7 Interviewer Tips that Lead to Great Hires

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When hiring a new employee, your mission is likely twofold: 1) attracting talent for your immediate and future needs, and 2) filling your critical positions with the right people. Your main objective is to effectively vet and assess candidates, but how you present yourself, what questions you ask, and what information you provide will leave a lasting impression on your potential hires. How do you characterize your company? How do you work as a team? What types of projects will your new hire oversee? How has your candidate solved similar problems in the past? Transparency earns trust, leads to informed decision-making for both parties, and, thus, results in great hires. Here are 7 tips to attract and hire the right candidate. 

  1. Write a well-defined job description. Involve key staff with whom the new hire would work to clearly define the responsibilities, education, and experience you’re seeking. The job description acts as a blueprint, clarifying the position and its objectives for potential candidates. By laying out your expectations right away, your candidates walk into their interviews with a solid understanding of what you’re looking for.

Job descriptions will rarely contain all of the following specifics but they are important to candidates in determining fit for themselves. Fit will result in a happy and committed employee so know and be prepared to elaborate on the following:

  • Core vs secondary responsibilities
  • A typical day
  • Short-term & long-term goals and objectives
  • Collaboration partners, customers, stakeholders, leadership
  • Variation of work
  • Biggest challenges
  • Support structure: resources, processes & infrastructure
  • Pace and demands of environment
  • Amount of Autonomy

Be prepared to discuss these in more depth during the interview. Check out our blog post on developing great job descriptions for more tips.

  1. Use a model for comparative analysis. When determining the necessary attributes and experience of your next hire, use your experiential knowledge of past successes and failures to build your ideal model. If someone was previously successful in this position, analyze what it was about him that made him a high performer. For new positions, use your job description and assumed challenges of the role to determine the appropriate qualities, education, and experience required to meet the goals. For junior positions, candidates may not have experience or a proven track record of success. In this case, look for key indicators of high potential and drive. As an example, ask candidates about their past performance reviews. Feedback from previous managers can be a significant indicator for their potential.
  2. Create a rating system. After you’ve determined the essential and secondary criteria of the position through your model for comparative analysis, design a simple spreadsheet that categorizes the most important skills, experience, and attributes you are seeking. You can weight each category differently based on hierarchy of needs. By building this baseline using historical information of success and failure, you can pinpoint the critical needs of the position. A visual dashboard makes it easy to reference the qualifications of each candidate, and it helps you and everyone involved in the decision-making to maintain consistency and focus when rating/assessing the candidates. Keep in mind that this rating system may evolve throughout the interview process.
  3. Make a strong first impression. Create a welcoming environment in your workplace for the interviewee. Before the candidate arrives, make sure your staff is prepared and able make the interview on time. Discuss with everyone involved in the interview process what qualities you’re looking for. Your teams preparedness for the interview and their ability to ask astute questions is as important for them, as the interviewer, as it is for the interviewee. People want to work for thoughtful employers who exemplify a collaborative and cohesive environment.
  1. Prepare relevant questions. To best understand behavior, ask questions that elicit experiential knowledge by bringing the candidate back to a specific moment in their careers. What are his problem-solving strategies? How does he handle conflict? In what ways has he been a leader?

For example, when hiring for management positions, gauge the candidate’s emotional intelligence by asking questions such as: Tell me about a time when there was a conflict within your team. How did you diffuse the situation? What actions did you take? What was the end result? For individual contributor roles, engage with your candidate’s problem solving abilities with prompts such as: Tell me about a time when your project was in jeopardy. Describe the circumstances, your actions taken, who it affected, and the resulting outcome. As a follow-up, present a problem the new hire will certainly encounter, and ask your candidate to walk you through her strategy. Hearing someone’s thought process lends valuable insight into her curiosity, depth of understanding, and analytical skills.

Ask the same questions of each candidates to maintain consistency.

  1. Sell the opportunity. While the priority of the interview is to assess candidates, be sure to “sell” the position, the company, the people throughout the interview. Explain how you support your team and recognize individual accomplishments, describe your team’s recent successes and upcoming projects, and emphasize the company’s values, mission and positive culture. Additionally, find out what your candidate is looking for in his next opportunity. Knowing the primary motivators will ensure a strong reason to hire. If there is no clear upside to consider your company and position, you haven’t found the right fit for your position.
  1. Hire for fit. Although the market may require you to make a few concessions, avoid compromising too much on your top criteria. It’s all about fit and finding that balance of experience, attitude and drive of the individual that fit your positions level of responsibility and necessary skills. Ideally, the position should be enough of a stretch to offer a challenge and keep the employee engaged? Always aim to hire with this in mind. If the position is a stretch,  (i.e. she lacks some secondary criteria), look for indicators that demonstrate how she overcame formidable past challenges and achieved objectives? Does she spend time outside of business hours learning and developing her knowledge of her field? The objective is to get as close as possible while following a consistent process.

Where under-hiring has obvious implications for underperformance, over-hiring has its own risks for retention. As a hiring manager, you’ll want to ascertain that the position is a logical incremental step in the candidate’s career.

Hiring is not an exact science. It’s complex, as are people, and there are many things to consider. Stay focused on these tips to attract and assess and you’ll significantly increase your chances of finding and retaining the right people every time.


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