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Plan your interviews!

by Miki Saxon

Jim was interviewing for a design position and was scheduled to see six people. The first was late; the second had never seen the resume and couldn’t find a copy; the third interviewed Jim for the wrong position; the fourth didn’t show; the fifth was in a meeting. The sixth, Kim, was the junior person on the team. She was fully prepared, available, had the resume and had read it, knew the position. Kim asked Jim how it had gone so far. Much to Kim’s embarrassment, he told her about the previous five non-interviews and they spent the time discussing what had happened and comparing it to other places Jim had interviewed. The result? When Jim was hired at another hot-growth company, he called Kim and told her she should check it out. Kim was treated so well at the interview she changed jobs even though she had not been looking!

This scenario, and variations of it, are happening many times a day all over the country. It happens in good companies and involves good people who aren’t adequately prepared or don’t want to be in the interviewing loop. When you ask competent people to do tasks in which they don’t feel secure about their ability to perform, you have no right to complain about their performance. Interviewing is a learned skill, but rarely a taught one! Teach your people to interview, how to sell the available opportunity, and prepare them for each one, and a significant portion of your staffing problems will disappear.

Back when I was a headhunter we had a maxim, “You shouldn’t send a candidate of whom you know little to a company of which you know less. As a manager, “You shouldn’t participate in an interview you know little about, with a candidate you know less about, at a time you weren’t told about.”

Managers who wouldn’t consider “winging it” for a presentation, client or staff meeting will wing it in an interview and often expect other interviewers to do the same. When will people learn? Winging it doesn’t save time it wastes it—along with candidates. First impressions matter and aren’t easily changed. As with any complex exercise, having a plan of action is mandatory. Here are six points to help you plan.

  1. Read the resume before the interview.
  2. Decide exactly what you want to find out during the interview.
  3. Write down a series (however many are necessary) of well-defined, open-ended (can’t be answered yes or no) questions to guide the interview and achieve number 2 above.
  4. Questions such as “Tell me about yourself” and “What do you want to be doing five years from now?” rarely yield good information.
  5. Few people enjoy interviewing, so you must focus your mind and be sincerely interested. If you’re wishing you were someplace else during the interview, the candidate will pick up on it.
  6. Find the “why” behind the answer. “Why” is personal. It will open up the conversation and give you the opportunity to learn a lot about how the candidate thinks. Who a person is is as important in hiring as what the person does.

Even if you have an HR department it’s still your responsibility (as hiring manager) to make sure that each person interviewing receives

  • a copy of the req;
  • a copy of the resume;
  • the day and (approximate) time of the interview;
  • knows the specific information for which she is responsible;
  • and some kind of evaluation form.

Never lose sight of the fact that you’re going to spend at least as much time with this person as you do with your family for (hopefully) several years.

Well, you’re all planned, now you actually need to do the interview, and that’s where we’ll finish up tomorrow.

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