Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Hiring a new employee can be an exciting yet stressful time for a small business owner.
The reason is – no one wants to make the costly mistake of hiring the wrong person.
There are many steps to the hiring process – articulating the need, creating a job description, budgeting for salary, advertising, and reviewing applications to select a handful of candidates to interview.
It is always challenging to carve out preparation time, but doing so can significantly impact the interview.
Take some time to prepare for the interview to maximize your time with the candidate.
Ensuring you are prepared and familiar with the job and candidate can be crucial in selecting the right person.
5 Steps to Preparing for the Interview
1. Get Familiar With The Job Description
If you were part of the process of writing the job description, you might have a good understanding of what the job entails.
Spend time reviewing the job description and specific skills that are required to perform the job being interviewed for.
Familiarity with the job will ensure you ask the questions to select the right candidate.
2. Think About The Person Who Left or Why You Created a New Position
If this is a new position, take some time to reflect on why there is a need.
Consider the problems this position will solve and the support it will bring to other business areas.
If you are replacing an employee, take time to think about the person leaving the job.
This time of reflection may help you ask pertinent questions.
3. Review Candidate Applications
Spend some time reviewing job applications and interview accordingly.
If the person will be answering the telephone, a phone interview might be appropriate to test how well the candidate demonstrates good customer service skills on the phone.
Or, if you are interviewing for a new supervisor position, you may want to ask questions about the candidate’s management style.
The goal is to know a little bit about the person before you sit across the table from them.
4. Think About The Questions You Will Ask
Every level of employee will require slightly different questions.
You will ask a manager different questions than you would an entry-level employee, so choose the questions accordingly.
Know what questions you will ask before the interview begins.
Select interview questions that are appropriate for the level of the job and the candidate you will be meeting with.
5. Have An Interview Agenda
Set an agenda and use an interview guide to help keep you focused.
Begin the interview by telling the candidate what to expect so there are no surprises.
For instance, if part of the interview asks the candidate to sign some benefit documents, use the guide to help you remember to do so.
Here are some things to remember.
A Job Candidate will be on their best behavior. Be aware that how an applicant responds and behaves in an interview does not necessarily translate into the behavior you would be looking for on the job. They will most likely be displaying their best behavior.
Prepare specific questions. Study the candidate’s application and resume so you can ask specific questions about their work history and job skills.
Find out what value a candidate brings. Don’t focus too much on what the candidate knows but seek out specific accomplishments and how they added value to a prior employer.
Be aware of social styles. Someone with good people skills may have the potential to talk too much. And someone who is detail-oriented could have difficulty seeing the big picture. Remember, skills can be taught, but personality and social style cannot.
Most people fib. Be realistic and understand that most candidates stretch the truth or exaggerate at least a little bit. Filter answers accordingly.
Interviews are uncomfortable for most people. Do your best to make the candidate feel welcomed and relaxed. The more comfortable they are, the more likely they will be to let their guard down and have an honest conversation. This is what you are striving for.
Try to uncover patterns. Start with the beginning of their work history and go through their current position. Try to find out how long they stayed with other organizations and why they left previous jobs.
Job hopping every couple of years is an indication of instability and that you may lose them after a short period of time.
What you’re looking for is patterns of behavior. Past behavior is the best predictor of future success.
Try to determine the candidate’s relationship with supervisors. If the candidate has problems with a former boss, they may have the same issues with the current boss. Most people don’t change.
Ask for copies of former performance appraisals.
Know what questions NOT to ask. Avoid crossing the legal line by not asking questions about age, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, or marital status.
Reference checks are crucial. Don’t forget to do reference checks no matter how well you like a candidate. You’d be surprised what you can learn.
Hiring Mistakes Manager Make
Hiring someone who is like you. This is often done unconsciously. We tend to like people like ourselves. Remember, diversity in thought is healthy for an organization.
Not probing and drilling down on answers. If you get an answer that does not satisfy you, ask another question to clarify their response. Don’t let them wiggle out of a difficult question.
Asking hypothetical questions. Hypothetical questions allow the candidate to give answers that may not reflect their typical approach to problem-solving.
Asking leading questions. Leading questions can take a candidate down a path they may not have otherwise gone.
Hiring on the first impression. If you decide early in the interview that you like the person, you will be less likely to probe and give the interview the complete focus it deserves. Try to hold off on concluding your thoughts until after the interview.
Hiring on a gut feeling. Our gut feelings are sometimes accurate, but often they are wrong. Make sure hiring decisions are based on objective data obtained from the interview process.
Be aware of these common mistakes to avoid the consequences of making them.
Interviewing job candidates is a developed skill. Taking the necessary time to prepare for and interview candidates is the best way to practice and develop that skill.