When recruiting and interviewing candidates, the goals are simple: find the best people for the job as efficiently as possible, with an accepted offer at the end of the process. Often, however, we spend so much time focusing on trying to find the best people that we forget the critical steps that will get us there. Recruiting is an expensive and time-intensive process, so here are three areas that, with a little planning and intention, can go a long way toward ensuring that your organization is making the right hiring decisions the first time.
Top Five Items to Prepare for the Interview
Successful interviewees usually spend days, if not weeks, preparing for their interview. Yet, too often, interviewers have the candidate’s resume and no other guidance or resources to prepare. While interviewers often say they feel confident in their interviewing skills, many organizations have no clear way of measuring an interviewer’s skill in the recruiting process. Ensuring interviewers are just as prepared for the interview as the candidates sets the entire process up for success.Here are some steps to take to make sure your interviewer has everything they need.
1. Define Candidate Success
Far too frequently, reliance on a gut feeling determines our belief in whether a candidate would do well in a role. But, our guts are unreliable and tend to entrench biases. Usually, someone passes the “gut test” if they seem similar to the interviewer or to folks who are already in the role. Relying on the “gut test” means candidates with diverse experiences are often passed over, and homogenous cultures emerge.
The first step to breaking free of the “gut test” is to specifically define success for the role. Identify the core competencies that someone would need to demonstrate in order to perform at a high level. Once those are identified, get even more concrete. Specify the actual behaviors that make up each competency. For example, if pro-active ownership is a core competency for the role, behaviors to look for are examples of the candidate taking on projects that were outside of the scope of their assigned work or of identifying an issue and proposing a solution before being asked. These behaviors, also known as success indicators or positive indicators, define success in the role and give your interviewers and decision-makers a road map of what to look for.
2. Write Impactful Questions
Interviewers are often left on their own regarding what questions to ask. This can result in interviewers asking candidates to repeat information already contained in their resume or asking candidates obscure questions (the infamous, if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?) that illuminate little about potential success in the role.
Once core competencies and positive indicators have been identified, give your interviewers questions designed to elicit the behaviors you’re looking for. Behavioral interview questions (e.g., Tell me about a time when…) will bring you to the heart of the candidate’s experiences. Their answers will either demonstrate that they’ve engaged in desired behaviors or not and will give you a much better baseline to judge potential success than knowing that this person sees themselves as a sugar maple.
3. Listen Carefully
Asking great questions isn’t the only role of the interviewer. They also need to listen to the answers. And this is where our brains often trip us up. Our brains are designed for interpersonal communication through storytelling. We love a good story! And asking behavioral interview questions results in hearing a lot of stories. But unless we’re interviewing for the role of a professional storyteller, we want to resist the urge to get sucked into a story. Someone might tell a riveting and entertaining story that exhibits none of the positive indicators we’re looking for. If we aren’t careful, we might move them through to the next step because we had such a great time listening to them. With each question, the interviewer should have a list of key success indicators they are listening for and check them off as they hear them. This keeps the focus on the skills needed for success rather than on entertainment value.
4. Capture the Feedback that Matters
Conducting an interview takes time, and the last thing an interviewer wants to do after the interview concludes is complete an onerous feedback form memorializing their experience. But if feedback isn’t captured shortly after the interview, the specifics get lost, and we’re back to relying on our memories and (oh no) the gut.
Ideally, interviewers should be checking off success indicators as they move through their prepared questions, which makes feedback collection significantly easier and more effective. The feedback now directly answers the question of whether the candidate demonstrates behaviors that indicate success in the role instead of whether the interviewer “liked” the candidate. The feedback should also include a few quantitative questions asking the interviewer to rate the candidate on key core competencies and a few open-ended questions so that the interviewer has the opportunity to include any other relevant information. The feedback form should take at most five minutes to complete, and the interviewer should be required to submit it within one hour of interview completion.
5. Make Cleaner Recruiting Decisions
Finally, we get to the point we’re all waiting for – making a hiring decision. This is where having objective information about a candidate’s potential success in the role makes all the difference. If interviews were conducted using questions designed to elicit behaviors that indicate success in this role and feedback was collected from each interviewer in a timely fashion, the decision-makers are set up well. But there are still a few pitfalls to avoid.
First, groupthink is real. An interviewer might come out of an interview with a very strong opinion, but once they hear that their colleagues have opposite views, suddenly that opinion goes right out the window. Be sure to capture folks’ conclusions before they have the opportunity to confer with each other. Set the expectation that the feedback form should be completed and submitted without speaking to anyone else involved in the process.
Second, resist the urge to ignore the success indicators. It can be all too easy to let a candidate’s lack of positive behaviors slide once the hiring group gets together and reminisces about how “cool” the candidate was or “how much fun” they had during the interview. When hiring conversations head in this direction, hold firm to the positive indicators. Those are the road map for success, so don’t throw it away and let the “gut” take over at the last minute.
Third, remember that the skills and behaviors that lead to success in the role occur independently of one another. Even if a candidate was really strong in one core competency, it doesn’t automatically mean that they have the full package. If you’ve previously determined that this set of core competencies is key, don’t let a high score in one reduce the importance of another. Assess each candidate holistically on the metrics that were agreed upon in advance.
Ultimately, to ensure that the right hiring decision is made and the best candidate is chosen for the job, it is essential to be intentional about the interview process. By defining success and using carefully crafted questions and corresponding feedback forms, the recruiting process is more likely to be based on facts and evidence rather than on memories and gut feel. This will not only ensure that the right candidate is chosen for the job but also provides a much more systematic approach to identifying potential high performers. With the right tools in place, you can have confidence that you’re making the best hiring decision possible.
Interested in training for your interviewers or a total overhaul of your interviewing process? Schedule a meeting with us today to learn how our team of trainers and consultants can make your recruiting process more inclusive and effective.