In my last article we continued our series on how to hire and manage employees, with a look at how to hire the perfect freelancer in 3 steps. In today’s article we are going to continue that series, with a look at how to conduct initial interviews.
What is the goal of the interviewing process?
The goal of the interviewing process is to find the best candidate for the position with the least amount of time and effort.
After posting a position online, you may receive dozens if not hundreds of resumes. Many of these resumes will seem to be a poor fit for the position. Unfortunately, many job seekers will send out resumes without looking in detail at the job description, leaving it to the employer to determine if they are a reasonable fit for the position.
A good way to combat the above problem is to ask for the candidate to include something special in their cover letter, like asking them to tell you why they are applying to your company or what drew them to this career. By doing this, you can easily filter out:
- Those who are just sending you canned responses.
- Those who can’t follow simple directions.
After you go through a stack of resumes, hopefully, you will find a few people that interest you. If the position is junior level, you may be able find lots of people that have the right college major, skills and an interesting summer job or internship. Then, the interviewing process begins.
Not getting enough good candidates to interview? Try posting the job on Indeed.
The Phone Interview
The first interview should be conducted by phone and should not necessarily be done by the person hiring for the position. This interview should be two or three routine questions, mainly verbally confirming information on the resume.
Typically, you would include questions like:
- “Where did you go to school and what was your major?”
- “How would you rate your (filling in the blank, ie Excel) skills?”
The interviewer should also provide a small amount information about the position and company and ask the candidate if they are interested in the position. This interview has three goals:
- To test the candidate’s verbal communication skills.
- To give the candidate a chance to say the job is not a good fit.
- To schedule the next interview.
It’s amazing how many people this “five minute” interview eliminates.
The Skype Video or First In Person Interview
10 years ago I would have recommended that you ask the person to come into the office for the next interview. Now I think the best idea is to have an interview conducted using Skype video chat. I would say this is the most important interview and will lead to many candidates being eliminated. With this interview, I think one can answer the following questions:
- How interested or excited is the candidate about the position?
- How knowledgeable about, or interested in the field is the candidate?
- Does the candidate have some of the communication skills for the position?
- Does the candidate have some of the problem solving abilities for the position?
So how does one get “honest” answers to these questions instead of the scripted answers that most candidates have memorized. You ask the following questions.
The 4 Key Questions That Every Interviewer Should Ask
1) What do you know about the company?
An interested candidate will have researched your company beforehand. Even if you’re hiring for a retail establishment like a stationery store, your business will have online reviews which a candidate can search and mention.
If a candidate is not willing to take the effort to check out your website and do a search online about the company, it indicates a lack of interest in the job or general laziness. Assuming the candidate gives a short or simple answer to the question, you can follow up with “Why should a potential customer do business with us?” or “How do you think we make money?”
2) What do you think the position involves doing on a daily basis?
This question is remarkably useful in interviewing candidates with minimal experience and also those with years of experience. With a job candidate that has experience in a similar position, they will probably tell you what they did in their previous position or what they have seen employees with that job title do. In this case, what the job candidate omits is as informative as what they say. Omission may indicate that they don’t have experience in a particular facet of the position or that it might not be their strong point.
For candidates with no experience, this question can indicate how realistic their expectations are for the position. One person told me in an interview that they thought the job would be like the TV show “The Apprentice” where the marketing department brainstorms ideas and makes commercials. Some candidates may say they have no idea but lots of questions. If they have questions written down, it indicates a good level of interest.
3) Are you interested in the field? If so, what articles have you recently read? (for those with no experience) / What would you have done differently to make your previous position more productive? (for those who have experience)
Generally, I want an employee who is interested in learning on their own without prompting or direct guidance. If a job candidate can summarize an article that they have read in a field related to the company or position, its a sign that they will work to improve their knowledge base to do a better job.
For experienced candidates, I think asking them about how they could have improved their job gives multiple insights. First, if they cannot give you an answer, it indicates that they followed instructions without thinking about what they were doing. On the other hand, a detailed, thoughtful answer can demonstrate they care about “doing the best they can”. The natural follow-up is “Did you try to make the change happen?”
4) Would you be willing to roleplay the following situation? (ie, I will pretend to be the customer and you the salesperson)
Most positions involve a degree of human interaction and communication skills. The idea of roleplaying is to “act out” a challenging, but not uncommon situation which is likely to occur in their position. This exercise gives the interviewer a chance to see the job candidate’s ability to verbally communicate, deal with stress and think on their feet. Or in the case of the experienced candidate, hopefully the candidate can draw upon their past experiences to resolve the situation.
These 4 questions are not the only ones you should ask, as the rest will vary depending on the position. However, I believe these 4 questions should be part of the process for almost any interview, and will allow you to have more insight into the candidates drive, personality, and ability to handle the position.
For a great overview of the entire interview process including second and third interviews and making the offer see this webinar by Brad Farris of Enmast.com.
More great resources for interviewers:
TheUnderCoverRecruiter.com: Behavorial List of Interview Questions
Inc.com: 7 Questions to weed out the wrong candidates quickly
Katemats.com: Epic list of software interview questions
Business Insider: 11 Illegal Interview Questions
Scholastic.com: How to conduct an interview
Forbes: 9 Tips on conducting great interviews
Looking for the right place to post a new position? We recommend using Indeed.
That’s our article for today. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below. Also be sure to stay read the next article in this series where we discuss The Legalities of Hiring – Things To Do Before Your First Employee Starts.
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