Interviewing job candidates is tricky, a spar between hiring managers, who want the perfect fit for an open position, and job applicants, who want a steady paycheck.
How’s your interviewing process going? Are you uncovering hidden clues that would predict the success or failure of a particular hire? Or, be honest, are you failing to find the right person because your interviewing technique needs an overhaul?
“In the end, the proof is in the outcome,” says Eric Herrenkohl, a recruiting expert and author of the Amazon bestselling book “How to Hire A-Players.” “If you’re consistently making good decisions and pleased with the people you brought on board, your interviewing process is working. However, if you’re consistently being surprised in a bad way, your process isn’t working.”
The stakes are high. The cost of making the wrong hire is huge, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder study, which shows that bad hires can create a significant loss in revenue, productivity, morale, and client relations. The most depressing study stat: 27% of U.S. employers reported a single bad hire cost them more than $50,000, which could include unemployment insurance costs.
Herrenkohl says hiring managers know in the first month if a candidate was a good hire. Unfortunately, it could take a year – or more– to let that dud go.
“Often the problems that people bring with them aren’t their fundamental ability to do the job,” he says. “It’s often about cultural fit, personality issues, integrity – those intangible things that get most people fired.”
So, we’ll ask again: How’s your interviewing process going? If it fails to detect employment history red flags and ticking time bombs, overhaul your technique with these interviewing tips.
Use assessment tools before talk
Hank Epstein, a co-founder of The Quality Coach based in Washington, Mo., tells clients to exploit assessment tools like the DISC personality profile, which give hiring managers insight into a candidate’s personality and strengths before sitting down for an interview. “We want hiring managers to relate to a candidate like an iceberg, which is 90% before the surface,” Epstein says. “You need to use an assessment tool to find out what’s below the surface. Then, in the interview, you’ll go deeper.”
Talk less; listen more
The more you talk about the job, the company, your winter vacation in Aspen, the less you learn about a candidate. A smart candidate will try to make you the center of attention. A smart hiring manager knows how to keep quiet and let the candidate fill the silence with information about his working life. “Every minute you’re talking is a minute the candidate isn’t revealing to you who they are,” Herrenkohl says.
Interviewing rule of thumb: Don’t just say something, sit there, and let the candidate do the talking.
Investigate behaviors, not just results
Job seekers are eager to tout their accomplishments, but hiring managers should investigate behaviors that led to those successes, Epstein says. If, say, a company is looking for a floor supervisor to implement a lean manufacturing initiative, an interviewer should ask a candidate how they’ve handled subordinates who resisted change. “Behavioral questions go beyond claims a candidate makes on their resume,” Epstein says. “If a candidate responds with generalities, if they’re fuzzy, you know it’s likely the candidate doesn’t have as deep a background as he claims.”
Follow-up questions are key
Why? (See, we just asked a follow-up question.) Most candidates rehearse answers to standard interview questions like, “What is your biggest accomplishment?” What they’re not prepared for are follow-up questions that crack the answer open. Get used to digging deeper with such follow-up as, “Why did you choose that course?” “What happened then?” “Do you have any regrets about your choice?”
The devil hides in the employment details
Many hiring managers ask questions about the last, say, three jobs an applicant lists on his resume. Herrenkohl, however, says interviewers must probe every job, and gaps between jobs, to get a complete picture of a potential employee.
Go beyond references
Sure, a candidate will provide references from colleagues who were pleased with their work; it’s your job to dig deeper. Herrenkohl always ends reference checks with, “Would you hire Joe again?” The right answer, he says, is, “In a heartbeat.” “That’s what people say when they really like and are impressed with someone,” Herrenkohl says. “If you say, “ ‘I would.’ or ‘I would in the right role.’ that’s less good.”
Hiring managers should do their own sleuthing, tapping their own networks to get more information about a candidate.
Orchestrate the interviewing process
Interviews for high-level jobs typically involve several people. Hiring managers should make sure that each interviewer covers different areas of expertise. At the end of the interview process, hiring managers should collect notes and ask follow-up questions to get a full picture of how interviewers really feel about the applicant.
Every interview boils down to questions and leading statements. Here are some goodies.
- Tell me about X job you did and give me context. This goes beyond prepared answers and asks applicants to discuss the environment, history, and challenges that they faced on their road to success.
- What were your biggest accomplishments? The answer will provide insight into what the applicant values most – profits, human resources, good neighboring – and lets you determine how his priorities align with your company’s goals.
- Why did you leave, and what did you do next? Here’s where follow-up questions are essential. Chances are an applicant has polished answers to appeal to the largest number of hiring managers. But there’s a story behind every decision to leave one job and take another. Your job is to flesh out the details until you know if this candidate is the best fit for your company.