27 July 2019 - Are you interview ready?

At the beginning of my career I was often asked during interviews what my dissertation subject was. I would watch my interviewer carefully and see many visibly gulp as I gave my response; "subjectivity within recruitment and selection". (For my business degree I specialised in Human Resources and Marketing in my last year). Suddenly the balance of power oh so slightly shifted towards me. I would give a wry smile and think to myself, yes I know what you’re doing. Often my interviewer would be keen to learn my findings. 

In a nutshell here’s what I found out. For legal reasons it’s a good idea to gather evidence to show the chosen candidate has the capability to do the job. Devise objective methods to find this out, whether it be by questioning and/or technical tests. 

Subjectivity does play an important part in the decision making process though and this is permissible. If you have managed to whittle down your candidates to a small selection who are all capable of doing the job then the last defining element is fit. 

How to define fit? Well it could be the way the business works, it’s values and culture. Now consider if any of your objectively chosen candidates also have similar qualities to that of the business. If they do, then you may be into a winner. Hire them. 

So, are you interview ready? We put this to the test back in June at the Salesforce London Admins night. Together with another hiring manager, Nathaniel Sombu, we first talked through our recruitment processes. 

Mine’s this:
1. CV sift by a recruiter
2. Telephone interview by me
3. Technical test
4. Face to face interview by the team members and myself

For me, stages 2 and 3 give me the objective elements that highlight if the person is capable of doing the job. Stage 4 can also open up some objective elements, depending on the questions asked, but this is mainly where subjectivity kicks in. Does the candidate ‘fit’ in the team? Do they warm to them? Do they have the right mix of technical and social skills to give the team the right balance to be a high performing? Does the team feel they can work alongside the candidate? 

During the Admin session Nathaniel and I shared a few of our killer questions on a couple of willing victims, I mean volunteers. Our thanks to Sean Dukes and Dave Humm. I personally ask 20 questions (yes, really) during the telephone interview stage.

Our questions are a mix of competency and progressive styles. Competency based ones will ask the candidate to look back and describe a scenario to show their experience in an area. A progressive question is more left field and forward thinking and requires the candidate to think differently. 

Nathaniel’s competency based example was: 
1. Talk me through a project that you've worked on that you are really proud of

To help someone answer a competency based question then remember this: CARS. (With thanks to Piers Ansell.

When you respond to a competency based question relay back using CARS. Talk about the challenge you faced. Then what action you took. Mention the results, especially if you have any tangible statistics to go along with them. And remember to add sparkle to your story. Make it interesting, add passion, show your engagement and how you made a difference. 

My progressive examples were:
1: How do you go about creating a custom object?
2. How would other people describe you?

When it comes to responding to a progressive question then take a moment to really understand what has been asked and how best to reply to it. Progressive questions are carefully posed. 

Why do I ask about the custom object you might wonder? Anyone could respond with, go to setup, object manager, new object. Many people have responded in this way. I have found that if you have an Admin mindset then you are more likely to think about the reason why the custom object is needed in the first place. If you have a more Developer mindset then you sometimes focus on actioning the task, hence the Setup response. This question lets me see the way the candidate thinks and from this question I can start to ascertain if they are suitable for the role I’m hiring for.

As for my other question, it makes the candidate think of themselves in a third party format and can illicit a different response to my usual previous question of asking them to provide 5 words to describe themselves. The responses to the 2 questions can be very different. 

So now I’ve given away a few of my killer questions, back to the drawing board for me. But don’t forget, an interview is a two way process and a candidate should have a set of questions for themselves to ask their prospective employer. In fact, when I ask the candidate if they have any questions and they respond with no, then it raises concerns with me as I feel they aren’t invested in the opportunity and haven’t done their homework or want to know more. So do your interviewer a favour and ask some pertinent questions.

At our June meeting we asked the audience to suggest questions to ask during the interview process and they happily obliged. See the link to a document for inspiration, here: Questions to ask

So to wrap up, as a hiring manager please follow the following basic rules:
1. Define a hiring process that works for both the candidate and any internal resources that might be involved and can be easily repeatable.
2. Make sure the process has a mix of objective and subjective elements so you can clearly justify any hiring decision.
3. Be sensible on the numbers of candidates you take through each stage. Don't try to interview the whole population, use careful selection criteria.
4. Be clear on your hiring process so each candidate know what to expect along the journey.
5. Communicate quickly for any next actions or requirements by the candidate to action.
6. Don't let people hanging, whether that be to reject or offer a role to them. If you don't then you could get a poor reputation or lose your ideal candidate to another employer.

Whether you are the candidate or interviewer, if you are to embark on a hiring process then make sure you are interview ready! 


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