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How to Interview and Hire the Right Person

Hiring people is hard work. You pore over tons of resumes and meet dozens of candidates. You try to ask the right questions, check references, and do your homework. Still, how do you find the right person?

It isn’t an exact science, but you can get it right. Here’s how.

Ask the Right Questions in the Interview

This is where the first problems arise. Typically, the interviewer talks too much, talks too little, or asks the wrong questions. Remember, the interview is not about you. It’s about the job, what it takes to fill that job, and if the person sitting in front of you is right for the job.

You are looking for specific behaviors, skills, and outcomes here, so your questions should be specific to the job for which you are hiring:

For example, if you need a take-charge individual then ask, “Tell me about a time when you had to take charge of a project,” or “Tell me what it was like to lead a team.”

If you need someone who can publish on a desktop, ask the candidate what they know about InDesign or PageMaker and projects they worked on using those.

If you need grant-writing skills, ask what grants the candidate has written.

Base your questions on the job itself, the requirements for that job, and the kind of person who can be successful in your organization.

Read between the Lines

Asking the right questions is only one part of the interview process (albeit an enormous one). Non-verbal clues are probably the best way to get a sense of what type of person is sitting before you and what type of an employee he or she may be.

When you are interviewing someone and during the follow-up process, think about these things:

  • Did they do research on the job, organization, and field?
  • How are they dressed?
  • Did they show up early?
  • Do they make good eye contact?
  • Firm handshake?
  • Good body posture? Open body language?
  • Nervous tics?
  • Did they ask good questions?
  • How did they treat the support staff?
  • Did they thank you?
  • Did they inquire about the next steps in the hiring process?
  • Did they send a thank you or follow up as agreed?

You can learn a tremendous amount about a person by the way he holds himself, by how he is dressed, by what time he arrived at the interview, and other non-verbal clues. These things are important and should be considered seriously.

Do Some E-search

It is always appropriate to ask for references, and a good candidate should be prepared to offer them readily. Your job is to call those references and perhaps find a few others.

It is also perfectly acceptable (and advisable) to use Google and social media to check out a candidate. Check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, Vine, Pinterest, and other sites. Perhaps the candidate who routinely posts drunk pictures on Facebook is not the right person to run the front office.

If you like the candidate but find this e-side of her troubling, ask about it in a follow-up interview. If a certain professional persona, both in person and on-line, is important to you and your organization, then this needs to be communicated to the candidate. And if he or she is an otherwise strong contender, an opportunity should be given for him to clean up his on-line life.

Take a Team Approach to Hiring

The person who is responsible for the candidate’s success must have the last word in hiring. However, you are looking for a candidate who not only has a certain set of skills but who also fits the corporate culture, so taking a team approach and having others sit in on the interview is helpful. This doesn’t mean the team should hire, but it does mean that input from a group is a good way to inform the process as whole.

If using a group process, three things are critically important:

  1. There must be a clearly defined interviewing process.
  2. You must be very clear on who is going to make the final decision.
  3. You must follow a consistent approach with every candidate.

At the very least, make sure the candidate has a chance to meet with potential coworkers and office mates, even if just in an informal setting. First impressions are very important (and are often correct) so try to involve as many colleagues as possible in the process.

Hiring people is as much an art as a science. You need to use evidence and facts, and you need to do your homework. But you also need to trust your gut and listen to your inner voice. You need to feel confident that the candidate will work well in your organization and get along with others. If you follow the above guidelines, you can hire the right person. Good luck!

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