How to Plan and Execute an Efficient Interview Process

June 28th, 2013

To effectively hire high-caliber, passive IT candidates, the organizations first priority must be to structure, plan, and execute an efficient interview process.

Ad hoc interviews lacking a planned approach generally take their own course and are simply not efficient.  This applies to both time and results.


The interviewer’s purpose in conducting the interview is to ask pointed questions and gather candidate data that can be utilized to determine if track record, depth of experience, competency and motivation exist and at what level. When the correct questions aren’t asked during the interview, and the correct mindset doesn’t exist, the interviewer forms opinions to support their first impression of the candidate, not key performance indicator data.  Instead of gathering information to validate a candidate’s caliber and performance, the decision turns into one of “I liked him” or I didn’t like her”.

Making accurate performance-based hiring decisions is dictated by objective decision making, not subjective beliefs. By suspending first impressions and focusing on gathering data (predetermined to be important based on the requirement) makes the process objective with supporting data.

Developing broad-based (or initial) questions, scrutinized by the hiring manager to make sure they address the role prior to the interview discussing the candidate’s knowledge, ensures the interviewer takes the correct path in the interview itself.


These questions need to revolve around extracting data dealing with the candidate’s past performance, depth of experience, position related competencies, motivation, and successful track record.  Interviewers need to know how to listen and then quickly formulate appropriate follow-up questions designed to gather pertinent detailed information they want to learn. The organization needs to choose the interviewers intentionally and train the most gifted to effectively “peel the onion”.


Planned and prioritized questions need to be developed during stages of the interview – particularly during the screening and the performance phases of the interview, allowing the interviewing team to acquire data deemed important and necessary.

  • Screening interview – This portion of the interview is used to validate that the candidate has the essential competencies, experience required, and most importantly rank past performance/caliber.  This interview is highly structured with broader-based questions (and their answers) planned in advance, making the candidates simple to calibrate and compare. Bottom line – no one moves on unless they have all the above:  essential competencies, experience required, and are top-performing/high-caliber candidates.
  • Performance part of the interview – This is the portion of the interview used to identify the different pieces of the job and then identify the different competencies that align with those different pieces. Predetermined, broader-based questions are based on this. The appropriate people – those who know and understand the job – need to be involved in crafting appropriate questions and answers to determine “match” and performance criteria.
  • Candidate-driven part of the interview – This is the portion of the interview where the candidate (especially a passive candidate) needs to be “sold” on the organization, culture, and employer brand.  It is difficult to know what is important to and motivates a candidate.  The interviewer needs to be prepared to sell, subtly, not desperately – especially to the passive candidates – and this meeting can be made more efficient by having someone handle it who is knowledgeable about the company, it’s brand, and the pro’s and con’s the culture generates.

The best interviewers of top IT talent are experts in both science – with their ability to plan and execute – and art – with their ability to extract data based on follow-up questions.  Both combine to make an efficient and effective interview process.

At Honer & Associates, we have over 30 years’ experience in effectively managing the interview process.  If you have any additional questions about interviewing proven IT professionals, please contact us at your convenience.

Job Descriptions – It is all about the Requirements

June 14th, 2013

No IT organization would ever tackle a major initiative without a complete requirement and a plan of attack, including realistic expectations.

When looking to hire top talent, job descriptions are the closest thing to a requirement, and if done correctly, they can serve as the requirement.  Fundamental Job Descriptions are static, built around skills and experiences the candidate must possess, never discussing what they will do. If we started a Job Description discussing positional responsibilities and followed with what needs to be accomplished over the initial timeframe (say first year), we can back into the competencies, track record, and experiences the candidate must possess to get the job done.

Traditionally, open positions have been created based on trigger events– a new product rollout, an employee quit or retires, or departmental growth.  When this happens, a job description is pulled together quickly and inaccurately or an old one dusted off the shelf.

Top-tier candidates, on the other hand, are interested in what they get to do and the potential they will have in the role and with the company.  They want to know about the future, not what they skills they have to have.

The current candidate pool of talent wants to know about growth prospects, their value in the company, career opportunities, company culture, and even something that explains why these open jobs are important to the company’s future. They want to know about the work that needs to get done.

Static, traditional job descriptions do not describe the work that needs to get done.  Because of this, traditional, standard job descriptions exclude high-potential candidates, the quick studies that learn new skills.  With a simple listing of skills and educational requirements, the top passive candidates aren’t the targets, they are either excluded in the screening process (lack of skills, etc) or they aren’t being provided the information necessary to get excited about the opportunity.

When a job description’s requirement list focuses on skills, you will attract a person who is a match for all the skills, experiences, industry background and educational qualifications listed, but they still may not be able to deliver the needed results.  To determine success in a role, a job description needs to focus on requirements – in the form responsibilities, success criteria, 1st year expectations, and competencies necessary to do the job, and what they can learn. This information will attract top-tier candidates and interest them to the opportunity.

Competencies are the next level above skills.  A candidate who lists a skill in Oracle Financials is simply stating that they have knowledge and can work in that application.  A high-performing candidate with competency in application management rises above the “skill level” and would be effective in any financial applications software environment.  And if the caliber of candidate is the focus, as well as, past performance, they will learn what they need to know to adapt and excel in the new environment.

The key to change is education and knowing what attracts the top performing, passive candidate. When writing a job description, knowing the requirements – the goals of the job is a necessity.  What are the challenges and hurdles?  What does success look like?  Top tier talent becomes interested in positions because of the work they will be doing and the potential it brings them, not because of the absolute and finite skills they possess and the fact that they get a small lift in compensation.   Providing a much more complete picture of the job will always attract more high-quality talent than a simple, static listing of skills.

At Honer & Associates, we know how to attract top talent to opportunities.  We have specialized in talent acquisition for over 30 years, having filled over 1,000 IT positions.  To discuss this topic or others, please contact us at your convenience.