Interviewing – Best Practices

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Interviewing – Best Practices. Hire like a leader! A manager selects new hires on a perceived benefit to the manager. A leader selects new hires based on the benefit to the new hire. Hiring the right person for the job increases their chance of success, job satisfaction, enthusiasm and happiness. We’re talking about motivation. The least productive workers are those misemployed. The gap between who we are and what we do is where our happiness and sadness lies. The closer we are to what we do, the happier we are! This results in higher production and morale and it’s reflected throughout the entire workforce. Hiring must be unprejudiced and objective with an emphasis on qualifications and merit in the interest of fairness to all. Any consideration to relationships including friends, family, likes or dislikes should be avoided. This type of hire will always become known to the workforce and inevitably resented buy them. Ultimately leading to an erosion of staff’s belief of management and your leadership specifically.
Most supervisory problems can be prevented by hiring right. When we fill a position, management has a growing investment in that person. We hope that the hire grows their ability in proportion to that investment. Circumstances don’t always afford us the time needed to find the best hire. If it’s taking longer to find the right candidate than upper management expected, communicate the importance of patience. We’re all human, making a purely objective hiring decision is difficult. Decisions free from personal bias is easier to talk about than do but it’s demanded of a leader! The following paragraphs ad colour to the previous thoughts emphasizing the importance of hiring.

Wages and salaries are ever increasing, we should get what we pay for! Even in businesses that require intensive investments in capital equipment, wages and salaries remain the greatest expense. You’ll likely have complete authority to hire the people you need. The monthly payroll costs illustrate the scope of responsibility that accompanies that authority. Upper management will always judge you on your department’s economic performance alone, so never loose site of your staff’s value for the money. Employees are a reflection of you, not just an extension of your hands and mind but also of your heart & sole. You are accountable for their appearance, performance and attitude. There is no single or best way to find new hires and there’s no best way to interview. I wish there was a definite set of selection standards, there isn’t. The truth is the quality of your staff depends largely on how high you set your standards. Every new day is an opportunity to raise the bar on your own standards. The quality of any person’s performance relates almost entirely on their attitude. Every job is important, if it wasn’t it wouldn’t exist. Your attitude toward making great hires must carry through to helpers and junior positions. When you look at the cost of filling those positions annually, it really ads up. Attitude can’t be understated. All of the knowledge, skill, talent and experience a potential hire possesses is worthless if coupled to a bad attitude. A job isn’t important to an employee just because you say it is. Your words and actions have to prove it.

A job description outlines your needs and increases the chance of making the right hire. A job description should contain a summary of general assignment, listing of the specific duties and working conditions. I believe that job specifications are important. Specifications relate to the kind of person needed to do the job. Examples of job specifications include the physical characteristics required, broach this subject with care. We want both avoid offending and potential legal issues. In the past employers could discriminate on weight, age etc. Today, referring to an individual using the wrong pronoun is illegal. Use care when describing the intellectual requirements if the individual is required to learn a complex job. Be sure to describe the special skills required. In the past there were clerical and technical jobs. Today, almost all jobs require both technical and clerical skills. You should detail the level of education and or experience required. You’ll need to develop your detective skills. Sadly, many applicants exaggerate or outright lie about education and experience. Specifications should be written from the perspective of minimum skills required. Specifications won’t guarantee that you get all you specify but help you to understand any compromises made.

It is helpful to have existing employees write their own version of what they do as part of the job description. They’re usually more than happy to help and always offer up an item or two that you’re not aware of. It’s also a great opportunity to remind employees of the duties they’re directly responsible for, overlap creates conflict reducing productivity. Job descriptions are also key in training because they break down each job in detail. They provide clear expectations. All employees should have a copy of their job description, and should be encouraged to call attention to omissions and errors. You should review the job description with new hires to ensure they understand them. Job descriptions help to keep employees busy. If staff are only 75% efficient, 25% of the company’s budget for salaries and wages is wasted. Job descriptions are a valuable tool for supervision, they make both the employee and management’s life easier. Employees respect management most when they’re business like and orderly. More often than not the process of writing a job description exposes wasted operations, you’ll discover an easier way to do it.
Recruiting is the first step in the selection of new employees but it must be done on a continual basis due to turnovers. Some turnover is desirable and unavoidable but always comes at a cost. In most cases the resignation of an employee is a major disruption. It’s also an opportunity for improvement by making another great hire or promoting an existing staff member. If turnover rises it should be investigated. It may be a sign of dissatisfaction. In some cases you’ll have to make minor changes, offer additional training or small production bonuses to increase stability. It is important to measure your turnover rates against industry averages. The total employee turnover rate by industry in the U.S. roughly follows the averages below but great managers contain turnover, limiting it to about 9%.

All Industries 15.1%
Banking & Finance 17.2%
Healthcare 16.8%
Hospitality 29.3%
Insurance 10.4%
Manufacturing & Distribution 13.3%
Not for Profit 15.3%
Services 15.2%
Utilities 17.2%
(Source: compensationforce.com)

It’s difficult to suggest the absolute best method of recruitment but one stands head and shoulders above others. When possible recruit from within your industry. You’re well aware of your industries key participants and hiring them comes with an added bonus. The transferring of their talent from a competitors operation to yours. You’ll still have to cast the widest net possible. Relying on print media and employment agencies as in days gone by is a trap. Present employees, the ones you carefully hired can be a great source of new hires. Trade schools and colleges are fabulous sources. The best candidates will come highly recommended by instructors. Another overlooked source requires a little record keeping but its’ well worth it. You should maintain a file of previously qualified applicants that may now be available. They may have moved etc. but email addresses tend to be a stable method of contact. Another method of recruitment are the many online classifieds like craigslist. One has to very specific and detailed when using these online sources. Failure to so will overload your email inbox with unqualified candidates. These random job seekers can absorb an enormous amount of precious time.

When it comes to interviewing, there are two basic methods. The brief or preliminary interview, (most often via telephone) and the complete interview. The brief or preliminary interview helps screen when there are many applicants. All applicants, including those that appear to be exactly what you’re looking for should be preliminary screened. You should develop an interview form based on the requirements of the job being filled. Use a code to grade answers, numerical or alphabetical. The code can be used to grade suitability, 2 out 5, A or B etc. You’ll conduct the preliminary interview and decide who moves on to the complete interview. Grade each applicant according to your questionnaire but also pay attention to your general impression of suitability. Be sure you grade as uniformly as possible. Ask the questions in such a way that the applicant fully understands it to avoid confusion. Your prearranged series of questions should be scripted to avoid any violation of labour law. Record the results of each interview and be sure that walk-in applicants get at least the preliminary interview.

The complete interview, when possible, should be conducted by a small panel with you acting as the principle spokesperson. The complete interview is used for serious final consideration, it marks the end of the selection process. You are the immediate supervisor but take time to consider the panels input prior to making your selection. Once again, you’ll want to have an interview form developed around the jobs specifics. Each member of the panel should have copies. Begin the interview with a friendly demeanor to put the applicant at ease. Be sure to ask the applicant if they have any questions about the job and what it entails. After answering any questions, follow up by asking if the candidate is still interested now that they are more familiar with the jobs requirements. There’s no reason to continue the interview it the candidate is no longer interested in the job. You don’t have to stay on script. It’s best that you and the panel members stray a little as well as dig deeper on some points. You need to know if the applicant will satisfy your needs but of equal importance, you’re trying to determine if the job will satisfy the applicant as well. Use open ended questions, those that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. It’s the best way to get the applicant talking. Ask questions like what did you like best about your previous or existing job? A closed question like, was the financial compensation at your previous job adequate, leads to a closed answer.

It’s important that you and your fellow panel members write brief notes of the applicant’s responses during the interview. The notes will be helpful in making comparisons between candidates at a later date. Take the notes and openly and encourage the applicant to do the same should they wish to. Most interviews follow an alternating combination of getting and giving information. Give the applicant plenty of time to speak, but be sure to tell them about the essential aspects of the job. The applicant shouldn’t be expected to carry the whole interview. They’re usually much more nervous than you are. Help them along but don’t allow the conversation to stray from its purpose, the interview. Avoid making overall impressions on a few desirable characteristics. Ken and Barbie are perfectly good dolls but looks alone won’t make a good hire. Remain focused, ask yourself… will this person contribute to the success of the business. You must avoid personal bias as it could lead to your passing on a perfectly good candidate or hiring someone not suited to the job at all.

We all have various strengths and weaknesses. When you spot an apparent weakness, take a moment to look for a compensating strength. Never overlook real deficiencies that would likely be impossible to overcome. Consider strengths you need and the weakness you can tolerate. Many managers avoid hiring individuals they believe to be over qualified. This is rarely the case. Even if future promotional opportunities are limited, you’ll benefit from their additional skills. Managers avoided over qualification in the past due to difficulties with retention. Those days are long gone. Today we even find trade and technical jobs requiring post-secondary degrees. Use good judgement and be realistic in promoting a job to an applicant you like. Don’t promise promotion and advancement if it’s unlikely that such opportunities will arise. It’s important that the applicant understands that there are no guarantees for advancement or raises. Bring the interview to a close as smoothly as possible. If you believe that you have found the right applicant, offer the job. Be specific regarding compensation, hours of work, start date etc. If there’s any doubt about the applicant it’s always best to be patient and think it over.

If you decide not to hire the applicant, say something like this:

“We appreciate your checking with us about employment opportunities. We’ve be talking to several people about this job and I have a few more applicants to interview”. Let them know that all applicants will be contacted and informed of your decision.

When comes to informing unsuccessful applicants, explain that your rejection is based on technical qualifications. Never discuss intangibles like personality or appearance.

A successful interview takes preparation, carefully plan to get the desired results. What specific qualities and abilities are you looking for? What are the priorities? You should also review the position description, insure that it includes the qualities, abilities you need. You’ll have to determine how the required skills and qualities could best be demonstrated by the candidates. Focus on their training, special skills and actual ability. Supplemental questions with answers that demonstrate relatively simple aspects of knowledge or skill are valued. Since you’ll be grading the answers, its best to ask each candidate the same set of questions to assist in grading consistency. Keep in mind that a successful interview is all about great communication. The candidate can’t provide the information you need without it. The more at ease both parties are the greater the likelihood of meaningful communication. Putting some at ease is all about sincerity, not small talk.

Select a comfortable place to conduct the interview. You don’t have to conduct the interview at your place of business. Successful, productive interviews take place in coffee shops and restaurants every day. It’s best to avoid sitting behind a desk with the candidate on the other side. You called the meeting so it’s up to you to open with brief “let’s get acquainted” conversation / introduction. Be yourself, call the candidate by their first name and show genuine interest in their skill set. It’s important to establish rapport, it’s another key to a great interview. It only takes a few minutes to have a preliminary chat and it’s never time wasted.

A great way to establish some mutual respect is to show some interest in the candidate’s past experience. Ask a question like, “I see from your resume that you worked at XYZ Inc. What sort of work were you doing for them? Follow up that question with some detail about the job they’re interviewing for. You don’t have to disclose all of the details at this point, but the applicant should also understand were the job is within the organization. Showing them an organizational chart is also helpful. You may have to guide the course of the interview. Some applicant’s effortlessly follow your line of questions and disclose all you need know, while others may have difficulty staying on track. Don’t be reluctant to ask direct questions if needed. Applicants expect to be questioned and are usually more than willing to provide detail. They’ll expect to have an opportunity to do so in the spirit of giving them a fair chance. Make sure that the line of questions are focused on the requirements of the job. Steer clear of any invasion of privacy.

You’ll likely find that summarizing the applicant’s performance is best done immediately after the interview while all is still fresh in your mind. Organizing your thoughts helps decide what, if anything will be done as a result of the interview. We often find ourselves in a discussion at a later date that revolves around key candidates interviews. As time passes we’re less likely to accurately remember what was said. Notes facilitate comparison and provide a reminder of the reasoning behind your decision. In rare cases, your decision may be questioned. If the hire doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to show how hard you worked to ensure it did. The following includes some of the basic points I cover in an interview. They’ll be applicable to most if not all interviews.

1) Give recognition and understanding to the applicant.
2) Set aside enough time to avoid rushing the interview.
3) Review the job description with the applicant.
4) Outline your questions for consistency between Interviews.
5) Keep the questions clear and brief.
6) Listen to applicant’s answers with interest but focus on the facts.
7) Always be approachable & open, discuss, and don’t argue.
8) Answer any questions asked of you.

Be sure to discuss working conditions, requirements, benefits, job security, compensation (wage or hourly) and the possibility of advancement should it exist. Tell the applicant about when they can expect to hear from you. Always open and close an interview with a handshake, let the applicant know that you appreciate their coming in.

Brad Porcellato