Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Interview Process - Bringing in the Candidates

After a brief hiatus I’m back to begin wrapping up my series on the interview process. By now, you should have posted an ad, received some resumes, screened your candidates, and scheduled your first round of in-person interviews. Now, the more candidates you can meet, the better. But if you’re a small to mid-sized business, then you’re probably wearing many hats – so it’s going to be difficult to meet with dozens of candidates. Depending on your time and resources, set a goal to interview at least 5 candidates during the first seven business days of in-person interviews. As best you can, clear your schedule to make this happen. If you don’t, then this process will drag on forever, and you’ll end up forgetting about people, and never being satisfied with the results.

Why 5? It’s an arbitrary number – and an HR person might tell you that 5 isn’t nearly enough. But having worked for a medium-sized organization for a while, and watched how hiring tends to happen, having a goal of doing 5 in the first round is a reasonable, and achievable goal. So get to it.

Conducting the interview…

There are a lot of opinions on this, but here’s what I do, and I’ve found it to work well for my organization.

Your first job here is to get the candidate as comfortable as possible. Why? Because you want to learn about your candidate, and the only way to do that is to get them talking. Hint – brining them in front of your entire team right now, first thing, will not make them comfortable. If you do, you’ll be wasting everyone’s time. Yeah, I know… you already screened them. But until you know who’s worth interviewing, don’t bother brining your team in. Often I'll start an interview as a one-on-one, and then if the candidate seems like a reasonable fit, I'll bring in team members who happen to be in the office, or I'll bring the candidate by the break-room after the interview to talk with the team.

What’s with this whole “getting the candidate comfortable thing” first thing? Shouldn’t we be putting him/her on the spot to see how they react?

Would you want to be treated that way? There will be a chance to push the candidate, and gauge their reaction to not knowing an answer. But it’s important to get a good read on the candidate – so make them comfortable up front.

Maybe this is obvious, but I’ll say it anyway… your job here is to get the person talking. If you’re the only one talking, you don’t learn anything. And if you don’t learn anything, how can you reasonably evaluate the candidate? So after the pleasantries… you don't launch right into a barrage of questions do you? Oh you do? Well, let me define pleasantries then.

By pleasantries, I mean things like – “any trouble finding the place?”, “nice weather we’re having…”, "did you notice "X" about last month's patch-tuesday"... and so on. One thinks this should be obvious… but I’m defining this because I’ve seen interviewers launch right into the question component of the interview, and this throws some people off and makes them even more nervous than they would be otherwise.

So… as I was saying, after the pleasantries, give your 30,00ft overview/elevator-speech on who you are as an organization , and what you do. This shouldn’t be news to the candidate, but there will be time for details later… just don’t get too verbose here, because a big part of the interview is you keeping your mouth shut. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen interviewers use the interview to make themselves… feel smart, or important, or… whatever. Don’t be tempted to do this – if you do, you’re shooting yourself in the foot because a smart interviewee just might pick up on this, and realize he/she can score the job just with just a few well-timed comments.

So to review… make the candidate comfortable, give them the organization overview speech, get them talking, and keep your mouth shut.

Ok… but, what to ask? Well deal with that in the next segment.

1 comment:

Andy Parkes said...

Nice points!

There was i guy used to work with and he did many interviews where the candidate didn't get the chance to speak...mine included

I don't work there anymore ;-)

It wastes everyones time if you come out of the interview and know nothing about the candidate!

Spot on about getting relaxed. Lots of people are nervous at the interview stage and this can sometimes give an incorrect perspective of what that person is really like