Hiring is one of the most important functions that you fulfill as a manager of people.
When you get hiring decisions right you are making your team and company better. Also, you make things easier on yourself as that person will be able to help you achieve your goals. However, when you get hiring decisions wrong you will pay for it for a long time. The wrong person in a job will take a lot of your time and can start to drag an entire team down.
Here are three key job interview techniques to help make you better at conducting job interviews and to help you make the right hiring decisions more often.
Liking someone does not make them a great candidate
I'm not suggesting that someone's likability should be ignored. I'm just saying that you don't want it to completely cloud your judgment of whether or not they can do the job successfully.
I have caught myself stepping in the trap of overvaluing someone's skills and abilities because of the fact that we really hit it off and I liked them as a person. This is a dangerous trap and one you want to avoid.
If you catch yourself really liking someone, take a mental step back to focus in on what it is that you are looking for in a candidate. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help focus on evaluating the person for the job as opposed to evaluating them as someone you would like to hang out with:
- Does this person have the right skills?
- Do they have the experience that demonstrates them using those skills to produce positive results?
- Do they exhibit the behaviors that would make them a good fit for the team and company?
Develop a scorecard for interviewing
A methodical approach to interviewing is a great way to get around the trap of letting likability sway your decision. Using a scorecard for evaluating candidates is just such an approach.
The scorecard will help you to consistently evaluate candidates against the standard that you set and will help with comparing candidates to one another. It will also be the basis for the questions that you ask in your interviews.
How to develop the scorecard
This scorecard will be based on what it is that you are looking for in a candidate. I break it down into two sections, skills and behaviors.
Answer the following questions to get the specific areas within each of those sections where you will evaluate candidates:
- What are the key skills that make someone successful in the job?
- What are the key behaviors that make someone successful in the job?
Your answers to those questions will make up the key areas of your scorecard. One example that I created had 4 skills and 4 behaviors, so a total of 8 areas that I used for evaluating candidates.
Now that you have the areas, give a weighting to each of the categories based upon how important each one is. I break this down as a %, and you want to get to a total of 100% across all the areas you define.
The weighting then drives the multiplier. I rate each area on a scale of 0-10 for a candidate and then use the multiplier to get the weighted score for that area. As an example, if I weighted the area of communication skills as 20% then the multiplier would be 2. That way a candidate that rated as a 10 would get 20 points for that area.
Below is an example of a scorecard that I created. Putting it into a spreadsheet, Excel in this case, allows you to re-use it easily and saves you from doing the math each time. Also, I use a notes column to capture any specific details related to each area for reference in the future.
How to use the scorecard
The key areas that you call out in the scorecard should drive the questions that you ask during hte interview. You will want to develop sets of questions that will help you evaluate the person in each of the key areas. During the interview, use those predefined questions as your guide. You want to get to the point where you feel comfortable with where the person falls in each of area.
Also, remember that this is an evaluation. You want to be systematic about your approach.
After the interview, take your notes and your scorecard and evaluate the person on a scale of 0-10 for each area. That will then give you an overall score on a scale of 100 so that you can compare candidates. The number that you get on the scorecard doesn't have to make your decision for you, but it can be a very helpful guide as it helps you to quantify the persons qualifications. It can also be really helpful in scenarios where there are many of you involved in the interview process. If you all use the scorecard it will help to drive detailed discussions about the candidates.
Ask probing questions
Now that you have a solid approach to the interview and a way in which you will evaluate the candidate, there is one last technique that must be mentioned. You must ask probing questions.
Probing questions help you to get a more detailed understanding of the person, their experiences, and what they can really do. If you don't dig deep you will just have a shallow understanding and that is likely to lead to a hiring mistake.
After asking the initial question and getting the initial response, dig into the answer deeper by asking some probing questions. Something as simple as "Why did you make that decision?" or "Did you consider any other alternatives?" can help you to get further insight into how they make decisions.
Also, the more you probe, the more you are testing their communication skills and their ability to understand and explain why it is that they do certain things. A lot of people run on auto-pilot. They may even get good results at times while running on auto-pilot. But you want to make sure that you are getting someone who understands why they did a certain thing, as it is that understanding of why that will help them to replicate successes over and over.