Interviewing Prowess: A Necessity in Acquiring Top Talent

February 28th, 2013

In assessing the world of talent acquisition and what makes it tick, not only is the last blog post – Planning the Interviewing Process important, but also conducting a telling interview with a plan surely increases the odds of predictable candidate performance.  Interviewing experience doesn’t add up to interviewing prowess if the interviewer isn’t trained and practiced in the art. In the case of interviewing, “the way I have always done it” equates to hiring based on luck with plenty of inconsistency. One good hire, one not so good, one bad hire., etc. Starting with a fresh approach, effective training and realistic practice is a prerequisite to conducting a successful, informative, non-assuming interview.

There are hundreds of articles, books, and programs in the market that prepare interviewers and interviewees to conduct successful interviews. Having a blueprint and proven method that works is a necessity for top-notch companies and organizations that desire predictable hiring.

Let’s start with the basics. There are five areas to focus on when you’re interviewing any job candidate:

  1. Depth of Experience. What previous experience /competency does the candidate have in regards to the specifics of the open position?
  2. Position-Related Competencies. Do they have documented abilities and past experience related to the subject matter expertise required to excel in the role? Do they have the proven ability to learn new skills? Are they high caliber and quick studies? Can they scale?
  3. Track Record of Success. Have they demonstrated past performance and success? Handled tough situations or projects? Promotions? Can they give examples of repeated and consistent successes?
  4. Accountability. Do they have a record of substantiated responsibility and repeated delivery? Are they articulate when discussing examples and able to handle drill-down questions about them?
  5. Cultural Behavior. Does the candidate’s personality, strengths and weaknesses, cultural competencies, and personal attributes align with the corporate culture? Are they adaptable? Are they a cultural fit?

Planning the interview and asking these types of questions saves time on both sides of the desk and gives both the hiring team and candidate a perspective unreachable without defining the targets to be covered. Interviews are about specifics, with the goal to hire the best candidate available in the market with the applicable competencies to do the job, not simply a candidate who can do the job. Defining and evaluating candidate performance, caliber, communication, pedigree, etc., is key to producing a successful hire. The evaluation of candidates based on interviewing skill and job-related buzzwords leads to inconsistent hiring and unpredictable candidate performance.

The responsibility lies with the interviewing team to draw out the candidate, provide them the opportunity to communicate (with as little pressure as possible on the first interview), and compile the information received from the candidate. As the candidate feels more comfortable, the intensity can be dialed up (2nd interview). It is absolutely necessary to ask the candidate pointed questions and allow time to discuss those questions, really paying attention to allowing dialogue. If the interviewer(s) talk too much and question too little, the candidate is never appropriately vetted. And most of the time, those interviewers have undocumented, assumed, and unfounded opinions that deter from adequately assessing the candidate’s strengths/weaknesses.

Like anything else, the best interviewers are trained and practiced. Michael Jordan had an 84% free throw shooting average during his career. What would it have been without practicing? Best of Breed companies in Talent Acquisition let go of interviewing egos (“I know how to interview.”), learn to interview by training and practice until proficient.

At Honer and Associates, we’ve specialized in talent acquisition for over 30 years. Helping companies achieve the talent acquisition results they require to grow, prosper, and “do more with less” is our trademark.  To discuss this topic or others necessary to hiring and retaining the best, please feel free to contact us at your convenience.

Unplanned Interviews: Where Are You Going Wrong?

February 22nd, 2013

What’s the biggest mistake most companies make when it comes to interviewing and hiring? Failing to plan the interviewing process itself.

Yes, interviews are scheduled. Yes, most companies probably have rules and a process they follow. But how much planning has gone into that process?

In today’s world, the interviewing and hiring process is one of the most important things a company does—but it’s almost never actually planned.

Guidelines Are Not Plans

For example, the HR department has put together a process for interviews, including the number of people each interviewee must meet with and the positions the interviewers hold: “Each candidate must meet with at least three people, one of whom is on the director or vice-president level.” But do interviewers receive any true guidance on the information necessary to cover? Do they receive truly beneficial, on-going training? Or are they just given a book, or a handout with 12-15 behavioral interview questions on it, and told to “pick 3” and “make notes.”

This is not a plan.

Effective Interviewing Requires Training

Interviewers need to be trained as interviewers just as they are trained as leaders or developers. And that training needs to be ongoing. As part of the training, when interviewing multiple candidates for the same position, the same interviewers must interview each candidate, and handle the same subject area to establish a baseline. This ongoing training and process will become a part of the company culture, adding to the quality of hiring external candidates.

Interviews can then be conducted by trained interviewers, who are assigned different objectives, where each interviewer expects to, and does, focuse on a specific subject area. One person discusses the candidate’s track record, and another talks about position-related depth of experience. A third person can chat with them about the company and why it’s a great place to work, while a fourth can assess each one to see if their personality fits. One person is charged with finding out why the interviewee is motivated to leave their current position. Each interviewer’s secondary goal is making sure each candidate leaves with a more than positive impression of the company, the individual interviewers and the process completed.

Effective Interviewing Also Requires Time

Does this sound like it will take a long time? It should. Interviews need to be long enough so the most important issues get covered. If an interview is scheduled for 30 minutes, it takes 10-15 just to warm up the conversation; the important subject matter will be cut short (no quality) or the interview will have to run overtime to discuss the more important content.

Set aside at least 45-60 minutes per interview so that each aspect gets enough time and attention. The onus is on the interviewers to drill down and determine if the candidate is of the caliber desired, has a track record demonstrating the past performance required, and the depth of experience necessary for success.

Attempting to judge a candidate by how well they interview or how much interest they show in the company/position gives you no insight to the caliber of candidate. Track record of success, pertinent experience, position-related competencies, accountability, and cultural fit need to be the interviewing focus and the reason candidates are selected for hire.

Where to Start

Who sets the tone and vision for talent selection, selection planning and the interviewing process? Not the HR department. Not entirely. Planning has to come from the top. The leadership team needs to create a plan and vision for the selection process, agenda, subject matter covered, interviewing plan, and follow-up. HR can then roll out the plan and process to the participating staff and do the necessary interviewing and process training.

Leadership and HR follow-up are critical to the process, as it has to be ingrained in the organization. Critique and feedback are necessary components of successful implementation, especially in today’s talent selection arena.

At Honer and Associates, we’ve specialized in talent acquisition for over 30 years. We understand the selection process, interview planning and execution, and always make candidate retention a priority. Assisting companies with acquiring the talent acquisition results they require to grow, prosper, and “do more with less” is our trademark.  To discuss this topic or others necessary to hiring and retaining the best, please feel free to contact us at your convenience.