August 1, 2009

The Art of Interviewing

By Paul Bieber

1.Meet a total stranger.

2.Spend 15-30 minutes with them.

3.Decide if you want to employ her/him for the next ten years, or longer.

4.Beat your head against the wall.

5.Waste just a ton of money and time.

6.Start over at 1.

In my book there is no more important decision than hiring someone to work in your company. If you don’t agree with this, close this page and go play solitaire.

This will be part of a multi-part blog—first, thoughts related to all interviews, then thoughts related to a blue collar job, and then to a white collar position.

So, let’s discuss points that relate to all types of interviews.

•The number one rule—Don’t Rush This Process!!

•If you make a mistake in the interviewing process, you may have a problem employee, a rabble rouser, a worker’s comp maven, and a time-waster for the whole company. The costs to get rid of a poor employee are huge; investing a half hour now saves you tons of money in the future. Better yet, you want to hire great people, not just avoid the bad ones. In the current economic times, it is an employer’s market. Take advantage of it.

•Have a cheat sheet prepared with a description of the job you are interviewing for, the duties and responsibilities, shift requirements, if OT is available or mandatory, if tools are needed, and if special skills are required. Your second cheat sheet has the pay range of the job, a detailed list of your benefits, vacation programs, sick days, and pension/401/k program. Using these sheets, you should be able to go through your presentation in six or seven minutes. Practice this in front of your mirror until you get it down pat.

•When the applicant comes in for the interview hand them an employment application. You can get standard ones at your office supply company, or if you are large enough, you’ll have company specific forms created. Why do they have to fill out another paper if they have sent a resume or email? Simple. To see if they can. Is their writing legible? Do they understand the directions to fill the form out completely? Did someone else write their resume? If the application is poorly filled out, that is a good indicator that they will be a poor employee. If they see “see resume”, they are taking short cuts, which you don’t want to have on jobs. If they fail to read the questions on the application correctly, will they do the same with takeoffs and purchase orders? Give each applicant a clipboard and the application, telling them to fill it out completely. No exceptions. A good application is a sure sign of a good candidate. Count on it.

•If you are hiring for a position, and Spanish will be the accepted language for the position, get a Spanish application and have a Spanish-speaking Supervisor do the interview. There are many great employees who don’t speak English. If your company can operate in a bi-lingual environment, do your hiring with the same guidelines.

•Review the employment application for a minute or two prior to the start of the interview. Prepare the questions you want to ask this person, maybe about gaps in the work history, why they left a certain position, or what they thought of their supervisor at their last job.

•Greet the person at your reception desk and walk them into the interviewing room. See how they react on first meeting you. Are they nervous? It is your job to calm them in the first thirty seconds of the interview with a greeting and explaining that this interview is a way for them to know about your company, as well as a way for you to meet them. Tell them to relax so they can have a comfortable interview. Does the applicant come across strong? Comment on that, saying you are glad to meet him/her, and you look forward to telling them about your company.

•Generally, I would speak first for about three or four minutes, explaining some company history for one minute, and then a couple of minutes on the job itself. After you have established yourself, it is time to for the candidate tell their story. Ask a couple of open-ended questions, and sit back and listen. The more you let the candidate talk, the better your decision making will be.

•Whether a factory or office job, everything should be the same up to here.

There are many of you who are saying this is too much time and effort for a clerk’s or a factory job. WRONG. Every time you hire, you want to hire the best person for the job and to fit into your company. Spend the time; you will save big dollars by hiring once instead of twice. You will reduce your unemployment insurance costs, your training and, you know. After your interview, if you like the person, have their direct supervisor do the second interview. By letting them pick their own team member you will greatly improve the hiring process!

Back to your interview. Don’t ask questions that try to get into the mind of the candidate, such as: What is your favorite color and why? Or, Who would you rather be, Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock? You can describe a situation and ask the candidate what they would do as the next step. Do ask in depth about their last job, what they did on a regular day, how about a day that was frantic, and why they are looking for a new job. If they have been laid off, ask if they will go back if they are called back? This is an important one for you to get a straight answer.

Phrase your questions as simply as possible. You are not trying to impress an applicant with your language skills. Let the applicant’s speak. Even if they speak slowly, don’t finish their sentences for them.

Never make hiring decision on your own if at all possible. Get a second opinion from someone in your company, preferably someone who has worked in the job being filled, or supervises the job. Even if you are in a rush, hold the second interview the next day, not the same day. Give the applicant a night to sleep on your job, and you should do the same. People look and act very different on second interviews. This will help you make the right decisions.

That’s enough for today, more next week.

When the applicant asks questions, answer them unless they don’t relate to the job at hand. Some topics you may want to cover in a second interview, so give a brief overview answer, and then tell them you can go into more detail on the subject at the next interview.

If the conversation lags or stops, feel free to end the interview. You don’t have to run the full thirty minutes. You will probably know after five minutes of their questions if you want a second interview. To close out the interview, thank them for coming in and explain that you will be calling back selected candidates for a second interview.