Interviewing remains one of the best ways to uncover a candidate’s abilities and determine if they will be a match with the culture of your department or organization.
This white paper reviews strategies used by companies considered “Top Employers.” Compare it to how your organization interviews candidates (or, if you’re a first-time interviewing manager, use it as a guide) to help weed out unfit candidates and identify the skilled applicants equipped to thrive in your workplace.
A Broad Picture of the Interview Process
Ultimate Staffing’s research has found that approximately 80% of turnover arises from hiring and interviewing mistakes. The clues were there in the beginning, but the pre-screening and interviewing process didn’t bring the warning signs to the surface. Effective interviewing is vital.
Effective interviewing can ensure that the interviewing organization and the interviewee understand each other’s expectations, which can lead to lower turnover, higher employee engagement, increased employer satisfaction after a qualified candidate is hired, and the foundation of a “Best Place to Work” environment. With those objectives in mind, revamp your department or organization’s approach to the interviewing process using the following tips.
1. Envision the Perfect Candidate
Trying to pin down the characteristics of a successful employee for an open position while interviewing candidates is like setting sail without a destination in mind, and then hoping halfway through the voyage that you’ll end up at the perfect coastline.
If your department or organization cannot define the characteristics of the perfect employee in an open role, you’re setting yourselves up for failure and frustration. “It’s essential to pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate before starting your search,” states Daniel Landman, Director of New Business Ventures for Roth Staffing Companies (Ultimate Staffing’s parent company). “If you need a place to start, begin by assessing your top performers in that role and examine what makes them successful.”
2. Establish a Pre-Screening Protocol
According to Forbes, the average interview lasts 40 minutes. That time can really add up for busy hiring managers! Therefore, in-person interviews should be reserved for only the most likely hires.
Interviewing should be one of the later steps of the candidate assessment process so that hiring managers don’t waste their time meeting with obviously unfit or unenthusiastic applicants. This also saves applicants from unnecessarily expending time and energy preparing for the interview and traveling to your location.
This means you might want to fine-tune your pre-screening procedures to ensure the very best candidates bubble up to the top. For instance, consider the ten-step screening process used by Ultimate Staffing and other “Best Place to Work” organizations.
Interviews must be supplemented with other evaluation methods like reference checks and skills assessments in order to be truly powerful. After implementing proper pre-screening protocols to pare down the candidate pool, Top Employers encourage discussion between all managers and supervisors involved in the hiring process. Frequent communication guarantees that all parties are in consensus regarding who should move from the pre-screen stage to the in-person interview.
1. Determine a target candidate audience (recruit from the right group of people).
2. Learn how the audience looks for jobs.
3. Create and publicize an ideal job description.
4. Screen resumes using specific criteria. For more information about screening resumes and other pre-screening techniques, peruse Ultimate Staffing’s white paper titled “Implementing Screening Processes that Net Top Candidates.”
5. Conduct pre-screen phone interviews.
6. Assess skills and conduct work previews.
7. Pick finalists to interview in person.
8. Conduct in-person interviews (more than one with various decision makers).
9. Check references.
10. Present an offer.
3. Prepare for the Interview
Candidates shouldn’t be the only ones preparing for the interview. Top Employers realize the benefits of doing their homework too; planning ahead can lead to interviews that are comprehensive and targeted to specific position requirements and competencies, ultimately maximizing the effectiveness and productivity of each meeting.
Before the in-person interview, departments or organizations should create a system that judges candidates fairly and objectively. One way to achieve objective assessment is by asking hiring managers to create a list of questions to pose to all applicants, as well as a rubric to judge and compare interviewees’ answers on a common scale.
In addition, your interview needs to include a targeted behavioral interviewing approach that is fully customized. For instance, an organization searching for a top customer service professional or receptionist may need an employee who is personable even when dealing with difficult customers, and someone who is flexible enough to respond to a variety of situations. In this case, hiring managers may want to vary their line of questioning and switch quickly from topic to topic. If an applicant remains cool and comfortable in the face of rapid and jarring questioning, chances are good that they perform well under pressure. [See next section for preparing actual questions.]
4. Avoid Bland, Uninformative Q & A
Organizations that have been recognized as the “Best to Work For” view interviews as a conversation, but unique questions help spur that conversation in the right direction. Most applicants have built a cache of interview answers, which means that unfit candidates can shine alongside the most capable applicants when asked standard interview questions. Adjust your interviewing style to move away from a one-size-fits-all question and answer session and toward a more customized and insightful approach.
Finance and accounting departments recruiting a new payroll manager, for instance, may find it helpful to ask applicants about a time that they had to process payroll under a tight deadline and how they responded to the challenge. IT teams assessing applicants for a programmer position might want to ask candidates about their approach to learning and practicing new programming languages.
Interviews should be a two-way street; interviewers should be prepared to answer various questions from applicants —such as those in the following list— at the end of the discussion.
- Where do you see the business or department going in the next year? 10 years?
- What impact would I have on the team if I get hired?
- What would make someone really successful in this role?
5. Get Others Involved
Ultimate Staffing recommends involving multiple people in the interviewing process. These committees can encompass the candidate’s potential manager, other managers, and peers on their team and in their department. A candidate who meshes with the department manager but clashes with the rest of the team probably will not last long in the role, no matter how great the salary or benefits.
In addition, Top Employers know that including top performers in the interviewing process is a great way to assess the candidate’s potential for success; oftentimes, your best coworkers are the ones most familiar with what it takes to succeed “in the trenches” and possess insight into the personality traits, skills, and experience that make a candidate qualified for the position.
“I have several top performers on my teams that always provide helpful feedback about interviewees,” states Robert Hankin, Senior Vice President of Roth Staffing Companies. “I trust them to flag any areas of concern that may not occur to me when interviewing the candidate, and to provide their honest opinion about whether a prospect will be a good fit. Asking for input has saved me time and time again from hiring applicants who could have damaged the culture and productivity of the IT departments!”
Note: Requiring the candidate to make more than 3 trips to your location for various interviews can create frustration, but 2-3 different interviewing appointments is ideal and communicates to your candidate that you invest in the hiring process.
6. Reevaluate the System
The same interviewing processes and styles may not work for your department or organization forever, so it’s important to reevaluate protocols every six months or so to ensure that they remain effective in recruiting top performers. Don’t be afraid to try new interviewing strategies! Sometimes the most unlikely approaches can uncover the best candidates who will be passionate about building your department or organization into a “Best Place to Work.”
Sources: Forbes, CareerBuilder, Open Req, XeniumHR.com.