Before you even think about interviewing potential candidates, there is some invaluable pre-interview prep that should be completed first. Much of this prep could reasonably be accomplished at the job crafting and posting stages.
When you are writing your job description, you should already have the answers to questions about the finer points of the role and the future hire’s day to day—perhaps even their potential career path moving forward in the company. Determine what technical and soft skills you want them to bring to the job and what experience and education levels are preferred. You should also already know how this person will fit into the company structure as well as the ideal logistics and timeline for your new employee’s start date and recruitment process.
Consolidating this information early on may also help you establish any screening or filter questions that can be part of the application process, from location to salary expectations to minimum years of experience.
Once you begin to acquire candidates that check off all the boxes on your filtration list of requirements you can finally proceed to the interview phase, which is arguably the most fun! With all that hard prep work done, it’s time to ensure a successful interview and hopefully these six tips and guidelines—garnered from the vast experience of Talent.com’s Head of Talent Acquisition, Natalie Loop—will help you fill the role with the perfect candidate.
Trust Your Intuition
Though first impressions aren’t always the best indicator, there is something about those first few seconds of any interview that are telling. Often, experienced professionals “know within the first three seconds if they want to hire a person or not,” says Loop. No pressure!
Many recruiters often gather a lot of information from body language, something that has become more challenging in these more virtual pandemic times. However, from tone of voice and general eye contact you can still read whether or not a candidate is nervous. Even without much body language to go on, you can intuit if candidates have an open attitude or something other in those first moments of an interview.
There are two things all recruitment professionals should be acutely aware of, however. The first is of keeping your own personal biases and prejudices in check so they do not impact the interview process. We all have some, but as long as we can remain aware of how they influence our perceptions and decisions, it’s easier to filter out reactions that might not be fair to the candidate. Secondly, in this new normal of more and more virtual interactions, be aware of video meeting fatigue. Having constant self-awareness with your own image in view, plus the extra effort required to read non-verbal cues in a video call can take a toll. Perhaps before each interview step away from your screen to refresh yourself a little first!
Explain Your Part
You want to hear a great story from your candidates, right? Well, they want the same. Tell your company’s story in an engaging way. You’re not just looking for someone who can complete the required tasks of a job, you’re looking for someone to fit into, complement, or even improve your company culture.
What are the expectations for someone who steps into this role? What does this job mean to your organization and what makes a candidate ideal for this position? These points should all be part of your narration and help turn the interview into a dynamic conversation.
Hear Their Story
Now it’s the candidate’s turn to share about themselves. This is a great way to check their presentation skills and see if they’ve been listening and are able to understand and summarize their experience, perhaps in a way that fits with the company story they’ve just experienced.
As tempted as you may be, try not to interrupt with questions. It’s better to jot them down so you can ask later to better understand parts of their story. Take note of any skills that you’d like to test, which are echoed in the job description and in the candidate’s story.
Fill the Gaps
The main storytelling time is over and it’s on to the nitty gritty details. Take a look at your notes and start asking all your questions to have the candidate elaborate on something that didn’t add up or fill in gaps in chronology.
As any good interviewer knows, it’s always best to avoid yes/no questions and instead use open-ended questions that may lead you to unexpected places and information. Plus, though you may have your list to follow, don’t forget to listen carefully as a brand new and exciting follow up question might be more valuable than one from your list!
Challenge them with Different Perspectives
Once the main story and details are clear, the real, more creative interview work begins. Turn those standard interview questions on their head! Instead of asking about strengths and weaknesses, try asking the candidate how their friends, family or even enemies would describe their good and bad points. Not only will the candidate have to make a quick shift in thinking, the answers you get will be very different from the usual run-of-the-mill responses you hear every day.
If a candidate has trouble answering questions, try the perspective shift again. For example, if they can’t think of points they may need to improve upon, ask them what aspects their teacher or friend would bring up as things to work on or what have been their biggest successes or failures and how they grew from those experiences.
And of course, those hypothetical situation questions can always lead to interesting and valuable information. Make sure to give enough of a detailed scenario so you can see how candidates think on their feet and manage to solve the “problem.”
Understand their Real Motivation
Throughout the interview you should be able to pick up on the real motivation the candidate has for applying to and wanting this job. “It is important to be able to sell back the job and the company to the candidate,” says Natalie Loop. “It’s the same as in sales, if you don't know the need to get a job, you cannot sell back the benefits and what your company can do or mean for them in the future.”
Here are the three key motives usually driving job seekers to keep in mind.
- Quality. Maybe this candidate is looking for better work-life balance or gaining more satisfaction from their work than in previous occupations. You may find clues to this motivation in their reasons for leaving their previous job or applying to the new one. If they don’t tell you outright, you may need to dig deeper.
- Cost. Though few will tell you directly they’re looking for a better salary, you can always find out by asking better questions. Perhaps in discussing their life outside of work you may discover they have a big project or hobby that may require more funds, such as buying or renovating a house, returning to their studies or a growing family.
- Time. Another motivating factor for job seekers is seeking better use of their time. Perhaps their previous commute was too long or difficult, or the work schedule was not ideal for their life. Perhaps their job does not allow them the freedom to regularly work from home in pandemic times. Find out so you can know in advance what may tip the scales in your favour, what company points you can sell, or what may be a red flag.
Even though the recruitment process is changing every day as we speak, there are still some aspects and interactions that will always remain relevant and useful to recruitment professionals. Virtual interviews are still conversations and there are still plenty of insights and cues to pick up on even though the in-person aspect is missing. Discovering skills and competencies is still more than achievable in our new virtual reality whether or not you can see if a person is sweating from nerves.
We all need to navigate these new ways of conducting and attending interviews but there will always be motivated candidates looking for quality jobs and recruitment professionals needing to fill positions with the best talent. The structure or parameters of the interview process may look different, but in all essentials of human interactions, surprisingly little has changed.
About Johanna Donovan
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