We hire employees for what they know and fire them (eventually) for who they are. The interview process should be designed to overturn this dynamic and allow us to find out who the real person is, but it seldom turns out that way.
So many interviews that are conducted are cursory affairs where the interviewer talks more than the interviewee and where the uninformed observer might not know who is selling whom.
It is essential to take a hold of this important area. To get a really good view of the candidate, I suggest that you build a process that starts with a telephone screening and then comprises three different interviews along the following lines.
Telephone Screening – Allowing their foot in the door
One of the worst mistakes that people make when they are hiring is seeing candidates in person rather than setting up what amounts to a very simple process to have them screened by telephone.
Telephone screening makes the first interview with the candidate much more efficient and effective and just as worthwhile as seeing them in person can be. The problem with a face-to-face interview is that it inevitably takes longer than it should because the interviewer feels that they need to show respect to the interviewee, and this often translates into spending way more time with the candidate that is merited.
Just think about the following statistics and dynamics.
- Setting up and confirming an appointment takes ten minutes on average to accomplish
- If you are a competent interviewer each appointment will take 20 minutes
- If you are less effective, that could stretch to 40 minutes
- Scheduling back to back appointments is difficult, so there is a time lag in between
- Small pieces of dead time between appointments are counter-productive
Add all that up and you are probably looking at an hour per candidate if your first interview is in person.
It is surprisingly easy to set up an effective process to screen people by telephone instead of having them come in for interview, and it just takes a little time to do the necessary preparation.
The telephone interview should take about 20 minutes and the first step is to set up the questions to ask. Attached to this article is a template I have developed that you can use.
There are certain basic questions that you will always want to ask about the candidates’ experience and requirements, but the goal of the telephone screening process is to weed out those who are inappropriate.
If this is properly planned, then the investment made on the first interview comes down to about half an hour, and the information that comes back is very relevant, because it has been thought through beforehand and is approached from a consistent viewpoint.
After designing the questionnaire, the next step is to find somebody who will be available immediately after resumes start to appear to spend twenty minutes on the telephone with each candidate and then produce coherent notes. The telephone screening can be done by in-house resources, but my consulting firm Edge Initiatives has formed a relationship with a boutique staffing agency that has agreed to do the telephone screening for however many candidates respond for a flat fee.
When two or more people from your company are to be involved interviewing new employee candidates, avoid “group” interviews as they reduce the time spent with each candidate. If three executives are to spend one-hour interviewing a candidate, doing it as a group means that the candidate is only interviewed for one hour. Separate interviews triple the amount of interviewing time without any additional management time.
First Interview – What they know
The purpose of this interview is to identify the experience of the candidate and evaluate whether there is rapport between the interviewer and the candidate. To avoid wasting unnecessary time, it should take no more than 30 – 40 minutes.
The single objective of this phase is to identify whether you want to invite the candidate back for a second interview. Make the candidate talk. Give them a good chance but aim to identify within 30 minutes whether you want to invite them back. Don’t get distracted spending too much time with people who may turn out to be inappropriate.
To prepare, read the resume, telephone screening report and any other documentation beforehand. If you are using the Edge Hiring Process, you will also have the online application, behavioral assessment and benchmark comparison. Focus on behavioral aspects only. Have the above documents and the advert and employee value proposition to hand.
During the interview, start by going over their resume and experience, review answers to online application questions and at a minimum ask them the three key questions:
- What did you like and dislike about each job?
- Why did you leave?
- What are you looking for now
If you like them, talk about the job and go through the employee value proposition to sell to them. Tell them what to expect next in the process and write to them within 48 hours of the interview to tell them that they are either through to the next round, rejected or held over while you continue the search.
Second Interview - Who they are
The purpose of this interview is to go to a deeper level and evaluate the match between the candidate and the job and to look at whether there is a behavioral and cultural fit. If you are using the Edge Hiring Process, this is where the benchmark analysis will take place. If there is no benchmark, you should try to look at the behavioral fit. This interview should take 45 minutes to an hour.
We hire candidates for what they know and fire them for who they are. The objective of this phase is to look strictly at the behavioral aspects of the candidate – to try to get behind the experience to find the real person.
To prepare, Re-read the online interview, screening questionnaire and benchmark comparison and the notes from the first interview. Focus on the job rewards/culture and job attributes areas of the assessment reports. Have the above documents and the advert and employee value proposition to hand.
During the interview, probe in depth. Listen 90% of the time and don’t spend time “selling” the job. Impress the candidate with your professional approach and make them feel that they are really being put through their paces.
Start by going over any questions they might have from the last interview and then ask them a series of behavioral and value questions.
Third Interview – Final selection
The purpose of this interview is to make a final hiring decision. It should take 45 minutes to an hour. To prepare, read the online interview, screening questionnaire and benchmark comparison and the notes from the first and second interview. Have the above documents and the advert and employee value proposition to hand.
Go over areas where the candidate was week. Prepare supplemental question Cover the job responsibilities in detail, using the Key Accountabilities worksheet. Make a final hiring decision.
At the end of the process, remember to communicate in a timely fashion with the candidates you have rejected.