“Thanks, we’ll let you know something once we’re finished interviewing the other candidates.”
Said to the person who is likely not going to get the job offer.
Interviews are awkward. They’re the first date of the career world. You expect candidates to be prepared, passionate and masters of their skill. Hiring managers also have bias that varies from one to the next, making this haystack much larger.
Finding the right person is hard.
First impressions aren’t easy to shake, and thus, objectivity goes out the window. Instinctively, we all make assumptions within moments of a first meeting.
The goal is to resist this gut feeling. I know that sounds contrary to what you’ve heard your whole career, but it works.
Think about how many interviews have you gone to nervous about the impression you’d make? You were ill-prepared, in a rush, sweaty and tense. I’m sure you performed like LeBron James or even Michael Jordan in those clutch moments of your interview.
The primary goal for an interviewer is to assess the candidate’s ability to do the job. The thing is, we also have to work side by side with this person. How do we strike a balance?
1. Review the candidate’s resume with your team.
Take time to review the applicant’s resume, portfolio and other credentials. Share this info with your team, and more specifically, those involved in the interview process with you.
“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked to take part in an interview that’s starting right now — without any preparation.”
Next, plan a meeting with the team to gather questions — technical and cultural — that help determine the type of answers you’re looking for. Have difficult conversations about the level of skill the team needs for their next addition. Be realistic about expectations and get on the same page.
This process often goes overlooked, yet it’s simple and it helps to align your team on what and who you’re looking for.
2. Ask better questions.
We’ve established first impressions are unfair. To counter that bias, plan a consistent set of questions. This will help you stay objective when determining who you will hire.
I’m not suggesting you don’t listen to your gut.
Let that be a factor when it comes down to the final decision. Just don’t let it overpower the initial interview. Ask questions that evoke critical thinking and emotion. Here are a few suggestions:
Tell me about the last time you faced a challenge, how you overcame it and what you learned.
What is your favorite book and how did it impact your life?
What is your proudest professional moment?
How do you handle conflict at work? Describe the last time you faced a difficult person or situation. What steps did you take to resolve it?
With questions like these, you learn more about their skills and desire to grow. Remember, the goal is to determine if they can do the job well and contribute to the team in a meaningful way.
Okay, I guess you can ask about their favorite superhero.
3. Be engaged and listen.
Imagine for a minute you are being interviewed. You’ve just responded to a question, but you see the light from their phone underneath the table. How would that make you feel? It’s a clear indicator they don’t care about your answers, so why would they listen to you after you get hired?
Listening is a sign of empathy. It affirms you’re interested and involved in what the speaker is trying to express. The sole purpose of an interview is to communicate what you need and allow the candidate to respond with what they can do.
With all that communicating, listening seems like the bare necessity.
Instead of blindly reading off questions, ask with the intention of wanting the answer. Mind-blowing stuff, I know.
Use follow-up questions to show you are listening. These can be reflective, interpretive, probing, acknowledging, summarizing and more. Try some of these in your next interview:
I can see how that situation was difficult for you.
It seems like you want a work environment that promotes continued education.
Tell me more about the time you…
It’s great how you handled yourself while…
As a listener, you have a responsibility to acknowledge the speaker. You can also show this with eye contact, head nodding, and other body language.
On the flip side, be mindful of the candidate’s listening skills. This is a good litmus test for hiring the right person. Are they engaged? Do they ask follow-up questions?
If you’d like to learn more about listening, I’ve created a wonderful guide to becoming a better listener. It’s free.
4. In-person exercises vs. homework.
Exercises or tests are used to measure a candidate’s skill level. When you assign an applicant a test they do at home, you’re unable to see them in action.
Ditch this approach for in-person exercises. Create a fake project or problem for them to solve. Allow them to collaborate with you or the team to create a solution.
This immediately helps you determine if they’re right for the role:
How engaged in the process are they?
How well they understand tasks
The effectiveness of their communication skills
How they handle challenges
This will save you both time in the end and give you instant clarity on skill level without any bias.
Seeing is believing.
5. Follow up, whether yes or no.
“Consider that a professional courtesy.” — John Wick
Once you’ve made a decision, the hard part is over. Now you just have to communicate it, regardless of the choice.
If it’s no, do so quickly and politely. You do not owe them an in-depth evaluation. That would be awkward.
The professional move is to let them know your decision and move on and forward.
If yes, well, congratulations! Let them know next steps and celebrate your new addition to the team.
Job candidates are becoming more aware of company culture and the value they can bring to the roll. It’s helpful to know what they are looking out for and what symptoms constitute a toxic culture. In a recent interview with Fast Company, I talk about how to identify toxic cultures before accepting a job offer.