Beyond the Pitch
5 Ways to Create An Interview Process that Leads to Terrific Talent
The interview process is the key to hiring the most qualified candidates that are a cultural fit for your organization. Every candidate wants to make a good impression. Members of the interview team should feel the same.
To create the best interview experience possible (for your company and for the interview candidate) that will lead to the best hiring result, follow these tips.
1. Choose the interview team deliberately, and interview in stages.
Create a cross-functional team that represents all aspects of your business. Hold a kick-off meeting with the full team to align on the role description and the experience and qualities you’re looking for in each candidate.
The first round of interviews should include two team members: the hiring manager and a cross-functional organizational leader. As the candidate progresses to the next round, add the broader team who will work with the candidate. Focus first round interviews primarily on the candidate’s ability to do the job. Second round interviews are ideal for panel/group interviews and can dig more deeply into the candidate’s fit with the mission, vision and values of the organization. Board members can make great interview team members as well.
With each stage of the process, ensure all hiring team members:
- Start and end the interview on time.
- Turn off computers and cell phones for the duration of the interview. Paper notes are OK.
- Treat every candidate with respect.
- Give candidates their full attention.
- Focus on selling the company and its vision.
- Listen more than talk.
- Answer candidate questions honestly.
- Thank candidates for their interest the company.
2. Take time to prepare.
Prepare for each candidate interview with the same thoroughness that you would take with an important customer (or investor) call. Review position descriptions and applicant resumes ahead of time. Don’t wait to glance through the material until the candidate is in the lobby. Check out the candidate’s social media presence. Visit the website of their current employer. Know the questions you want to ask. Prep each interview team member with the company’s elevator speech.
3. Develop interview questions and dive deep into qualitative areas of questioning.
An interview is the time to determine candidates’ functional skills, to verify their experience, to assess their character, and to experience their personality. Structure questions accordingly. Don’t have a list of ideal answers in mind. Rather, have an idea of the competencies and personal traits that the ideal candidate will have.
Be wise about the number of questions you ask. Schedule enough time to explore the areas of the candidate’s abilities and character that matter most to you. Allow time for the candidate to pose some questions back. You can learn a lot from the questions a candidate asks.
Ensure that the questions on your list are appropriate and legal. There are state and federal laws. When in doubt, ask human resources. Do not ask questions related to gender, race, age, religion, national origin, disabilities, children, etc. If the applicant ventures into one of these areas, don’t follow and don’t make notes. Instead lead the conversation back to your prepared question list.
Each member of the interview team may ask candidates different questions from other interviewers; however, every interviewer should ask every candidate that they interview the same questions. Train each member of the interview team to follow their script of questions. Asking the same questions of each potential hire that you interview provides a true and fair comparison and helps the interviewer resist allowing selection bias to creep in. Dive deep on open areas of questions around things like how the role fits with the candidate’s long-term career path and values.
Stay flexible. It is okay to adapt the flow of the questions to a candidate’s response. Don’t feel forced to fill the silence. Sometimes a candidate needs time to think. If you want more information after a candidate’s response, ask for it. And when a candidate asks a question, answer it as honestly and succinctly as you can.
4. Create an evaluation method and debrief after each round.
Start the process with an evaluation method that can be reviewed after each stage of the interview process. Ensure the evaluation method or matrix includes the ability to evaluate candidates in four key areas:
- Experience and fit with the role duties;
- Fit with the mission and values of the organization;
- Ability to scale up to do more within the organization, and
- Potential fit of the role within the candidate’s career path, whereby the candidate can see themselves in the role 2+ years and beyond.
During the interview process, each hiring team member takes notes to help guide the debrief sessions. Ensure that notes are not focused age, gender, race, color, sexual orientation, national origin, etc. Record evaluations in the defined the matrix or scorecard. Share evaluations among all members of the interview team and then join together to debrief. File notes and evaluation forms with human resources. Bear in mind, inclusive companies get better results.
As soon as you have ruled out a candidate, tell them. If you need more information, ask for it. If you are interested in the candidate invite them back for the next round of interviews. Treat candidates the way you would want to be treated if you were looking for a job.
5. Establish an achievable interview schedule and stick to it.
Give the interview process the priority and attention it deserves. In a startup, everyone has more than they can do; hiring and recruiting excellent people can feel like an additional full-time job—but after cash management—hiring excellent people is a founding team’s most important activity.
Follow the same discipline the company follows with its business plan. Layout a schedule of hiring milestones and match those to the resources required. When it comes to interviews, most, if not all team members, have a responsibility to participate.
Get interviews scheduled and hold to the dates and times. You wouldn’t reschedule an appointment with a potential investor or with a C-level executive at your best prospective customer. That same mindset leads to the best new hires.
Startups that create an effective interview process save time and get better results.
Come back to the blog for a future Toolkit post: 5 Ways to Foster a More Inclusive Interview Pipeline Ensuring Diversity at Each Stage of the Hiring Process
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Diverse companies get better results: Inclusive Entrepreneurship
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