Fully exploring interviewing and hiring in today's environment is not possible in the space of a single column. What can be done is to offer some ready-made tools to help build a winning team. With that, here are two professional resources developed especially for you: A no-excuses 12-step guide to hiring and a 15-point list of effective and progressive interview questions for that all-important sit-down with a candidate.
Embrace the Hiring Process!
Most companies do a poor to mediocre job of designing and implementing a hiring process. If you do it just right, you will have a real competitive advantage over the other local companies vying for talent.
Peter Drucker, the famous business writer, recently said, "The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one of the last reliable sources of competitive advantage, since very few organizations are very good at it." What an opportunity! Use these tools to get better at hiring and separate yourself from the competition.
A No-Excuses 12-Step Guide to Hiring
Why "no-excuses?" Not one of these critical steps is dependent upon the size of your company or the money in your checkbook. Everyone can immediately adopt these proven hiring guidelines!
- Standout: Place a well-written descriptive classified ad. Be upfront and don't skimp on the ad cost ' it's worth every penny.
- Make No Bones About It: Insist on a personalized cover letter, resume, references and salary requirements.
- Lock Up the Best Candidates: Rush through the resumes, locate the promising ones and make an instant contact. Don't let anyone slip away.
- Evaluate the Resumes: Don't eliminate people who have worked many jobs or have a sideways work history. Standards are changing 'don't impose old ones. Be flexible on salary ' everything is negotiable. Divide resumes into "Yes," "No" and "Maybe So" piles.
- Phone-Screen the Yes and Maybe So Pile: It takes upfront time on the phone, but saves many wasted in-person hours. Ask deal-breaker questions. Be outrageously honest; ask them to be the same. Assign everyone a performance number on a scale of 1 to 10. Schedule in-person interviews for scores of 6 or higher. This invaluable process can be delegated to a trusted colleague. Trust this step. It works.
- Treat Candidates Like Great Customers: Be attentive. Don't think you're not selling yourself. There are always other companies with bigger salaries, better benefits and snazzier facilities. You want your candidate to join "you," not just the company. Make them believe in you.
- Prep Candidates for Their Interview: Describe the company and the details of the position. Give a brief history and your vision for the future. Send sales materials to the candidate's home. Provide instructive industry Web sites. The more you prepare them, the more pinpoint questions you can ask.
- Prep the Interviewers: No winging it allowed! Interviewers must meet in advance, study resumes and create a plan. Split up your roles. Who is responsible for which types of questions? Conduct the same legal and ethical interview for each candidate. It's fair for them and vital when comparing candidates.
- Ask Meaningful Questions: Create a guide to walk you through the interview. Consider a preplanned bail-out point if the interview is going poorly. Use situational "what if" questions. "What would you do if so-and-so occurred?" Watch for body language. If you need to take notes, have someone else take them and be careful what is captured in writing. Don't ask what you shouldn't be asking. Contact the best candidates and tell them of your interest. Give them a firm date when they will hear back from you and stick to it.
- Second Interviews Speak Volumes: Quickly schedule second interviews. Tell them to bring written questions. Have others sit in. Introduce candidates to your team leaders. Evaluate their interpersonal skills. Are they friendly and open? Look and listen for inconsistencies. Give them a situational test, a mini-essay, a skill check. Have a candid talk about salary, benefits, time off and reviews. Prequalify your possible offer.
- Make Them an Offer They Shouldn't Refuse: Make your top offer (no games) and put it in the form of a letter of employment. Treat it like you would a special bid on a large project ' it has the same potential return. Spell everything out. Don't release other candidates until you get a firm positive response. If you've done your homework, nothing should collapse, but remember that a new hire isn't an employee until the second day they show up ready to work.
- Welcome Them and Train Them:Don't slip up here thinking your work is done. A valuable long-term employment relationship starts with the first few weeks. Meet every day. Don't assume all is well. Confirm it. This is your prime time to reach them and teach them. Eat lunch with them. Assign a "buddy" to help them bond. Personally protect your investment.
Making Interviews Meaningful
Today's candidates are more prepared than ever. There are resources everywhere offering strategies to help them ace the interview. Web sites with samples of both common and difficult questions are a popular source of advice. You must be at least as sharp and studied as the candidate if you want the interview to be meaningful. The old standard questions ("Why should we hire you?, Where do you want to be in five years?") may no longer elicit worthwhile answers.
In preparing for the interview, decide what you want to know. Structure your questions to get those answers. Look for a healthy combination of attitude and smarts ' everything else is secondary. If necessary, train them later for required skills. Learn from the old axiom that "People are hired for aptitude and fired for attitude."
Killer Interview Questions
The following questions are "killer" not because they stump an unsuspecting applicant (although they might). Rather, they use more challenging concepts to kill today's over-rehearsed responses that make too many interviews dull and uninformative. Try some of these concepts to bring more of the head and heart of the candidate into the open for evaluation.
- Who or what had the greatest influence on your life?
- How would you make yourself indispensable to our company?
- How have you had to resolve problems when rules or guidelines were absent?
- Describe something you have done that shows your commitment to customers.
- Give two examples of things you've done in previous jobs that demonstrate your willingness to work hard.
- Tell me about your upbringing.
- How have you dealt with people who were not pulling their own weight?
- Tell us about a time when you were disappointed in your work performance.
- Describe the essence of success. According to your definition, how successful have you been so far?
- What can you do for us that someone else can't?
- Tell us about a time you had to accomplish an important task with someone difficult to get along with
- What techniques do you use on a daily basis to accomplish your work goals?
- Tell me a joke.
- If you could relive your educational experiences, what would you do differently?
- We look to employees for fresh revenue and cost-cutting ideas. If you were hired, how would you deliver on this challenge?
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