How to Not Fail at Conducting Interviews

Interviewing potential employees can be a long process, but it doesn’t need to be arduous. To ensure a successful outcome, establish a plan for the job search, assign an owner and stick to the process.

The first step, before the interviews even begin, is to define the need. This includes the specific job title and description, responsibilities, wages and benefits, reporting structure and the characteristics you are looking for in a candidate. This step may sound like a no-brainer, but many people do not define these details ahead of time which can cause confusion and tension later on and possibly cause a mis-hire.

Defining the characteristics of the desired candidate can take some time. They include four key items. It is extremely helpful to create a matrix/score card to use for rating and comparing candidates in each characteristic.

Four Characteristics:

  • Experience – What type of experience should the ideal candidate possess? Do you want a candidate that has worked in a start-up organization? Someone who is familiar with a company in a distress or turnaround situation?  Should they have experience managing a company that is larger than $10M in sales?  $100M? Hire a candidate who has the experience that correlates with the size of your company, stage of growth, and direction your company is headed.
  • Company Type – What types of companies has the ideal candidate worked for in the past? Family-owned? Private equity? Small business? These all require different skill sets and experience levels.
  • Skills – What skills should the candidate possess that are crucial for success in the role? Knowledge a specific ERP system?  Attention to detail?   Employee benefits management?  Lean manufacturing?  Listing the specific skills will assist you when you review resumes or conduct interviews.
  • Cultural Fit – What cultural skills should the person have in order to make the transition seamless? Do they need to be a team player?  Humble?  Possess strong leadership?  Knowing what it takes to thrive in your culture will improve the chances of a successful hire.

As an interviewer, a person needs to be just as prepared, if not more so, than the interviewee. Show up in the right state-of-mind to focus on the task at hand, don’t allow the first impression to influence your opinion and don’t talk too much. The interviewee should be doing most of the talking, not you.

Interview Matrix/Score Card

Three Step Interview Process

A three-step interview process is helpful to work through potential candidates.
1. Start with a 30-minute phone call or coffee meeting. This step doesn’t take much time out of your, or the candidate’s, day and allows you to determine if the candidate should continue in the process.
2. The next step is the first round of face-to-face interviews. These should be about 90-minutes and include two or three other team members in addition to the person leading the search. Once the interview is complete, the group should fill out the matrix/score card together.
3. Finally, the third step is another round of face-to-face interviews as a chance for candidates to meet peers, direct reports and get a tour. Be sure to set expectations with the team ahead of time and educate them about the matrix/score card, its importance and how to use it. The interview lead also needs to educate team members on the appropriate questions to ask and which questions are not allowed.

Don’t Forget Background Checks!

Background and reference checks are often overlooked as a part of the interview process. They are critical to knowing and understanding a candidate’s background. Have a background check firm lined up and ask the candidate to provide at least two professional references and one personal. The majority of former employers will provide only the basic information on a candidate. Because of this, look to LinkedIn and other places for mutual connections you can connect with to understand more of a candidate’s background and history. And, of course, be sure to conduct a social media audit as well.

Communication is key throughout the entire interview process. The job market is booming right now so it is highly likely your candidates are applying elsewhere. If you take too long with the interview process, or don’t keep the candidates up-to-date, you will lose them.

Finally, if there is any doubt on whether or not a candidate is the right person for the job, interview them again.