Recently I wrote about ownership couched in a story about hiring and I was asked by a couple of people if I could offer some insight and thoughts into the topic of hiring itself — Bingo, Bango, Bongo a blog topic presented itself. Much of my hiring over the years has been for middle management and entry-level sales positions, and as I look back, it has added up to about seventy-five people (give or take) I've personally hired. And although I am by no means an expert, I do have strong opinions on the matter.
My intention here is to offer perspective as a hiring manager for a role that has been defined and signed off on, and not for an opportunity that is ill defined and only being considered as a way to bring great talent into an organization — I might add this happens much more than I believe people appreciate (a subtle shoutout to the importance of networking).
In my mind the hiring process needs to start with four things: 1) a requisition to hire needs to be opened (or if it's a smaller organization the boss needs to give the definitive green light), 2) an interview team needs to be identified, 3) a job description needs to be written which also identifies the competencies needed to be successful in the position (these competencies should align with much of the overall interview discussion) and lastly, 4) an understanding that the hiring manager owns the hiring decision.
In the end you are looking for an individual who can effectively fulfill the requirements of the job description, work within the culture of the team (and organization), and is promotable in the future (it indicates you are bringing extra talent into the organization which is always a good thing). My process is quite simple — I like to interview candidates first (even before HR if possible), develop a short list of candidates, and then pass them onto the team. Once the candidates have been interviewed I assemble the team to review the candidates and get feedback regarding who is the best fit. I thank the team for their input and then go off and make a decision. If it's a hard decision I will re-interview the final two candidates and then make a decision. Many times there is a need for senior management to review the candidate, but ultimately I am putting forth the person with the understanding that "I want to hire this person, and please tell me why I can't". My process isn't particularly unique but it has served me well.
Regarding the actual interview itself, there are some mechanics and considerations I work into all discussions —
1) I break my interviews into three sections: a) a quick overview of the position, the objectives and expectations, as well as the company and it's culture b) my questions and c) the candidates questions. I always schedule at least an hour and work very hard to fill the hour with discussion.
2) I use the STAR interviewing methodology; the purpose of the questioning it employs is to get into the details of a Situation, the Task (or the resulting objective), the Action used, and the Result. This methodology allows you to get away from general responses and get into the detail so you can better understand a person's capabilities and competencies. More information on this is just a Google search away.
3) My first question is always the same — "I have your black and white resume in front of me; can you please add some colour to it". I am actually more interested in the approach to this question and how the candidate goes about answering because it offers insight into their thought process and ability to communicate. I never like when asked where I would like them to begin because I am also looking for initiative and independent thinking. My other questions are focused on the competencies needed to be successful in the role.
4) I try to create an environment for a conversation instead of a series of questions and answers. I believe it creates a more comfortable and realistic situation to better understand possible working relationships and interaction.
5) I don't think I have ever hired anyone who wasn't full of questions... it's a strong indicator of interest, curiosity and respect.
6) The interview process starts the moment you send in a resume (or application) and ends when a contract is signed; it is not just the agreed upon meeting time between 2:00 and 3:00 on a Wednesday when you have to be "on your game". I was part of an interview team once and my interview was over; as we waited for the candidate to meet with a colleague, he relaxed and decided to pass the time with his thoughts on women... it turns out he was quite the misogynist. He didn't get the job as you would expect and he was the lead candidate at the time. The Interview is always on, and besides, a good interviewer will always find your dark secrets.
I have always been of the belief that as much as a company is interviewing a candidate for a position, the candidate is also interviewing the company to determine if it is a place she or he wants to work. This is the reason I like to make my interviews a conversation — ultimately it is a discussion to determine if there is an opportunity to work together, be productive, build skills and enjoy what you are doing.
After all, we do spend an awful lot of time working, and there is nothing worse than being in a situation you don't like.