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When managers need to fill a position, they are usually overcome with an extreme sense of urgency. Projects may be late! Phones may go unanswered! I may lose my mind! As a result, they often hire the first suitable warm body who walks through the door, then live to regret that hasty decision. Hiring the best people requires patience and planning. Here are some helpful suggestions.
You can only hire better people if you know what you want them to do. Before looking for applicants, you must be able to answer these questions:
Realistically, you probably won’t find a totally perfect person. But creating an ideal candidate profile will help you evaluate applicants more effectively. Consider the following questions:
Don’t just post an ad on Monster. Give some thought to where your “best fit” applicants might be located. Professional associations? Competitors? Trade schools? If you have a tight salary budget, consider a bright young person who is early in their career but can learn quickly. Or perhaps an experienced retiree.
You don’t want to simply have a friendly conversation with your applicants. You want to determine if they possess specific qualities in three areas: ability, motivation, and “fit”. So ask yourself this question: what do I want to have learned by the end of the interview? The answer will represent your goals.
An interview is like a journey, with your goals as the destination. And for any journey, you need a good map. That means developing a plan for the interview, with specific questions to ask all applicants, plus individual questions related to each person’s resume.
Certain common questions show up in interview after interview: What are your goals? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you know about our company? These are frequently asked because they focus on useful information. But the problem is that candidates hear them so often that their answers are well-rehearsed. We provide suggestions on questions at the following page: Sample Interview Questions.
Don’t just scan the resume five minutes before an applicant walks in. Thorough scrutiny can yield all kinds of clues to help you assess the applicant and identify areas to question. Consider neatness, formatting, and spelling. Look for red flags like employment gaps or downward career progressions. See how well the applicant’s qualifications match your “ideal candidate”.
The purpose of an interview is for you to learn about the applicant. Unfortunately, some inexperienced interviewers learn nothing because they start talking and never shut up. Use your road map, probe with follow-up questions, and listen while the applicants talk.
The best way to find out if someone can do something is to actually have them do it. So if they need to use a software application, sit them down at a computer. If the job involves writing, ask them to write something.
Novice interviewers often give a detailed job description at the beginning of an interview. This makes no sense. For one thing, your description will tell the applicant how to answer many questions. For another, why waste time giving detailed information to an applicant you may not want? So just give a very brief overview at the outset.
If you are the only person to interview candidates, then your personal biases will drive the selection process (and we all have them!). Although the hiring manager makes the final call, hearing other perspectives will help to inform your decision. Possible interviewers include your boss, co-workers, employees, other managers, or internal customers.
List the criteria from your ideal candidate profile and use a rating scale to compare the applicants on each one. You may or may not decide on the person with the highest score, but the process will insure that you’ve considered all relevant factors.
Once you’ve found a great candidate, be prepared to sell them on the position. Although the person may be your top choice, you don’t know whether you are theirs. But avoid creating unrealistic expectations. Many hiring managers have been dismayed when a great new employee decides to leave after a week on the job – or even one day!