Undoubtedly the most important part of the selection process. An interview is a two-way process so it is important to remember that the candidate will be selling themselves, but you also need to take the time to sell your business and the role. Primarily this is to ensure that the candidate you select wants to join you, as good candidates usually have other options and are always in demand, irrespective of market conditions. What is also often overlooked, is the fact that candidates who don’t quite make the grade, should always leave with a positive impression of your business, as they can become strong advocates of your organisation. Below are a number of key areas that, if followed, we believe should aid your interview process.
There is an old adage that “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” and we have often seen employers lose good potential employees due to poor planning.
The Importance of taking the time to prepare a comprehensive job and person specification
Whenever you hire it is always a good opportunity to review the current job and person spec. What has changed in the role/company since the current spec was created? What changes would you like to see in how the role is performed now versus the previous incumbent’s approach? Is this linked to tasks, skills or personal attributes? Are the measurables clear? What is the main priority in the role? What are the “must have” skills/experience of the right candidate? Bear in mind that the longer the “must have” list the more challenging you will find it to fill the vacancy. Identify the areas where you are willing to compromise at the outset i.e. if the role is full time are you open to reduced hours or flexible working for the right candidate? Do you really need specific sector experience, or do you have enough expertise in your team already to quickly impart the required knowledge to a new recruit, if the candidate has the other key skills? Being willing to compromise on non essential issues will often open up your vacancy to a much broader pool of strong candidates.
A clear job and person specification enables you to be sure that all stakeholders in the process are very clear about the hiring criteria. In addition it ensures that you can carefully assess multiple candidates against objective criteria and helps to avoid bias, or any perceived discrimination.
Mapping your timeline
Once you have finalised your job and person spec, and released it to HR, other stakeholders in the process and your chosen agency, then diary management is vital. It is important at the outset to map the process, from delivery of shortlist, to offer stage and anticipated start date. Who will be involved? At what stage? Are their diaries free and have you booked their time? Will there be any testing, who will conduct those tests? Has everything been signed off, permission to recruit, budget etc?
- Day 1 – Brief finalised and given to HR/agency, set shortlist expectation for Day 5. Ensure all recruitment partners are aware of your timeline; ensure everything is booked to meet this timeline.
- Day 5 – Shortlist received, meeting or call booked with HR, other stakeholders and your agency recruitment partner to discuss candidates
- Day 7/8 – First interviews held, interview room booked.
- Day 11 – Test day
- Day 13 – Second interviews held with yourself and your line manager (diary and room should be booked)
- Day 14 – Delivery of offer, HR to send full contract/offer letter out.
N.B. If required you can interview at Quantica Technology’s offices, allowing time and space to interview away from the distractions of work. Clients often find this can aid the recruitment process significantly at the early stages.
When conducting first interviews ensure that, wherever possible, they take place within a 3-4 day period, longer than this and it may become more difficult to remember the early interviewees fully.
If using tests to support the decision making process, then these should take place as early in the process as possible, otherwise you risk progressing candidates who then fail the test at the end of a process.
Work in partnership with HR and your recruitment partner – obtain all candidates’ feedback before making a decision to move to the next stage, they often have feedback or insight that can help inform your decisions.
There are many theories on how to interview and what questions to ask, below is a synopsis of a good standard interview, however it is in no way definitive. Above all your questioning technique should be natural, put the candidate at ease and allow you to get the relevant information to make an informed decision. A relaxed candidate is much more likely to present themselves as they really are – and as they will behave if hired – than a candidate who is being “grilled” at interview.
Introduce the interviewer(s) and their position in the business and how they relate to the role. Tell the candidate what structure the interview will take, what you intend to cover and approximately how long it will last. It’s also a good idea at this stage to ask candidates to be specific and succinct in their answers and explain that you may need to seek clarification and question them further from time to time during the meeting as you want to ensure that you obtain all the information you need to make a decision.
Ask the candidate what they know about the business (at the least they should demonstrate knowledge of what is on the corporate website, extra credit for candidates who have shown initiative to find additional information). Fill in any blanks about the business – talk about the future – this is an opportunity for you to sell the company to the candidate, always remember that an interview is a two-way street and candidates will be deciding if they want to join your business.
Ask the candidate to explain their career history to date with a focus on the last 5 years as most recent experience is likely to be the most relevant. Be prepared to stop them and delve into roles to gain further understanding. You should be looking to find similarities between your role and the candidate’s experience. Also question their reason for leaving roles, candidates move for many reasons but you should be looking for logical career moves or genuine reasons. If the same reasons are given then this needs probing i.e. if a candidate says they have moved three times due to not being able to get on with the boss then does the issue actually lie with them? If they have been made redundant who else was made redundant and why? Often when it was only them and no one else then this could mask for other reasons for leaving.
Common Interview Questions
Always have a set of questions that relate to key skills/competencies in your role specification, that you ask to each candidate. This allows you benchmark each candidate objectively. These questions should focus on past experiences, not hypothetical situations, allowing you to probe and fully understand how an interviewee reacted, rather than how they “think” they would react.
Do you have any questions?
They should ask about your business and the working environment. If a candidate focuses on certain areas that affect them then these may become issues at offer stage i.e. how many holidays do I get? When is my pay reviewed? If these are asked, judge the reaction to the answers, it may be the candidate can see themselves working with you and wants to know what the package holds, however it could be an indication of key motivators and key “dealbreakers”. If they don’t seem happy with the answers this may come back as an issue further down the line.
Set their expectations; let them know when they will receive feedback so they understand the timescales. Always thank them for taking the time to attend the meeting and make positive comments about the interview (I really enjoyed meeting you) but do not tell them they have a second interview or will be receiving an offer, as its always important to reflect carefully after an interview and read your notes thoroughly. This avoids the “halo effect” of a likeable candidate who was easy to engage with but who, on reflection, actually didn’t meet the main requirements of the role. Leave the candidate with a positive impression so they want to come back if invited and keep your options open, until you have had time to consider all candidates against the specification.
Once you have decided who the best candidate is, ensure you make your offer of employment swiftly. When potential employees experience delays at this stage, they often fear the worst and may begin to feel less motivated about the opportunity and may continue with their job search, or worse, accept another offer. Make sure all paperwork is sent swiftly either personally, through your HR department or via your recruitment partner. It’s also important to ensure that there is plenty of communication throughout the notice period, so meeting for a coffee or a drink after work, or inviting the new hire to lunch with the team are all good ways of reinforcing your commitment and helping to secure an engaged candidate.
The final part of preparation is saved for your new employees first day, sometimes known as “onboarding”. Making a strong first impression is important for an eager new member of your team. Areas to consider are:
- Equipment, do they have a desk, is a PC set up etc.
- IT, is their profile set up and ready to go, are passwords set up
- HR, do they need a meeting to discuss HR policy, health and safety etc
- Does your new employee know where to go and who to ask for on their first day?
Recruiting isn’t rocket science, but it can be a complicated process that can be easily derailed. Investing time at the start and throughout, strong planning, coupled with regular communication with all parties involved in the process, will dramatically improve your chances of securing the right talent for your business.