I slowly shuffled out of the grey, sterile, corporate meeting room at the end of an exhausting 13 hour day, scratching my head and feeling tense and frustrated. Again. Why? Because after conducting several vanilla format interviews with some absolute howlers of inappropriate, unqualified, and some down right scruffy candidates coming through the door I realised that I’d made a terrible mistake.
The anger, irritation and frustration felt towards the candidates, was nothing more than projection. Contemplating it in the wood panelled lift back up to the 8th floor I finally understood that the fault lay with me, that the irritation was based on my disorganised and flippant approach to the process. With that realisation my shoulders started to relax, my breathing changed from shallow chesty breathes to deeper belly breathes. If it’s my fault then it’s something I can fix.
The root cause was that I was relying too heavily on CV’s as pretty much the sole measure of a candidates suitability, but can now see that a CV isn’t that important, and in fact we might not even need to read it at all – if you do these 10 things…
Prior to having a face to face interview:
1. Form a great relationship with your HR team in order to collaborate on creating a clear and meaningful job spec.
I know, sounds weird right? It shouldn’t be. Embed it into your process. Make it the norm. HR are often the first point of contact the candidate will have with the company.
2. Take the time to discuss (face to face preferably) with any recruitment agencies what you’re looking for.
This should be a quick win. Ask recruitment consultants to come to you, as this saves you time and gives them a sense of the environment the candidates would be working in. If they don’t want to take the time to find this out this will also tell you something about them and their standards. Failing that a phone call can suffice, but if more than 1 agency is involved get them both / all on the same call to speed things up and add some peer pressure.
3. Gain a clear understanding of the character type of person you want
OK, now it’s getting juicy… what’s the culture in your company? What’s acceptable behaviour and what’s not? Don’t think standard political correctness here, think deeper. How do people greet each other in the morning? Is your company full of people with an inward or an outward mindset? Be crystal clear about the traits that are important to you and your team.
4. Take a quick glance at any endorsements or recommendations they have on LinkedIn.
Both the number and quality of these should give you a sense of the person. If they have neither…what are they – a hermit? (Great if you need to hire a hermit btw, but if not you don’t).
5. Have a 10 minute telephone conversation with the candidate.
This allows you to assess their understanding of the role they are applying for, and that they can verbally express they have the core competencies. It also allows you to do a basic sense check of their ability to listen and answer questions, and the type of language that they use.
During a face to face interview (if they’ve made it this far):
6. Have a clear set of prepared questions that will help you to assess their skills, attitude and behaviours.
A little preparation here saves significant time by allowing you to get straight to the point.
7. Have the right people in the room.
Don’t fly solo. Bring in colleagues with different perspectives. People who’s opinion you trust but who have different knowledge and outlook to yours. Be sure to agree the format of the interview first though – who is leading, who is going to ask what type of questions, how much space you’re going to leave at the end.
8. Trust your intuition to know when to dig deeper into the answers provided.
If you think you’re being hoodwinked, with a vague and non specific answer then you probably are. Listen to your gut. It’s normally right.
9. Encourage the candidate to be relaxed and to ask questions throughout.
Interviews are 2 way events, they should be conversational. Candidates should be as interested in you and the company as you are in them.
10. Be prepared to show courage.
To apply a little pressure. To ask some tricky questions. To put them on the spot. To be honest about the challenges you face at work. To call them out if you’re not happy with an answer given (with curiosity, not by being a d!ck about it). The worst case scenario is to leave the room and not be sure if they are a good fit or not. Or to have sold them a glossy picture of the reality of the role. Do what you need to do to find out there and then if they fit, and give them the plain honest truth about what they are getting into.
Bonus point. Watch out for these 18 things to never say or do when being interviewed.
If they display any of these. Run!