How to Interview Effectively
It’s true! If you hire employees, then you’re just like any team in the NFL, MLS, WNBA, NBA, or Major League Baseball. Like you, they understand that success hinges upon cultivating a high-performance team. So maybe we should consider how they hire their employees/athletes. Actually, for the sake of simplicity, let’s contrast only one facet of the hiring process. But first – a pop quiz.
Think about your own hiring process. Here is the one question pop quiz:
Where do you learn THE MOST about your potential hire?
If you’re like most employers, I know your answer: “The Interview.” In fact, if you’re like most employers, 1. the resume and 2. the interview are the only two steps of your recruitment process. [Sigh. I’m not judging you, but I did just audibly sigh. I humbly ask you to read the previous posts in this series.]
Now, let’s apply that same process to any professional athletic team. The hopeful athlete writes her own (unverified) resume, extolling her virtues. The Coach then meets the athlete in person, asks several questions, and finally decides to recruit on the basis of the interview. The Coach is a great judge of aptitude, and completely trusts her gut to make a brilliant decision. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s a much simpler, quicker process. Coach has eliminated weeks of video reviews, conversations with previous coaches, and hours of actual tryouts. Coach has also eliminated players who can actually PERFORM. Instead, they have a team of players who can, at best, TALK about performance. Have you ever listened to a “business coach” whose only business is talking about business? I rest my case.
So how can you successfully interview? Glad you asked.
First, understand that the in-person interview is likely the LEAST EFFECTIVE tool for screening great candidates! It cannot measure technical skills, team skills, intelligence, or attitude. As discussed in previous blogs: Simulations and exercises, pre-employment assessments, and other strategies give a more robust picture of a candidate’s potential Rock Star status.
Sadly, most executives approach the interview like a movie they’ve never seen. They meet a yet-unknown character (applicant), see the conflict (surprise interview questions), then the resolution (answers), and finally the reveal: YES! This IS the right person (or not). The interview shouldn’t be the movie; it should be the post-movie review. By the time of the interview, you should know about the main character, the challenges, talents, and likelihood of success.
The interview should be a time for the candidate to lose the job, not earn it.
Second, use an interview script. This script ensures that:
- You avoid asking inappropriate interview questions,
- No discriminatory discussions occur,
- Every interviewer is playing the same game, and
- You can compare candidates consistently (apples to apples).
Here’s an example from one of our clients. A candidate filed an EEOC claim charging that the hiring manager (our client) discriminated on the basis of age [this example can apply to race, gender, or any other protected class]. Our client produced the interview script, and proved that he asked the same questions to all candidates. He further solidified his case by the handwritten notes on the script. See more on handwritten notes in the Legal Fun-Busters section below.
Third, score the interviews. Scoring allows you to objectively look at the promise of each candidate. More importantly, it forces YOU to carefully consider what information you gathered to see if the candidate is a good fit.
Finally, incorporate interview questions that test for culture and core values. A core value in my company, for example, is “proactive, no assembly required solutions.” We realize that a “no assembly” focused employee has extreme clarity on the entire process. Such an employee assembles the solution as completely as possible before presenting it to the client. This helps the CEO (our client) to stay focused on the most valuable use of their time. Deciphering legal language and a confusing myriad of options is NOT a valuable use of their time.
“If you had to explain to someone how to make a tuna sandwich over the phone, how would you do it?” This is one of the actual questions we ask in our own interviews. The answer illustrates how someone logically works through a specific process, and how well they communicate. And it lets us know if this candidate fits well within our core values.
Why do interviews go awry? To be blunt, it’s not them. It’s you.
Here is an insight that a business coach, a really good friend, or your lawyer wants to tell you about your interview skills: You’re not as good as you think. Neither am I. The problem, simply, is that we’re human. We all gravitate to people “like us.” We all tend to hear what we want to hear. And when we’re excited about something, we tend to talk more than listen. The same is true for interviews – we often hear what we want to hear. So, religiously follow the interview script, and you’ll separate your own bias from the interview. And make sure that you’re listening more than talking!