What can you do when the interview process you’ve used for decades fails you? When it doesn’t make it easy enough to assess each candidate accurately, or when the candidate you chose turns out to not be the best one for the job? Sound familiar?
When a candidate is trying his/her best to make a good impression, he often doesn’t paint an accurate portrait of who he is as an employee. This is happening in many of our interviews. It’s time to rethink how you interview potential hires, and structure your process in a way that leads you to the ideal candidate. Here are some suggestions that could save you valuable time—and money.
Problem: The resume leads the interview. Many employers now feel that they lean too much on the candidate’s resume rather than getting to know who he or she is as it relates to the job. This process puts greater focus on what candidates have done versus who they are. Rather, employers need to focus on candidate potential and not just job experience. It is human nature for us to tend to gravitate towards what we have in common with others. Therefore, a mutual interest or association listed on a résumé may make a candidate seem more desirable – even if it doesn’t hold much weight when it comes to the job itself.
Solution: Look beyond the resume. While certainly you care what a candidate’s resume has on it, don’t let it be your sole guide as to how he/she will fare at your company if hired. Pay attention to her behaviors and responses during the interview. Is she confident when answering your questions or does she seem unsure of herself? Do her actions align with her responses? For example, if she says she’s a team player, does she act friendly and open to feedback?
Sometimes incorporating an in-depth personality assessment into the hiring process can help you directly compare candidates to your top performers. Several good assessments are available on the market, and are not difficult to find.
Problem: Canned interview questions are not helping you get to know a candidate. One of my search industry friends agrees with me that traditional interviews don’t allow you to know the real person you’re hiring. She asks questions like, “What would other people say about you?” She also doesn’t just ask the old, “Where do you want to be in five years?”, but instead asks where they want to be in 10 or 20, or even what they want to do when they retire. She feels it puts candidates off guard, and can get some really interesting information from them.
Solution: Get the conversation going. Sometimes I invite candidates to tell me about themselves personally. This tends to get the dialogue going and allows your interview to go off the rails and into more relaxed territory. Sometimes you get to know people better when you invite them to talk about themselves— and get them to give you real, unrehearsed answers.
Problem: Some people are great in interviews, but bad on the job. Interviews are often skewed by the impression that people make, which isn’t always reflective of their ability to do the job. Nailing all the answers you ask isn’t any guarantee that a candidate is as qualified as he makes you believe.
Solution: Test them. Many of my clients test candidates’ skills as a better interpretation of their abilities. One has them listen to five to 10 minutes of a recent podcast, and then has them write an interesting article (short) that would get people to want to listen to the podcast. Another client of mine believes firmly in assessment tests. He feels they tell him what the candidate is good at objectively— rather than having a person highlight his own strengths (or the strengths he thinks we want to hear). He tells me, “Using assessment tests also keeps me from my prior tendency to hire people I like who have skills very similar to mine.”
Just because traditional interviews have been conducted the same way for years doesn’t mean you have to adhere to them. Find a process that best helps you assess candidates, even if it is a bit unconventional.
Philip Kemper is Founder/President of Kemper Associates, a 37-year-old Chicago-based national executive search firm, specializing in Permanent and Contract staffing for Trade Shows and Exhibits, Staging and Equipment Rental, Business Meetings and Events Production, Video, Training and Incentives and more .His more complete bio is on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/philip-kemper/2/795/308/ . You may view Kemper Associates’ web site at: www.Kemperassociates.net , and contact Phil with questions or comments, and employment needs at: Kemperassoc@hotmail.com, or his private phone line: (312) 944-6551.