How to Nail the Interview...When You're the Interviewer

Ready for the Interview?Nerve-racking.  Intimidating.  Daunting.  The interview process can be intense for the applicant, but the interviewer can be just as anxious.  The interviewer is, after all, deciding who the next employee is going to be.  Hiring an employee who does not perform to the company’s standards will be blatantly obvious, especially in a small business.  How does the interviewer avoid hiring the wrong prospect?

1.      Consider why the company is looking to hire a new employee.

In a small business, the interviewer is often going to be working alongside the new employee so that he or she knows why the new employee is to be hired.  An interviewer should make sure that he or she is matching the skills of the prospects with the skills of the job.  Design questions to determine if the possible employee will assimilate into the company’s business culture.

2.      Review the resume and complete a thorough background check.

Background checks are easy to realize and a valuable tool to create a picture of your employee.  Be careful, however, not to be too judgmental.  While hiring a mass murderer is not suggested, an interviewer may not need to look too critically on a juvenile criminal record.  Everyone makes mistakes, after all.  Perhaps the prospect had a difficult childhood and has since turned their life around.  The best way to find out?  Ask the applicant.  He or she knows that a background check will be completed and should have an answer prepared that demonstrates the growth stemming from their “mistake.”

If an interviewer does not have the skills necessary for the job and the company does not have the funds for training, eliminate the applicant from the hiring pool.  Before the interview (or sometimes after), all references should be contacted.  Does a reference’s story align with the application?  How long and in what capacity has the reference known the applicant?  Can the reference provide other contacts?  If the reference is a former employee, why was the applicant fired?  (Make sure to also ask the prospective employee the same question.  Sometimes an ex-employee and an ex-boss may not see a situation in the same way, but a prospective employee’s version should not differ substantially from his or her former boss’s.)

3.      Prepare questions to ask prior to the interview.

This tip seems obvious but it also entails researching to ensure that questions that are legally (or socially) inappropriate are avoided.  While the question “What is your native language?” is discriminatory and, therefore, cannot be asked, an interviewer may ask “What languages do you speak fluently?”  A professional employer organization, or PEO, can help prevent discrimination during hiring (and firing) so that a small business is not sued under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Act.

Other questions that can and should be asked include:

·         “Why do you want to work here?”

A long pause and an evasive answer means, “I need a job and you have one.”

·         “What was your first paying job, and what did you learn from it?”

·         “What are you most proud of in the work you have done?”  

Find out about the candidate’s personality to see if he or she will mesh with the company culture.

·         “If you were a Superhero, who would you be?” 

A creative question forces applicant’s to think quickly.  With a “behavioral interview” question such as this, an interviewer is more concerned in the type of response given than the content of the response.

·         “Can you provide me a one-minute sales pitch advertising this [pen, coffee mug, or other random item on the desk]?” 

Employers often complain, “I can teach anyone to build my widgets, but I need people who can write and speak about them with team members, outside consultants, regulatory agencies and the public.”  Assess an applicant’s ability to think quickly and to communicate effectively with a question such as this.

These three tips consider ways to prepare for an interview.  After determining the necessity of hiring an employee, reviewing applicants’ resumes, consulting a PEO company, and creating questions to ask candidates, an interviewer is ready for the interview. 

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