Managers: 5 Ways to Evolve How U Interview Candidates

Hey managers! Interviews are a key step in hiring great people. Yet the practice of interviewing potential candidates in many companies has not evolved since the 70’s. After interviewing ~500 candidates in my last 15 years as marketing / IT manager, I hereby propose 5 key techniques described below. They will help you in the following ways:

  1. Cut down on the number of candidates you’ll have to interview for a position
  2. Increase how excited and interested candidates are about your opportunities
  3. Increase accuracy of information candidates provide during an interview
  4. Avoid initial issues related to inaccurate employee expectations of your position

1. The Purpose of an Interview

Let’s start with this obvious one: The interview is not just for the manager to choose the candidate. At least some of the power has shifted to the candidate. Here is how the purpose of the interview evolved:

  • The Old: The primary vehicle for vetting and selecting the right candidate.
  • The Change: Many markets experience higher demand and lower supply of skilled and talented candidates.
  • The New: A business meeting exploring mutual benefits. A first date of sorts where you validate the fit.

How to evolve your interview:

  1. Treat this candidate like a partner, not a supplier.
  2. Use a friendly and comfortable interview environment, not an interrogation office.
  3. Be prepared to “sell” the company and the position to the candidate.

2. Interview Preparation by Manager

With so much info available about the candidate on the Internet, you can confirm their skills and experience without even talking to them. You can even assess personal fit. Here is how manager preparation for interviews evolved:

  • The Old: Preparation focused primarily on Reviewing candidate resume.
  • The Change: You can learn quite a lot about a candidate before interviewing them.
  • The New: Extra preparation will allow you to short-list candidates and cut down on interview time.

How to evolve your interview:

  1. Check Linked-In profile & endorsements as well as any public social media presences
  2. Ask a lot of pre-screening questions to get more info or answers to specific concerns (e.g. reason for leaving the current position)
  3. Choose to interview only few people your shortlisted based on the above two point.

3. Ask Questions Differently

Good candidates are prepared. They research the company and even the manager they will interview with. They prepare for questions they expect to be asked. They know how to promote themselves. Here is how manager questions are evolving:

  • The Old: Managers asked straight questions to confirm skills, experience, and fit (e.g. what are your strengths / weaknesses).
  • The Change: Candidates research, prepare answers to expected questions, and are better at promoting their strengths / downplay their weaknesses.
  • The New: Managers have to be smarter about how to ask questions to get at the truth of candidate skill, experience, and especially fit.

How to evolve your interview:

  1. Don’t simply ask questions to validate what’s no candidate resume. Ask storytelling questions where they describe their likes / dislikes / successes / failures. Skills and other details will come through in a less forced and prepared format.
  2. Ask quick questions (90 speed round) to get at difficult answers the candidate typically prepares for. The speed prevents them from defaulting to their well prepared answers.
  3. Pay close attention to candidate questions. Inquire what’s behind them. Understand motivates them. Understand why they like your opportunity.

BTW, similar principles can be used to do reference calls for your final candidates.

4. Sell Your Opportunity and Company

Good candidates are in high demand. Selling your opportunity and company will make them more interested / engaged and even help you negotiate better salary later. Here is why the position and paycheque is no longer enough:

  • The Old: A job and steady paycheque used to be enough to attract good candidates.
  • The Change: Good candidates have high expectations and they are motivated by a lot more than money.
  • The New: Find ways to promote your position and company to the candidate, especially during the interview.

How to evolve your interview:

  1. Go one step further than other managers would: Offer coffee. Show great work environment. Introduce key great team members.
  2. Showcase company success, client list, stability, profitability, growth or whatever successes you have. Also showcase your personal successes.
  3. Give the candidate something to take with them e.g. company brochure, promotional item, product sample. They will remember you better.

5. Be Different by Understanding Their Needs

Last but not least finish this business meeting / date by focusing on the candidate needs. Be different by being honest and by trying to understand their needs. Here is why:

  • The Old: Common for new employees to have inaccurate expectations about the new job. But because of limited job options, they simply adapt to the new position.
  • The Change: New employees don’t hesitate to switch to another opportunity if their initial job experience doesn’t match their expectations.
  • The New: You need to understand and clarify new employee expectations of your new position.

How to evolve your interview:

  1. Ask why they want this specific position. Find out what motivates them. Be honest if this position will provide that.
  2. Ask what pain point from last job they are expecting not to have here. Be honest if to what extent their expectation is realistic.
  3. Also be honest about how they fall short of the ideal candidate. It allows for candidate to correct your understanding but also shows a clear growth path the candidate can follow.

This last technique has been particularly effective in candidates feeling very positive about the position and even in negotiating salaries.

Try these out and please let me know how it went.

What other interview techniques do you have?

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