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Interview Tips

Hiring an addition to your staff is an investment and it's important you make the right choice. While Celebrity Staff will identify and recruit the highest quality Administrative, Management, and Legal candidates for your position, the process culminates with the candidate's interview with you. As important as it is for the candidate to prepare for an interview, it is just as critical for you, the hiring official, to also have a plan. This will ensure you are able to thoroughly evaluate the candidate and make the very best hiring decision for your organization.

Interview Prep
Pre-Interview
During the Interview
After the Interview

Interview Prep:
Goeff Smart and Randy Street, authors of the book Who, estimate that for certain positions hiring mistakes can cost fifteen times an employee's base salary in hard costs and productivity loss. Therefore, the fastest way to increase productivity and minimize expense is to hire the right people, the first time. To do so, make sure you're prepared.

  • Review the position requirements before the interview and know the position's responsibilities and required/desired skills.
  • Success factors - what does it take to be a top performer in this position?
  • Expectations of the position - what will the candidate truly be expected to deliver on?
  • Prepare interview questions in advance. Don't wait to decide on your questions during the interview.

Preparing your questions ahead of time will ensure that you hit on all of the important points and enable you to gather all of the information you need about the candidate's skills, abilities, and the ability to work within your company's culture/environment.

Click here for sample interview questions.

Pre-Interview:
A study by the Wall Street Journal indicated that 70 percent of the hiring decision is based upon the following: emotions, biases, chemistry, personality, and stereotyping. All of these have little to do with whether someone can actually do the job they are being interviewed for. Be aware of these tendencies and work to mitigate influences from these factors.

  • Make the candidate feel comfortable. Ensure the candidate is greeted in a friendly and professional manner, is made to feel welcome, and is personally escorted to the interview location.
  • Don't judge on first impressions and stay clear of "liking" someone too quickly. If you "like" a candidate you may not interview as in-depth or will ask simpler questions. Other times candidates that don't make the greatest first impression end up being the most outstanding employees. Allow candidates to fully present themselves before making a judgment one way or the other and treat everyone you interview the same. You can eliminate hiring bias by developing an objective interview process.

During the Interview:
Once the interview begins, be mindful of "voodoo hiring", as defined in the book Who, and how these interview styles can negatively affect an interview. Even the best interviewers, those who have been doing it for years, often fall victim to these poor hiring practices, which include: The Art Critic, The Sponge, The Prosecutor, The Suitor, The Trickster, The Animal Lover, The Chatterbox, The Psychological and Personality Tester, The Aptitude Tester, The Fortune Tester,

The Art Critic

When it comes to judging art, going on gut instinct sometimes works just fine. A good art critic can make an accurate appraisal of a painting within minutes. With hiring, though, people who think they are naturally equipped to "read" people on the fly are setting themselves up to be fooled big-time. A forger can pass off fake paintings as real ones to the time-pressed buyer, and people who want a job badly enough can fake an interview if it lasts only a few minutes. Gut instinct is terribly inaccurate when it comes to hiring someone. If you extend an offer based on a good gut feeling, you are going to have a stomachache!

The Sponge

A common approach among busy managers is to let everybody interview a candidate. The goal of this sponge-like behavior is to soak up information by spending as much time with people as possible. Unfortunately, managers rarely coordinate their effort, leaving everybody to ask the same, superficial questions. We witnessed one interview process where six interviewers in a row asked a candidate about his skydiving hobby. Collectively, they burned over sixty minutes on a topic that had nothing to do with the job-although the fellow was an accomplished sky diver, as it turned out! The sponge's ultimate assessment of the person he hires rarely goes deeper than "He's a good guy!"

The Prosecutor

Many managers act like the prosecutors they see on TV. They aggressively question candidates, attempting to trip them up with trick questions and logic problems. Why are manhole covers round? How did the markets do yesterday? One employer we have heard of asks candidates if they play chess. If they say yes, he matches them up against an employee who happens to be a Russian chess master! In the end, trick questions might land you the most knowledgeable candidate, and maybe even someone who can beat a Russian chess master, but knowledge and ability to do the job are not the same thing.

The Suitor

Rather than rigorously interviewing a candidate, some managers spend all of their energy selling the applicant on the opportunity. Suitors are more concerned with impressing candidates than assessing their capabilities. They spend all of their time in an interview talking and virtually no time listening. Suitors land their share of candidates, but they take their chances with the candidate actually being a good fit.

The Trickster

Then there are the interviewers who use gimmicks to test for certain behaviors. They might throw a wad of paper to the floor, for example, to see if a candidate is willing to clean it up, or take him to a party to see how he interacts with other partygoers. Use this method, and you are likely to find yourself in the awkward position of explaining to your friends why you fired that nice guy from the party who helped clean up the mess.

The Animal Lover

Many managers hold on stubbornly to their favorite pet questions -- questions they think will reveal something uniquely important about a candidate. One executive takes this literally, telling us that he judges candidates by their answer to one question: "What type of animal would you be?" The question has a truly voodoo answer key. "I look for people who have a witty answer." Not only do questions like this lack any relevance of scientific basis, but they are utterly useless as a predictor of on-the-job performance.

The Chatterbox

The conversation usually goes something like this: "How about those Yankees! Man, the weather really is rough this time of year. You grew up in California? So did I!" Although enjoyable, the method does nothing to help you make a good decision. You're supposed to be picking up a future trusted colleague, not someone with whom you can bat around baseball stats.

The Psychological and Personality Tester

The Handbook of Industrial/Organizational Psychology recommends against using these types of tests for executive decisions, and with good reason. Asking a candidate a series of bubble-test questions like "Do you tease small animals?" or "Would you rather be at a cocktail party or the library on a Friday night" is not useful (although both are actual questions on popular psychological tests), and it's certainly not predictive of success on the job. Savvy candidates can easily fake the answers based on the job for which they are vying.

The Aptitude Tester

Tests can help managers determine whether a person has the right aptitude for a specific role, such as persistence for a business development position, but they should never become the sole determinant in a hiring decision.

The Fortune Tester

Just like a fortune teller looking in a crystal ball to predict the future, some interviewers like to ask their candidates to look into the future regarding the job at hand by asking hypothetical questions: "What would you do? How would you do it? Could you do it?" Fifty years of academic literature on interview methods makes a strong case against using these types of questions during interviews.

  • Talk with the candidate about the position. Provide a brief summary, including expectations of the position, general responsibilities, who the employee would report to, and any major challenges of the position. The candidate will then be able to offer relevant examples and responses during the interview.
  • Be flexible: Although you have your questions planned in advance, don't be afraid to let the conversation steer the interview. Building questions from the candidate's responses will also help keep the candidate at ease.
  • Listen more than you speak. In general, try to spend 80 percent of the time during the interview listening while taking notes and 20 percent talking. Otherwise, you will not be able to obtain all of the necessary information you need from the candidate.
  • Open it up to questions. A candidate truly interested in the position will likely have some questions for you. This is also the time when you may be able to uncover the motivating factors behind the candidate applying for the position. If you aren't able to answer a question, tell the candidate you will find out and follow up.
  • Stay within legal guidelines. There are certain questions that are able to be asked during an interview and others that are illegal. Understanding legal hiring guidelines before entering into an interview with a candidate is critical. You may only ask questions that relate to the job itself. You must refrain from asking any questions that may have the potential to elicit bias.
  • Promote your organization. This is an area that many employers overlook during the interview but it may just make the difference between hiring a talented candidate and losing the individual to another company. Remember that you are competing with other organizations for the very best talent. Just as candidates are selling themselves to you, it's important that you sell your company to them. Talk about your company's best attributes, what separates your organization from the rest, and why the candidate should want to work for you.

After the Interview:
Following an interview, force yourself to wait 30 minutes before making a decision on a candidate. Review the job requirements again and assess whether the candidate's experience match the needs of the position.

To objectively determine if a candidate is right for the position, examine past performance first, then character, and then personality/cultural fit last. Reviewing a candidate's performance will identify their ability to do the work. Traits to identify performance ability include team skills, drive, intelligence, leadership, initiative, and obtained results. The character of an individual is their honesty, integrity, and responsibility. One's personality/cultural fit is their attitude, style, pace, first impression, appearance, social confidence, and affability.

Keep in mind these tips as well:
Evaluate. If the candidate interviewed with several people from your company, compare notes. Be ready to provide examples from your interview.

Be clear about the next step. Don't leave the candidate hanging. Be honest about what the candidate can expect from you. If you promise to follow up, make sure that you do. Let the candidate know a time frame for your final hiring decision.