The information in the section is designed to assist Trinity clients with their recruiting and organizational development initiatives.
When possible, have interviews one-on-one rather than in groups.
To measure chemistry and accuracy, multiple inputs are most useful. The way an applicant treats a lower level individual versus a more senior individual may be a simple indication of ego, politics, or social skills. Some interviewees have problems with women executives, technical types, financial types…etc., which can show up easily when comparing notes after multiple interviews.
Prepare ahead of time.
The interview is one of many steps in the assessment and recruitment process. A client will usually have a resume, a candidate write-up, and sometimes even some preliminary references in hand before an interview. Look at all these and begin thinking of areas of interest, areas of concern, or areas of confusion to discuss. Outline 4-5 “starter questions” to kick off different discussions.
Be indirect first, then direct later in the interview.
Some interviewers like to put candidates on the spot with a “rifle-shot” question or two at the beginning. We recommend a little bit of “getting to know each other” dialogue first, in safe areas of the resume or business areas you might have in common. Then, when you begin asking specific questions about such things as sales growth, cost reductions, personnel reductions, etc., you already have some sense of scale and scope. For example, a 10% reduction in cost is more significant on a $10 million budget than a $50,000 budget.
Let the candidate talk first and most.
Every book counseling job applicants gives tips on learning what the client is seeking and making one’s background fit. Every book also gives “Dale Carnegie” tips to get the interviewer talking because that makes them feel good. Before laying out your philosophy on sales, or manufacturing, or the industry, invite the candidate to share his/her opinion first. That way you will see their perspective before they attempt to tailor it for you. If the interviewer does more than 50% of the talking, that interviewer may feel like it was a good meeting, but will have a difficult time defining the candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and overall fit.
Be specific, not macro.
Questions such as, “How do you manage sales people?” are appropriate, but can generate global answers. Try taking a specific event, such as a new product introduction, territory realignment, or budget cut and saying, “Tell me the first three things you did that month to start that project.” Generically, someone may say they are great at motivating a sales team, but specifically asking someone to “Talk about the last two sales people who turned from low producers to high-how did you do it?” will give more insight into their actual experience and style.
Listen for critical indicators in the most important areas, don’t ask directly.
When an interviewer says, “We need a good people manager.” even Attila the Hun would describe how well his troops responded to him. Asking more peripheral questions about tangibles such as staff turnover, a typical work day or work week, or “Describe the last major crisis and what you did” will give hints about a person’s style. Asking about Sales growth in three or four assignments or in multiple years is less conspicuous and less threatening than “What was your sales growth last year?”
Feelings are okay for an interviewer.
It is okay to say, “Those layoffs must have been tough. I am not sure I could have done that at Christmas time.” Or, “Wow, getting that national media attention must have been exciting!” Those comments invite authentic responses in return, or sometimes a hollow response that tells the interviewer even more.
Don’t be afraid to shut up.
Some interviewees have developed “pat answers” from long experience in interviews. They finish a story with a flourish and expect a certain response. Sometimes just sitting quietly creates a deafening silence that they have to step back into, offering more detail unexpectedly. This can sometimes allow a change in the conversation and a new perspective.
Ask how other individuals might rate the candidate, rather than asking the candidate to rate themselves.
In the course of an interview, other bosses, peers, or staff people are typically mentioned. Rather than say, “How do you manage sales growth?” ask, “How would your Western Region manager describe your approach to boosting sales?” Rather than, “Describe your management style.”, ask “How would your top sales rep describe you as a manager?” followed closely by, “How about your lowest sales rep?”
Ask hard questions respectfully, even gently, but ASK!
“Were you fired from your last job?” is not going to evoke an open dialogue. “Describe your reasons for leaving XYZ when you did,” gives them the opening to tell the circumstances. Later, references will give additional perspective.
Try to record your impressions immediately.
It is important to note different feelings from different times in the interview. Immediately (or as soon as possible) write down the topics or areas that seemed positive or exciting as well, as specific concerns or negative reactions. This ensures accurate data collection, since talking with other interviewers will influence impressions. Then the group can discuss areas of agreement or disagreement and highlight contradictions or areas that require probing in follow-up interviews or reference checking.