Hiring the right employee matters more than most other decisions you or your management team will make. A bad hire can be destructive to a company. A desperation hire likely produces lackluster results. But a great hire builds momentum and will lift your spirits, as well as your profits. The key to having low turnover of staff as well as high-performing employees is in the methods that you use in selecting and interviewing candidates.

Understanding the role

Young companies often do not think through what they need in each role. This may be due in part to the ever shifting nature of startups; but not establishing the essential duties, and thus the critical capabilities of an employee, is suicidal. Start with knowing exactly what you want in a hire, and writing a clear, well-defined job description. This includes both education and experience, and it may include specific knowledge, industry contacts, personality profiles and more. It is better to be too detailed than not detailed enough.

Engage many people, especially from outside the department

Everyone perceives things differently, and everyone sees different aspects of a candidate. Only by having an appropriate number of interviewers and a rational method of discussing and scoring the candidate can great hiring decisions be made.

Interview teams for senior roles should consist of four – six people (if possible), with at least half being from outside the group for which the individual is being interviewed. That last point is significant as most senior employees will have to work across departmental or team boundaries.

If you’re a small company or working within a limited budget, consider inviting respected business associates or ideally, an HR professional, to interview to help give you some perspective. This extra pair of eyes and experience will add tremendous value, certainly and second or third interview stage.

Allow the candidate to open up and be themselves

Where and how the interview is conducted affects the accuracy of the interviews.

Find a quiet and private location. Job interviews are stressful enough. Inducing loads of distractions and being subjected to roving onlookers doesn’t relax anyone. Easing the candidate gives them a chance to have a personal interview process and, if the interviewers are warm and inviting, to open up about goals, experiences and even personal drawbacks.

Every interviewer should start by saying how much they appreciate having the candidate interviewing with your company. After all, they likely have alternatives. They decided your company was worth considering, just as you decided the candidate was. This mutual vote of confidence is a good start, and should be acknowledged.

During the interview, let the prospective employee do most of the talking while you do most of the listening. Your mission is to find out as much as possible about the candidate, and you cannot do this if your mouth is engaged. The more comfortable the candidate feels while talking with you not only enhances your chances of getting the information that you need, but also the chances of the candidate wanting to join your team.

What to watch out for

Learning what a candidate knows is almost as important as learning who they are. This goes back to making the candidate comfortable and letting them speak. By asking difficult questions, you will make them feel uncomfortable and not expose their truest personality. You can also achieve this by monopolising the conversation, coming to the interview with a less than positive attitude, or even by bad-mouthing the candidate’s current employer. Instead, by being welcoming, warm, and mostly quiet, you quickly discover what kind of a person they are. You get an idea of whether they will match your company’s culture, be agreeable to other employees and meet your expectations.

Among the things you should watch for during an interview, some of the most important are:

  • Money: If the prospective employee focuses on compensation, that is a red flag. Everyone needs money, and there is no shame in discussing compensation. But a candidate fixated on rewards is not going to be fixated on providing value.
  • Outbound: What did the candidate think of their prior employer and job? If they disliked their employer or the type of work that they were doing, this may be a problem. The main reason employees leave or search for another job is that they did not like their immediate supervisor. But this dislike may be the employee’s perception or poor people skills. Otherwise, liking their immediate supervisor is a positive.
  • Attire: How an employee came dressed for the interview may tell much. The goal is to see if the way they dress is comparable with what you expect, because you are a product of your corporate and group cultures. A systems programmer might set off warning bells if he did show up in a suit and tie, as would a potential CFO arriving in sneakers and blue jeans.

Tracking results

Create a point rating scale for each of the categories you apply to your candidates, for example personality, written skills, technical expertise in the job being considered, cultural fit, verbal skills, an “overall” rating, and if the interviewer would consider the candidate for the hire. Then agree a composite score which must be achieved to consider the candidate for hire.

If the primary interviewer – the likely boss – would not consider the candidate for the hire, then consider an automatic dismissal with some escalation if everyone else takes a different decision. Otherwise, at least a majority of the people doing the interviewing should agree to hire the candidate and the candidate’s composite score should be higher than the benchmark you’ve set as a company.

You can’t know everything about a candidate so…

There are some things you cannot tell in an interview, and that is why references are required.

Reference checks are mandatory and the employee should supply at least three qualified references, not including their own family or friends; and these people must be technically within the area being considered. Where possible, find two other references that a candidate did not list, be they former co-workers, bosses or maybe even mutual acquaintances through a scan of the employee’s social media accounts.

Additionally, look to understand the characteristics and behaviors of the candidates by using on line characteristic profiling tools.

Don’t be tempted to hire because there is no one else

If you are lucky, you will have multiple, highly qualified candidates from which to choose. But sometimes you do not. Avoid succumbing to the temptation to hire less than the best. An employee who doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, who doesn’t fit the culture, who leaves interviewers feeling flat, will only slow down your company. Leave slots unfilled until the right person arrives. It’s now when working with a trusted recruiter can really accelerate your hiring process.

Get in touch with inRecruitment Group if you need some specialist assistance to build your dream team.

Kate, Managing Director