Finding and hiring the right people to join your team is imperative to your organization’s success. No matter the size and depth of the talent pool, attracting, identifying, and securing the ideal candidates for your job openings can be a challenge in any market. When operating in an unstable climate, such as the one business leaders are facing during the pandemic response, the hiring process can be even more challenging. 

Whether you’ve had to downsize your workforce, pivot your offerings, consolidate roles, ramp up hiring to meet unexpected demands, or adapt your operations as workplace conditions change daily, chances are your business looks considerably different today in comparison to this time last year. As a leader, you need a team that’s up to the task 

While it might seem hard to find individuals that are the right fit for the job, great candidates are out there and eager to get to work. The key to bringing the best employees on board lies in designing a better hiring process and brushing up on your interview skills. 

By using a variety of techniques and types of questions, you can quickly get acquainted with candidates to uncover skills and experience that may seem missing at first glance. A smart and multipronged approach can also help you recognize red flags that may not be immediately apparent.

How to Improve Your Hiring Process

Most companies rely on hiring practices that are flawed and outdated. Standard interview questions often fall flat and fail to reveal the kind of information you really need to know about the candidate’s competencies, experience, and cultural fit. When looking to assess interpersonal skills, gather useful insights into their critical-thinking abilities, and determine whether or not they have the required capabilities, classic questions such as, “what are your greatest strengths?” won’t cut it. 

When someone is on the job search, it’s easy for them to lose sight of the fact that the company needs them just as much or more than they need the job. Inexperienced interviewers can make the same mistake, forgetting that the candidate could be the solution to their problem and become a standout contributor to the team. The idea isn’t to create a high-pressure process filled with boobytraps and gotchas. Instead, if you take the time to bring a candidate in for an interview, you should make the effort to set them up for success. 

A more effective hiring process will allow you to decrease turnover, increase productivity, improve employee morale, and reduce legal risks and costs associated with hiring.

Assuming you’ve already developed a solid job description, promoted the opening accordingly, and thoroughly prescreened candidates—none of which are steps that should be taken lightly—we’ll focus on the in-person interview portion of the hiring process.

10 Tips for Successful Interviews

  1. Prepare for the interview by reviewing the candidate’s application ahead of time. 
  2. Write questions and notes on a separate piece of paper. 
  3. Prepare standard interview questions ahead of time. 
  4. Have a blank sheet of paper or a questions sheet ready to take notes during the interview.
  5. Practice your questions ahead of time. Be confident as you ask questions.
  6. Have a bottle of water available for the candidate.
  7. Have a clean, private space to sit down for the interview. Post a sign that says, “Interview in Progress” on the door to minimize distractions. Turn your phone to silent or leave it in another room.
  8. Start on time. Stay on track. Avoid lengthy personal conversations during interviews. 
  9. If the candidate asks you any questions that you’re not sure how to answer, write them down and follow up promptly.
  10. Avoid illegal and potentially discriminatory questions such as the following:
    • What is your date of birth / how old are you?
    • What church do you go to?
    • How many kids do you have?
    • You speak with an accent. Where were you born?
    • Are you married? What does your spouse do for a living?
    • What was your maiden name?

Set Candidates Up for Success

Design an interview process that provides your candidates with the opportunity to show up and demonstrate what they truly have to offer. Let them know exactly what to expect, give them a chance to prepare, and create an atmosphere where they can feel as confident as possible to demonstrate what they can bring to the table.

An effective hiring process should be flexible enough to account for the fact that no two candidates and no two interviews will be the same. Your job is to spark conversation so you can discover insights into how the interviewee thinks, how they accomplish tasks, and how well they communicate. The more engaging the discussion, the better. Give them the chance to take the lead and see where they take it.

Assess Role Readiness

You’ll need to decide what’s more important—technical skill and experience or cultural fit, or both. In some situations, you may be willing to hire someone who’s less experienced at the specific technologies necessary to do the job, as long as they align with the company culture. At other times, specific know-how can be critical. Either way, you need to assess whether or not they’re not only ready to step into the role based on the criteria that you’ve set forth but that they’ll also enjoy the work.  

This is why it’s important to ask role-specific questions that get to the heart of their preparedness for and interest in the job at hand. If someone expresses during the interview that they prefer creative work but the job entails completing a lot of tedious, repetitive tasks, it wouldn’t be a good match. If someone expresses that they’re an introvert who loves to work behind the scenes when the job requires constant talking and engaging with the public, it’s probably not a good fit.

You may also want to create scenarios during the interview or immediately following that allows you to observe the candidate in action, completing an exercise, solving a problem, demonstrating a skill, and perhaps even collaborating with other members of your team. Be sure to let them know what to expect in advance so they can prepare and put forth their best effort.

Behavioral Interviewing

The kinds of questions you ask during the interview can make a difference in how well you are able to evaluate candidates.

Behavior-based interview questions are designed to draw out specific experiences, philosophies, and ideas. The point of behavioral interviewing is to spur conversations that are relevant to the work that your candidate may do if they join your team. 

>> Go Here to Get Your Quick Take Toolkit by HR Answers: Behavioral Interview Tips, Techniques, and 30 Sample Questions 

This toolkit provides an introduction to behavior-based interviewing, how to use follow-up questions as a strategy to get your candidate to open up and to dig deeper, and 30 tried and tested behavioral interview questions that will help you make confident decisions when hiring for your business.

When planning behavioral interview questions or preparing for a behavioral interview,  it is important to review the job description and consider the core competencies for the position.  

  • What situations, skills, and behaviors will demonstrate those competencies?  
  • What specific evidence will address the core competencies? 

The phrasing of behavioral questions is key. Typical questions might start out with wordings such as, “Tell me about a time…” or “Describe a situation…” This kind of wording encourages the candidate to think back to a real-life situation that will demonstrate the competency you’re looking for. 

The questions should never be vague but instead, it should focus on specific skills or behaviors. In return, you should be looking for answers that are also very specific and focus directly on the skills or behaviors under inquiry.

Follow-up questions are an important component of behavioral interviewing. If you feel the need for more information on a topic or want clarification, ask for it. Follow-up questions are a signal to an applicant for the need to provide more specific examples and evidence. You might say something like, “Interesting. Tell me more about how you came to that conclusion,” or “What else can you tell me about that?” 

Behavior-based interview questions should be incorporated as a powerful part of a  comprehensive recruiting, interviewing, and selection process in every type of business.  

Checking for Cultural Fit

Checking for cultural fit can be tricky, but it’s arguably the most essential part of the hiring process. Not only are you looking for someone who fits in with the team for your benefit but for their benefit as well. No matter how skilled, the right candidate should be eager to contribute to your company’s success, be able to work well with others, and be likely to remain on board for the long haul.

Aside from the interview portion of the meeting, the hiring process should also include opportunities for the candidate to interact with their potential coworkers. This could mean something as simple as leaving plenty of space for casual conversation, sharing a meal together, or an approach that’s more intentional such as playing a board game with members of your team. The point is to give them an opportunity to let their guard down a bit and see if they’re making an effort to be thoughtful, engaging, and enjoy themselves.  

Final Words on Hiring

A great process includes providing a timeline for hiring and contacting employees who are not selected. Keep in mind, even if you do not select a potential candidate, it’s important to generate goodwill as your company’s reputation is at stake. People talk, and if you don’t treat candidates well, you’ll have a hard time attracting top talent over time.

To make the right decision, you’ll want to take into account the candidate’s job experience, education, attitude and overall demeanor, professional appearance, general style of communication, schedule availability, and recommendations or references. Finding the right person to hire is a big win, but you’ll still have work to do. Once you select a candidate, you need to make a verbal offer of employment followed by a formal written offer, and prepare for the onboarding and training process.

Even businesses with just one or two employees can benefit immensely from having great recruitment and human resources practices in place. If we can help you with hiring strategy, compliance with HR  rules and regulations, or answer any HR question, contact us. We are here to help!