This is the first part of the selection process that we call interviewing. Once you know what KSAO's are going to be needed then you are ready to start reviewing those resumes and job applications as they come in. Look at each resume, each application and be sure that you are seeing what the candidate has written for you. As this is the first time you have likely ever heard of this person the resume or application is the only thing you have to determine what kind of employee this person is likely to be and you want to avoid spending any more time than neccesary with the people who will not be joining your team because let's face it, you have a lot of tasks to complete and finding this new employee is just one of them.
Remember that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior so as you review the resume or application look for those pieces of information that might be a 'red flag' of a person who will not fit with your team. What might those 'red flags' be? Well, that will vary from person to person but common indicators might be:
- gaps in employment. What were they doing in the time in between positions?
- short periods of employment. Why did they leave their previous positions so quickly after being hired?
- misspellings and other grammar errors in their resume. If they can't use spell checker on their resume where else are they not going to double-check their work?
Of course, these 'red flags' are going to vary from position to position as well. That means that you will want to treat each person and position as a separate and unique situation. But these guidelines will help you make it through that stack of applications and resumes and don't be afraid to eliminate people straight from their application or resume. You don't owe anyone an interview and hopefully you have more applicants that you need so you can afford to be choosy.
Is she the one for the position?
Preparing for the Interview
There are a few decisions that you will have to make about how you will interview your candidates. Will your interviews be structured or unstructured? Will they be composed of situational or behavioral questions. Each of these decisions has it own positives and negatives but you must make a decision about each of these questions.
A structured interview means that you will have all of the questions that you want to ask and the order that you want to ask them in figured out ahead of time and ready to go when your first candidate arrives for their interview. But don't worry, you only have to figure out those questions once for all the interviews you will conduct for that position. You'll want to be sure that you ask each candidate the same questions so you are able to compare each candidate equally.
This means that an unstructured interview won't have those questions written out ahead of time but you will need to know what information you want to find out from each candidate during their interview. Once again, you are going to want to be able to compare each candidate equally to another. Which way you decide to go will be up to you as different people will find one or the other styles easier for themselves.
And then there is the matter of what kind of questions you will want to ask the applicants, behavioral or situational?
Behavioral questions are focused on a person's past behavior and can help you determine what they are going to do in a given situation based on their reactions to similar situations in their past. These are questions like:
- Describe to me a time when you didn't get along with a co-worker.
- Have you ever found yourself with information about a fellow employee who was violating company policy? If yes, what did you do about that situation?
- Tell me about a time that you had to organize an event for your previous employer. Where there any problems and if there were how did you handle them?
Situational questions are more focused on a person's future behavior. These are questions that can help you determine what they know about the position that they are interviewing for with you. These are questions like:
- You have been assigned a large report that is to be completed in a couple of weeks. A couple of days later your boss leaves for a week-long vacation and they would like to see the first draft upon their return. After your boss leaves you discover that there are a few questions that you need answers to in order to complete the initial draft for the report. What do you do?
- The office needs a new copier and your boss has asked you to get the best one for the office. You know what features the copier needs and you know what your budget is for the purchase. Explain to me the process you use to determine what copier you will acquire?
- A customer calls and insists that the company representative, who had been there the day before to conduct an on-site repair, damaged the computer. The customer insists that a representative be sent out immediately to repair the computer and he isn't paying for it this time. What do you do?
Here are a few questions that were created for the selection criteria we saw earlier.
Now that you have your questions ready it's time to do those other little steps to make the process as painless for you and the candidate. Find a quiet place to conduct the interview where you won't be interrupted. Gather all the materials that you will need for the interview, like your questions, the candidate's application or resume, a way to take notes, and figure out how long the interview is going to take. You will want to take notes about each interview because you may not be making your decision about hiring that person right after the interview. That decision may not even be made by you. So you will want to have notes that are detailed enough to allow you to remember the applicant a couple days, weeks or even months later.
When the candidate arrives be sure to greet them and welcome them to the interview. Make sure you greet them by name in order to establish a rapport. You want them to be as comfortable as possible. Be sure you sit down first but also offer them a place to sit. If you are drinking be sure that you offer the applicant something to drink as well.
Begin the interview by reviewing the position that they are interviewing for. They may realize as you go over the position that this is not the job they thought they were applying for and the sooner you can stop wasting each other's time the better for both of you. Explain to them the interview process, how long you expect the interview to take and whether there will be any breaks. Also explain that you will be taking notes and why you are taking notes. As you are taking notes though, be sure that you are not looking down at what you are writing throughout the interview as this will separate you from the interviewee and you want to ensure that you don't loose your connection with them. All of this is to help put the candidate at ease and allow you to get a better feel for how they would fit into your organization.
Now it's time for the body of the interview. Begin by reviewing their previous positions. Ask questions about any of the information from their application or resume that you would like to have clarified. Then begin asking those questions that you prepared beforehand. Remember, you are going to ask every interviewee these questions.
Only ask one question at a time and be prepared to give them time to think about their answer. Listen carefully to what they have to say. Remember, Active Listening. This means that you will want to ask follow-up questions to any answers that don't quite answer your questions or that you didn't quite understand.
There may be times when the applicant will start talking and will start talking about matters which do not relate to the position. Don't be afraid to interrupt them and bring the conversation back to the interview. You are not there to be their friend. That will come later after they've been hired. For now, concentrate on the interview.
There are other times when an applicant won't answer your question for one reason or another. Silence is a powerful tool for you to use to get your answers. Most people do not like silence when they are engaged in a conversation with another person so they will likely start talking and provide you with the answer you were looking for originally.
Don't be afraid to let a person provide you with an additional answer to a question that you asked earlier. An interview is a nervous situation for most people. Hopefully as the interview continues they will get more relaxed and be able to answer your questions better, even those you asked earlier.
Above all, respect the confidentiality of the candidate and their previous employers. Don't ask them to answer any questions that you wouldn't want any of your employees to answer about your company.
Finally, as you get to the end of your questions let the candidate know and give them a couple of minutes to finish answering your last question. Also ask the candidate if they have any further information to offer that might influence your decision about the position. Be sure to answer any questions they might have about the position or the company, Then be sure to tell them when they might expect to find out whether you will be making them an offer or if you've decided to go with another person. Ask if you can check with their references and thank them for coming to interview with them. Although your time is valuable always remember that their time is also valuable. Stand up, shake their hand, and escort them out once the interview is over.
Here's a handy outline of the entire process
Once they have left the interview is not over for you. Now it's time to get all those notes and impressions down so that a week, a month, or longer when you are reviewing the interview you can remember what you thought. Remember that you were concentrating on the applicant and not your notes so you will want to jot down everything you felt was important as soon as possible. Also take a moment to evaluate the candidate according to those selection criteria that you created at the beginning of the process. I like to use a spreadsheet to automate the mathematical processes involved in completing the selection criteria worksheet. This allows you to provide different weights to different criteria based on how important each task is to the position.