All hiring managers know that evaluating candidates when hiring is tough work. Most of us just hope that we don't make a mistake and bring on a person who either can't be trained or is detrimental to the agency's culture. The sad truth underlying this statement is that most hiring managers don’t do the hard work to improve their interviewing and candidate selection skills. They chalk up their successes to their aptitude, but they blame the candidate when he doesn't work out. This absolves them from the responsibility to improve.
It is time to come clean, look yourself in the mirror, and admit it: You stink at interviewing candidates.
Rather than make another poor choice and another tough decision when the person ultimately fails in his position, consider these five reasons why you are failing at interviewing and selecting the right new hires:
1) You set the candidate up for failure.
Many interviews are set up to make a candidate stumble. You ask random questions (Consider Norwegian Cruise Line's interview question: Do you believe in Bigfoot?) and try to see how people think by confusing them.
The truth of the matter is that "thinking on your feet" is a skill that is just not that important for most jobs, yet hiring managers are notorious for trying to catch candidates off guard in the hopes of “seeing the truth.”
A better approach to setting up hiring success is to explain the interview process in detail to each candidate. Outline the steps, what you are looking for in a candidate, what you want the candidate to be able to do as an employee. Then, give them time to prepare.
The result is candidates come fully prepared to interviews and you are given the opportunity to evaluate them at their best. I'd much rather see how a candidate performs after doing research and preparing than just winging it. And isn't this what you expect your employees to do for client meetings and internal presentations? Look for candidates that exceed your expectations when given all the information, not those who can charm their way out of awkward interactions.
2) You’re a bad detective.
What do all great detectives do? They find evidence to prove or disprove the truth. What do most interviewers do? They choose candidates based on hunches, feelings, and gut reactions.
Interviewers need to seek out evidence that a candidate will be successful in the role. This requires curious questioning, a healthy bit of skepticism, and a polite persistence to iron out inconsistencies.
Candidates expect interviews to be hard, not tricky. Ask questions that reveal the person's problem-solving skills or verify their industry expertise. Prepared A-players will love this because they are passionate about the field and love a good challenge, while C-players will wilt under the scrupulous attention to detail.
3) Your interview prep is ... non-existent.
You've interviewed a ton of candidates, so you think you can swing printing out the résumé a few minutes before the person shows up.
This doesn't work.
While you should have a prepared set of questions you ask every candidate applying for a specific role, you still need to develop unique questions that reveal the person's personality, passion, and experiences.
Responsibility for a fantastic interview is not solely on the candidates shoulders. If you have a great candidate that you don’t hire because you failed to provide an environment where he can shine, that’s on you, not the candidate.
4) You treat the interview like a test, not a chance to build a relationship.
Handling successful interviews is easy. When a candidates struggles or missteps during the process, it can be difficult to be patient and respectful.
Since most people you interview won't make the cut, but will talk about your brand after the fact, it's wise to make the interview as enjoyable as possible for both parties. If the candidate didn't answer the questions the way you would have liked, you can always give constructive feedback at the end of the interview. While he might not be a good fit, he might know someone who is. Either way, you want the person to walk away feeling with admiration for your company and hiring process. Remember: This is a fit assessment, not an intelligence test. The candidate might not be the right hire, but that doesn't mean his skills won't be the perfect match for another position down the road.
5) You don’t verify the information.
I love a good story. More accurately, I’m a sucker for a good story. Some candidates are especially adept in the art of storytelling, which can persuade any interviewer that he is the right fit.
While this is a great skill to have, you can't be drawn in by a fantastic tale without first checking the candidates references. Call the candidate's previous employers, and ask about the person's work ethic, aptitude, and interpersonal skills. Ask for the reference's point of view on a story or project the candidate told you about.
If the person is applying for a client-facing role, you should also consider speaking with his previous points of contact. Ask the candidate for references, and ask these people about the person's ability to meet deadlines and communicate effectively. Discuss the person's demeanor in stressful situations, and how he handled failures.
Luck Has Nothing to Do With It
Interviewing and selecting a candidate to fill an open position can be a stressful event. You need someone now, but you don't want to hire someone who will only leave or drain valuable resources from the rest of your staff.
Improve your interviewing skills by outlining a process, developing your detective skills, and verifying information on the candidate. With these standards in place, you won't have to rely on luck ever again.