Job Interview Tips to Help You Make the Best Hiring Decision
Over the years, I’ve made some stellar hiring decisions. On the other hand, I’ve also made some catastrophic blunders as well. Eventually, I figured out a system that has allowed me to hire excellent candidates with lower turnover. I had to learn these job interview tips through the school of hard knocks. Hopefully, you will be able to learn from my mistakes so you can create a solid team for your organization.
I organized this session in three (really four) parts. Part one gives you a few tips to help you identify the perfect candidate when you see him or her. The next part offers questions to ask during the job interview. I also inserted a mini-part on questions to avoid during the job interview — (Again, school of hard knocks.) The last part covers how to use the information collected from the interviews to make a good hiring decision.
Let’s start with part one.
How to Know If a Candidate Is a Good Fit for the Job and Company.
Before you start to interview candidates, start by identifying what a good candidate looks like. There have been times in my company where we were growing so fast, that we made hiring decisions based on if the person had a pulse. Some of these rash hiring decisions turned out well. However, this was based just on dumb luck. Other hiring decisions caused big problems and uncomfortable terminations.
Most interviewers scan a candidate’s resume or LinkedIn profile for education, work experience, and references. Obviously, you do want to take these items into consideration. However, none of those things will tell you if the person is a good fit for the position. In addition, none of them will show you if the person is a good fit for your team.
So, before you start interviewing, identify the skills needed for the job. Also, identify the values that you want in a candidate.
Identify the Skills Needed for the Job Before Interviewing Any Candidates.
A couple of years ago, I hired a new website developer. In the job description, I inserted a list of skills needed for the position in the order of importance. For instance, I listed “Search Engine Optimization” as the first skill needed. I listed that one first for a reason. The candidate had to have a vast knowledge of the subject to be successful in the position.
The candidate could have developed that skill working for a huge company. Or, she might have developed it working on the weekends as a second job. Guess, what, I didn’t really care how she developed the skill. I also didn’t really care what school she attended (or really her grades.) I was most concerned that she could prove to me that she was an expert in that area.
So, step one is to make a list of the skills needed to be a success in the position. Once you complete the list, go back and order the items based on their importance. That way, once you start to interview candidates, you have a checklist to refer to.
Identify the Personality Traits Needed for the Job Before Interviewing Any Candidates.
Another important thing to identify in the ideal candidate is the person’s personality temperament. Psychologists have identified four major personalities temperaments. In fact, the theory goes all the way back to Hippocrates in Ancient Greece. Basically, each of us possess natural talents. We all also have natural weaknesses.
About five years ago, I opened up a new warehouse for our company. I created a nice job posting and started interviewing candidates. One of these candidates was an energetic, fun, and inspirational woman. Instantly, I knew that she was a good fit for our company. However, the job she was applying for was not a good fit for her strengths. We needed someone that was thorough and detail-oriented. We also needed someone who could mathematically anticipate inventory needs, etc.
A couple of weeks later, I called her up and asked her to reinterview for a different position. She became one of our top account managers within two years. Now, she is one of our top instructors worldwide. I sometimes joke with her saying, “What do you think your world would be like if I had actually offered you that warehouse manager job?” She always grits her teeth and thanks me.
Great Teams Contain Individuals Who Complement Each Other’s Strengths and Make-Up for Their Weaknesses.
Finally, you want to identify what strengths you already have on your team and what weaknesses you need to shore up. The personality temperaments can help here as well. For instance, I’m a hard-charging “Type A” personality. The first three people I ever hired were the exact opposite of me. Where I am crass and blunt, the people I hired were friendly and personable. They made up for my deficiencies, and I made up for theirs.
We had some pretty good growth during that time. However, the company plateaued at $300,000 per year. I realized later what the problem was. I had hired a team of people who waited for me to give them direction. They were fantastic at implementing ideas, by the way. However, if I didn’t lead them, not much got done. Just by luck, the next few people that I hired were creative idea people. Then, we added some analytical detail-oriented folks. Immediately, growth exploded. We had created a team that complemented the strengths and weaknesses of each other.
Today, I consciously hire based on the strengths and weaknesses of the personalities I already have on the team. The process works incredibly well.
Questions to Ask to Help You Better Judge Potential Candidates.
Now that you have your hiring criteria, what questions need to be asked at the interview? Well, in addition to determining the skills needed and the personality needed, you also want to discover one additional thing. Does the candidate mesh well with your company culture?
Here are a few tips to help you start off on the right track.
- Ask the same questions to every candidate. This will let you compare each one using the same criteria.
- In your list of questions, choose some that help you assess the actual skills of the candidate.
- Add in some questions that help you determine their personality.
- Finally, add in questions to help you determine if their values mesh with the corporate values.
In a moment, I’ll give you a sample list of interview questions. First, though, let’s talk about the values part. This suggestion is one of those tips that has absolutely revolutionized how we hire.
Ask Questions to Determine the Values that You Want in a Team Member.
Just before Covid hit in 2020, my executives and I set an audacious goal to quadruple the size of the company. (I know. The timing was awful.) We knew that we would need to hire new candidates to help us get to the goal. We also knew that the company revenue had plateaued a few years ago. I realized that to get to the next plateau, we most likely would need to make some changes in personnel.
One of our team members had a brilliant idea. We have a list of our corporate core values that we live by. Why not score our team members based on each of these core values. To experiment, I and the other two executives scored each other. Not surprisingly, each of us scored pretty high in each of the areas.
Next, we each score every single one of our team members. Interestingly, the team members who scored very high in our values were also the ones who appeared to be the most productive for the company as well. The ones who scored lower were more mediocre by comparison.
The technique worked so well for our current team, that we made it a part of the hiring process. So, in addition to asking questions to determine the skills of the candidate, we now ask questions to help us determine their values as well.
For instance, core value number one at our company is responsiveness. We send out an email asking candidates to go to our calendar and set up a meeting. We automatically exclude candidates who take more than a day to respond.
Here Is a Set of Sample Questions to Help You Determine Skills, Personality, and Their Values.
- Tell me about yourself.
- So why do you want this job?
- What do you know about our company?
- What do you know about the requirements for this job?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- What do you think are your greatest strengths?
- What are your biggest weaknesses?
- Tell me about a challenge or conflict that you faced at work?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- What type of work environment do you prefer?
Obviously, these are just a few sample questions. You will likely want to pick questions that more immediately relate to the position you are filling.
Questions to Avoid When You Interview Candidates for a Job.
The bigger your company is, the more of a target you are for litigation. So, if you have a Human Resources department, they are your friend during the interview process. Once you create your list of questions, send the list to HR. They will alter your questions to keep you from violating employment laws and/or make your questions more effective for the interview. If you do not have an HR department, here is a list of questions to avoid.
- Sexual orientation or gender identity
- Country of origin
- Marital status
- Family status
- Veteran status
- Salary history (in some states)
This is not a comprehensive list. However, staying away from these topics can keep help you avoid accidentally offending a candidate and keep you out of hot water.
Comparing the Candidates after the Interview So You Make the Right Hiring Decision.
Okay, so now you have a bunch of data to comb through about each candidate. What the heck do we do with it? You want to organize the data into a format where you can logically compare the candidates. Here are a couple of suggestions.
Create a Scoring System to Judge Each Candidate’s Skills and Values.
List your candidates in a spreadsheet or on a piece of paper. Once you have that, create three lists of your hiring criteria. First, list the skills required for the job. Next, list the personality temperament that you are looking for. Then Finally, list out your company’s core values.
Score each candidate in each area. You can check items if you like, but I like a scoring system, myself. For instance, score each person from one to five or one to 10 in each area. Alternatively, you can score them by High School letter grade.
I’d suggest scoring them twice in each category. The first score should be where each candidate is currently. Then, create a second score based on the person’s potential. For instance, a recent college graduate may apply for a job. Her skill level will be lower than a 20-year veteran. So, she may currently be a five-out-of-10. However, she is ambitious and coachable. So, she has the potential to become an eight, nine, or even 10. The veteran is set in his ways. He may currently be a seven. But five years from now, he will still be a seven. I may hire the recent graduate for better long-term benefit for the company.
Alternatively, the project may be temporary. If that is the case, the veteran is the better choice.
If nothing else, this system will help you eliminate candidates quickly. If you end up with a couple of candidates who score very well, either of them will likely be a great hiring decision. So the system can help you reduce the chance of making a bad hiring decision.