ensure all the boxes get checked and that they are the right fit for your company. Consider this list of clues that will help you assess your candidates needs:

  • Directly Says What They Want: Once you hear what they want, then make sure you can provide that. It’s vital to align expectations and ensure that you can keep your promises.
  • Looking for Growth: Growth can be many things but usually it means growing to more responsibility (e.g. Management). Make sure that there is career growth opportunities that align with the candidates needs before offering them the job.
  • Loves the Technology: The hook of interesting stuff is reinforced if the technology is new and exciting. For an engineer or scientist, the technology hook can seal the deal if everything else (salary, benefits, etc.) is sub-par.
  • Wants to work with a former colleague: Getting the chance to work with past colleagues is a powerful hook, especially a former boss that was well respected and takes care of people.

Each candidate is motivated by different things so adjusting your closing style is essential to get the candidates you want.

In the End, It’s Still a Crap Shoot

No matter how long you interview someone or how extensive a background check is or how many references you call, it’s still a crap shoot as to whether or not they will fit into your company. Don’t be discouraged if you choose a candidate and they don’t work out.  Just remember to learn from it because that will make you a much better interviewer.

http://www.thedailymba.com/2010/11/01/how-to-be-a-good-interviewer/

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