Let’s face it: On your own, you can do little. But, working with and through experienced and capable team members, you dramatically magnify what’s possible. As a result, interviewing is a high-leverage skill that effective managers must master.
Unfortunately, in many organizations, this mission-critical activity doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Managers frequently find themselves making swift, pressured decisions just to find a "warm body" to fill an open slot. Others relinquish this vital responsibility to intuition, basing decisions on the heart rather than the head. And still others allow the process to languish as they engage in an unnecessarily lengthy quest for the perfect candidate, that elusive unicorn.
Field research with hundreds of managers throughout the US, Europe and Asia highlights the key interviewing mistakes that even smart managers find themselves making over and over again. The problem boils down to 3 Ps: preparation, processing and perspective.
Managers routinely report that preparing for interviews -- if it happens at all -- gets short shrift. After all, they’re busy and each interview is a bit of a grab-bag. Managers know they’ll have to kiss a lot of frogs for every prince that’s out there. And, since an interview is ‘just a conversation’, there’s frequently the sense that "winging it" is acceptable.
But an interview is a highly concentrated, specialized conversation with the purpose of learning from another human being enough to make a decision that you both may live with for decades. Preparation is a wise trade-off for ensuring that actionable information is surfaced in a short timeframe to make such significant decisions.
Dedicating as little as 10 minutes to these three activities can drive dramatically different interviewing and hiring results.
- Clarify what you’re looking for. To make the best use of the short time you have with a candidate, know in advance the specific skills, capabilities, experiences, relationships and cultural fit factors required for the job.
- Review candidate materials. Perusing the application, resume, and social media resources in advance allows you to be more efficient. You won’t waste valuable time covering the same ground in the interview – but instead be able to take that knowledge to another level.
- Identify a handful of focused, open-ended questions that will get people talking about what they’ve done relative to what you’re looking for. (And there are many online resources that offer question libraries from which to choose.) Having a questioning game plan allows you to focus your attention on candidate answers and teasing out details rather than figuring out your next question.
Another challenge many managers face is processing the information that’s revealed during an interview. It can frequently feel like drinking from a fire hose as candidates highlight their extensive successes and experience.
As a result, it helps to have a lens through which the information passes. Rather than going in with a blank page, exceptional interviewers enter the experience with a clear definition or picture of exceptional skills and performance. Knowing "what good looks like" allows an interviewer to sift through the information shared and recognize, follow-up on and consider what’s most relevant.
And finally, one of the biggest challenges managers and organizations face is one of perspective. In the past, when exceptional candidates outnumbered open positions, we looked at the interview as a tool for the organization. It wasn’t uncommon to encounter a "my way or the highway" approach to the process, with the accompanying sense that candidate was lucky to get an interview.
Today, however, the landscape has changed and the tables have turned. In a tighter labor market, candidates have more choice. Savvy organizations understand this shifting power dynamic and appreciate that they’re the lucky ones now. They’re adjusting their perspective to focus extensively on the candidate’s interview experience.
Steps are taken to connect more deeply and sell the candidate on the job -- versus that other way around -- knowing that while it may not lead to success with this particular person, it will enhance the organization’s talent brand. And this brand building happens interview by interview, interviewer by interviewer.
Preparing for an interview sets you up to be able to engage in a way that allows you to focus and process the information shared. And when you add the intention to provide an exceptional interviewing experience, you’ll distinguish your organization from every other one that might be competing for your next top performer.
This article was originally published in SmartBrief on September 14, 2017. Julie Winkle Giulioni is the author of “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want,” with Bev Kaye. Giulioni has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning. She consults with organizations to develop and deploy innovative instructional designs and training worldwide. You can learn more about her consulting, speaking and blog at JulieWinkleGiulioni.com.