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2 Minutes to Upgrade Your Interview Practices

I’m going to write this blog as if I have 2 minutes to respond to your most burning questions about the interview process. We’re keeping it high level, folks.*

What are the questions I need to ask to guarantee a good hire?

1.  What have you done that’s similar and relevant?
2.  Why do you want to work here?

You’re going to ask many more questions than these two, but the vetting process must involve quantifying the candidate’s depth of experience and assessing their authenticity and commitment.

By quantify, I don’t just mean do they have the requisite skills. I’m talking about the level of complexity they’re capable of handling: Project delivery or program planning? Doing or managing? Reporting or interpreting? Size, scope, etc.

I like to ask them to walk me thru a current project. I’m paying attention to how they tell the story and level of detail. Are they good at reading their audience and achieving rapport?

Next, I ask about a recent business or career challenge and how they resolved it. It gives me insight into what they perceive as a challenge.

A What’s next? type question is a gauge of how realistic and driven they are. The “right” answer is when candidates articulate a goal, describe the steps they’re taking to achieve it and what excites them about the company.

Last, always measure level of interest. It’s not enough for you to like them.

What do you think of asking job candidates to deliver a presentation?

Asking candidates to present recommendations for current clients or develop a pitch strategy seems a bit arduous to me. In these cases, candidates have played back to me that they felt companies were digging for information and ideas that they’d otherwise pay for.

You’re looking for proof of thinking and presentation abilities. Why not ask them to present a case study? This is a step above just asking for a work sample because it demands that they understand the content and can deliver it in a persuasive and compelling manner. It’s not asking them to come up with something new, so it’s a small and reasonable ask.

And if you do want to test their ability to ideate and deliver recommendations on-the-fly, asking them about a favorite campaign and why it’s successful can work, as can creating a fictional case study.

If your goal is to assess how they react under pressure, if they have genius-level IQ or can survive an apocalypse, take a load off, McKinsey. Even Google acknowledged those kinds of questions aren’t valid predictors of job success.

If you’re longing to play games, you can take the McKinsey team leader challenge.

How many people should be involved in the interview process?

If you were the President and needed to respond quickly to an international crisis, what is the minimum number of advisors you’d need to quickly achieve a well-informed decision?

That’s how many people. No more. No peers to assess cultural fit. No people to make you feel good about your decision. No quirky personalities to make sure they mesh. You trust your instincts and authority, right?

If you’re truly perplexed or concerned about who to include, call a meeting of all potential interviewers and get their questions and criteria out on the table. Choose the people that add unique value and assign them the responsibility of screening for the larger group. For the love of god, if you must involve a non-decision maker, make it a drive-by. As you’re walking the candidate out, swing by their office and make a quick intro. That’s it, Sheila. No mas.

Finally: Sometimes the interview isn’t always about screening but selling the candidate on the opportunity as well. (Oh yeah.) If you sense there will be even a whiff of indecision when it comes time for them to resign, get your best people on the case. Often that means 10 minutes with your most gifted, persuasive, charismatic, visionary company cheerleader. Do it. You want a resounding Yes and not an I think so.

If you’d like to read more on the consequences of indecision during the interview process, check out this earlier post: The One That Got Away.

*The interview process can’t be one size fits all. Obviously bigger jobs require more rigorous vetting.

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