• Business planning and strategy

Top 5 Tips for a Successful Candidate Interview

Guest Blogger | March 31, 2016

According to some psychologists, the decision to hire someone (or not) is made within the first three seconds of meeting them. If this technique were accurate 100% of the time, we wouldn’t need to interview anyone. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like this, which means that interviews, and other forms of due diligence, are our best chance at improving the odds of identifying the person sitting across from us as Mr. or Ms. Right.

Here are five proven ways to make your interviews with job candidates more revealing, efficient and productive:

1) No job description? Don’t even bother interviewing

Apart from a few exceptions, job descriptions are not legally mandated in North America, which is likely why they are often so under-appreciated and overlooked in many companies.

A well written job description can be your best friend during an interview. It can help you to focus on what’s important in the role, help you to better assess who’s a good fit, and most importantly, eliminate much of the randomness and subjectivity associated with conducting an interview without one.

2) Hold a phone interview first

It’s remarkable how many employers continue to skip this vital first step. Would you want to spend an hour interviewing someone in person only to find out that they can’t start for six months, have ‘over the moon’ salary expectations, or learn that they just wanted to “see what’s out there”?

You might think it’s a time-saving measure, however, without conducting this type of exploratory conversation first, odds are you will meet with candidates who are clearly not right for the job – which will ultimately prove to be a poor use of your time. Spend 15 minutes on the phone with each shortlisted candidate and just discuss the basics – such as availability, salary expectations, a quick review and questions about their résumé, and what they’re ideally looking for.

3) Consider the team, and the culture

Many employers mistakenly believe that hiring strong individuals automatically equals having a strong team. If only it was that easy! The reality is, hiring one person requires looking at them from three different perspectives: the role, the team, and the company culture. Even if an individual matches a specific position in terms of personal attributes, skills and experience, there’s no guarantee they’ll mesh with the dynamic of their team, or fit in with your culture.

A good way to evaluate this is to have the candidate meet and talk with some of your current employees, along with a few prepared questions that can uncover more about the candidate’s personality, work style, likes and dislikes, and hot buttons.

4) Don’t hire with your gut

I always playfully say that you shouldn’t hire with your gut unless you’ve been punched there a few times first. By that I mean, unless your intuition has led to numerous hiring failures in the past, it simply doesn’t embody the wisdom it needs to be a reliable guide.

Gut instincts are the most useful in situations where hard data is lacking, or where the information you have conflicts, and neither of those should describe your hiring process. With a well-crafted and accurate job description, lessons learned from past hires, and a solid grasp of your company culture, you should be able to make smart, objective, and well-informed decisions while leaving your gut out of it.

5) Avoid useless (and illegal) interview questions

After observing a full day of interviews with a client of mine who had suffered a series of high profile departures within the company, I was shocked by the utter uselessness and legality of some of the stock questions they were asking. Here are three of them:

“Can you do this?” Which, not surprisingly, led to answers like “Yes, no problem at all”

“If you were going on a one way trip to Mars, what four things would you bring with you?”

“Where were you were born? Was it here in Canada?”

For the record, it’s discriminatory to ask someone in an interview (or application) what their country of origin is, or if they’re a Canadian citizen. It is, however, permissible to ask if they are legally entitled to work in Canada. Click here for a great resource on what you can and cannot ask in an interview from my friends at the Maytree Foundation.

As a best practice, include relevant problem-solving questions (“Walk me through how you would…”), rather than just asking about past experiences (“Tell me about a time when…”). They can reveal more about a candidate’s adaptability, critical thinking skills, and deftness at navigating interpersonal relationships.

I’ll be talking about interviewing, hiring, and a whole lot more, during my workshop, “People & Culture: Two Key Ingredients You Can’t Afford To Get Wrong” at Futurpreneur’s Action Entrepreneurship National Summit on May 31st. Register today, and I’ll see you there!

About Glenn:
Glenn Nishimura is the Principal and Chief People Strategist at Nishimura Consulting, and a Futurpreneur mentor. He helps entrepreneurs, startups and small business owners across North America and Europe to build strong company cultures and smart people practices. He also writes about performance management as a columnist for PROFITguide/Canadian Business. You can reach him at 416.566.6892, glenn@nishimuraconsulting.ca, or on Twitter: @NishiHR.

Written By: Glenn Nishimura, Chief People Strategist at Nishimura Consulting & Futurpreneur Mentor