Small Business

Interview, Don’t Just Ask Questions

What’s the best way to find the right candidate? HR professionals know there are right and wrong ways to identify the most promising candidates. Here are some of the techniques they use:

Structuring the Process

Conducting an initial phone screen before inviting a candidate for a more formal interview (either virtual or in-person) is an efficient way for both organizations and candidates to determine whether it makes sense to go forward.

One group found that only 2% of all applicants move to the next step after an initial phone screen. A 15-minute phone conversation can quickly weed out candidates who are unqualified or have issues (such as existing non-compete contracts). Candidates can ask their most important qualifying questions. At the end of the conversation, both sides should have a much better idea of whether it makes sense to keep talking.

HR, not the hiring manager, should conduct the initial phone screen. To respect the candidate’s time and ensure the organization gets the best results, HR professionals should:

  • Review the candidate’s resume and any other materials before the conversation
  • Inform candidates what to expect when scheduling the call
  • Be on time or let the candidate know as soon as possible of an unavoidable delay
  • Ask all candidates the same questions (a written script can help.)

The last tip is critical for avoiding liability. Asking different questions of candidates – especially if the candidates differ by age, race, gender, or another protected class – could be viewed as discriminatory.

And always, always, make sure that every interviewer is trained, knows what questions cannot be asked, and understands current laws and regulations.

How to Interview

Having two people conduct an interview is fine. A hiring manager can be the best person to discuss the role and how it fits into the organization, while a peer-level employee may be better suited to determine technical skills or other specific job requirements.

If two or more people from the organization are going to participate, however, the candidate should know that multiple interviewers were scheduled for efficiency and expediency, and not to “gang up on” or intimidate the candidate. Keep in mind, too, that if making a personal connection with the candidate is part of the desired result, the more interviewers in the room, the less likely that will happen.

Testing for Skills

In many cases, skills testing may not be necessary. Think before asking candidates to take a test or complete a project. If you ask clients to complete a project, be mindful of what you’re requesting. Make sure it’s:

  • Necessary
  • Relevant
  • Not too much of a burden

Don’t ask candidates to spend hours on a project or a presentation. If you’re going to ask them to do anything substantial, compensate them and tell them what that compensation will be.

About the Author: Judith Lindenberger is president and owner of The Lindenberger Group, a 21-year-old, award-winning HR consulting firm based near Princeton.

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