Continuing our discussion from last week, we’re taking a look at the way potential employers can improve their hiring processes: ensuring they get the top quality candidates for their position, and that potential hires can maximize their search time and receive the same courtesy they are expected to exhibit.
I should note: this series is directed at hiring managers and anyone in a position to interview potential employees. There are more than enough guides out there for how job candidates to behave, dress, speak, write, and otherwise paperclip bend themselves for the benefit of their potential employers. And rightly so. But I purport that these same candidates deserve respectful treatment and some very basic time-saving courtesies for the effort they’re expending on your company’s behalf. This week, I’d like to talk about interviewing.
First, before you ever interview a candidate, educate yourself. You’ll want to brush up on three topics: the position for which you’re hiring, the candidate who has applied, and the laws governing your region’s nondiscrimination practices. On the first, it’s important to your candidate that you are able to describe the position to them clearly and as thoroughly as possible. It’s fairly awful showing up for an interview, having the interviewer speak only of the job in extremely general terms, and be incapable of answering your questions about the position. Remember that interviews are for both parties to determine whether or not the candidate and position fit well; the candidate can’t make that assessment if they hardly know what they’re interviewing for. Next, it ought to be self-explanatory that you need to read the resume of the candidate you’re interviewing before meeting with them. Forcing a candidate endlessly to reiterate her work history for you like an oral examination instead of getting on to the salient points of her thought processes or character. And finally, in most places, it’s inappropriate to ask anything relating to the candidate’s sexual orientation, religious background, race, or other demographic descriptors of the like – this includes anything you might already be able to derive from their resumes, like the presence of a religious university in their education profile or an ethnically-affiliated workplace. Save yourself the legal trouble and just stick to the salient details of their qualifications. So make sure you understand what you are and are not allowed to address.
Second, when it comes to interview questions, the level of ridiculousness in questions even the major companies are asking is getting extravagant – so much so that they are becoming the focus of humor articles on hiring websites. Unless I’ll be working directly with animals, you probably don’t need to know what kind of animal I would be – nor does my answer tell you much about my work habits or thoughts on the position. Brain teasers are a similar pitfall. Is this the kind of mental work I’ll be doing on the job? Probably not. So, instead, armed with your knowledge of my experience and the position for which you’re hiring, try to ask me leading questions that allow me to talk on relevant issues. You might ask how specific elements of my work history or education relate directly to the position for which you’re hiring. You might ask me to provide examples of my problem solving skills or conflict resolution abilities. Perhaps you’ll ask me to walk you step by step through a process I already ought to know how to do. Try to keep in mind that interviews are fact finding missions, not entertainment; you might get a little bored with the standard questions, but your personal boredom is no excuse for diverging down the path of inanity. And for God’s sake, don’t ask me to “tell you a little about myself.” Vague questions don’t help anyone in this scenario. Be specific: do you want a brief, general bio to obtain information about how I communicate in general? Do you want a list of characteristics your candidate associates with herself in order to determine a good personality match? Would you like salient details of the candidate’s work history as relevant to the position, in order to establish that their verbal history and written history match up? Say what you mean.
Finally, ask questions that allow the candidate to talk. Beware of being the interviewer who does all the talking. If all you’ve accomplished at the end of the interview is a lengthy description of the position, your work philosophy, your dreams for the company, and a little about your family pets, forcing the candidate either into an uneasy and unimpressive silence or into the uncomfortable position of rudely interrupting you in order to be heard, then you’re not learning what you need to learn about the candidate. Schedule enough time to get to know the person (half an hour should work well), listen more than talk, and ask pointed and relevant questions. I know this can be challenging at first – surprisingly so – but your awareness on this issue will help you learn quickly how to take a good interview and learn what you need to learn in order to do your hiring well.