The Interviewer's Guide to Hiring the Right People

Kelly Cantwell
How to hire the right person

This guide is designed as a tool to help employers, hiring teams, and HR managers improve their interview process and consistently hire the right person for the job. By taking time in the beginning to create a clear hiring strategy and to understand whom you’re really looking for, you’ll do a better job of hiring the best candidates — and keeping employees once you’ve found them.

Understand your role in the hiring process

Are you the main person in charge of hiring, or will you work with other HR personnel to find and interview candidates? Will you interview and/or supervise the new employee? Who are the key stakeholders involved, and what other people will work with him or her?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you better understand your role in the hiring process, put together a team and gain feedback from others involved.

Know exactly what you’re looking for in a job candidate

The next step in hiring the right people is to understand exactly whom you need to hire. Just having a job title and basic qualifications isn’t enough. You need to understand the skills, abilities, and traits that will help a person succeed in a particular role — both in the job and within your company culture.

  1. Analyze the position you need filled

    Take a close look at the position and define not only the duties and skills required but also the character traits. Do you need someone who’s introverted? Extroverted? Detail-oriented?

    Learn more about how to conduct a job position analysis.

  2. Research your company’s culture and goals

    Many things make up a company’s culture: values, work environment, attitudes. For example, do your employees work in teams or on their own? Or does it vary? Are your office hours strict or relaxed? Do you have a formal or informal management style? How does each person’s work tie in to your overall business goals?

    Understanding your company culture matters because employees are happier when their needs and values match those of their workplace. They develop better relationships with team members, they’re more productive, and they’re more likely to stick around, which means that you’ll reduce turnover.

  3. Create a job candidate baseline

    Once you have a list of the skills and personality traits needed for the job, as well as a clear picture of your company culture and the types of people who thrive in it, you can establish a profile, or baseline, for your perfect candidate. If you have current employees who are successful in the same role, having them take a personality test is an ideal way to gather information about what it takes to do well in that position.

    There are almost always a few key traits that are distinguishably different between the most and least successful employees. Those are the ones management should focus on to develop the final ideal-candidate profile.

    Tip: Involve managers who oversee the position

    Don’t forget to include input from supervisors who will oversee the new hire. Management involvement is critical because they’ll have a good sense of the skills and traits necessary for the job. Managers should review your suggested perfect-candidate profile, whether from the test results of current employees or from your initial analysis.

  4. Test skills that are required for the position

    Have employees take assessments for job-specific skills and aptitudes as well. You may even want to administer a customized test. A job candidate’s ability to competently execute their duties is as important in hiring the right person as any other factor. And gathering data from current successful employees can help you quickly determine top job applicants from the rest.

Hire the right people for the job

Align your candidate sourcing with your job advertising

Once you know the skills and traits required for a job, you can use that data to craft a better job ad to help you attract better applicants and hire the right person.

Use your initial analysis and baseline data to focus on specifics in your ad text. If you’ve determined that your ideal job candidate has to be fluent in Word and Excel, have a friendly and outgoing personality, work well in a fast-paced environment, and have a strong eye for detail, then mention all those things in your ad. Be sure to talk about your company culture briefly as well.

But even more than simply stating what you need, you can use guidance from your ideal-candidate profile to write job ad copy that attracts and motivates the kind of job applicants you’re targeting. Further, you’ll know what to avoid writing so you don’t accidentally deter top talent.

If you plan to include pre-employment testing as part of your hiring process, you can mention that, too. Specifics about requirements and the application procedure will help potential candidates determine whether they’re really qualified and interested.

Use data to focus on top job candidates

With an established ideal-candidate profile in hand, you can confidently focus on job applicants who most closely match the success factors you’ve outlined. For example, if fluency in Excel is a requirement for the job, there’s no need to waste your time on candidates who aren’t proficient in that software.

And with proper pre-employment testing, you can ensure that candidates actually have the skills and traits they say they do. Remember, just because someone says on a résumé that they have great Excel skills doesn’t mean that they do! You can save yourself an immense amount of time and hassle — not to mention potential training costs — by testing in advance.

Don’t skip the phone interviews

Once you have a shortlist of job candidates who meet your initial requirements, it’s worth your time to phone each one for a preliminary interview. Sometimes you can gain information over the phone that will help you decide whether the person is right for an in-person interview.

If you’ve conducted pre-employment tests, you’ll already have results to help guide your questions. For instance, if you’ve given a personality test and the job you’re hiring for requires a lot of patience, but the job candidate’s answers indicate that they’re NOT a patient person, you can follow up with focused questions about their patience in past on-the-job situations.

Be sure to inform each job candidate about the next steps in the hiring process, including information about when and how they can expect to hear from you. This allows candidates to know what to expect (especially if they’re interviewing elsewhere).

Draft interview questions specific to the position and applicant

Drafting good interview questions for an open position takes time and can be difficult, but asking the right questions can make all the difference when interviewing and selecting a new hire.

With a system like Hire Success®, you’ll receive not only candidates’ test results to use in drafting your own specific job-related questions but also sample interview questions based on their answers. This allows you to be even more focused and objective in your interviews, since all the questions will be based on actual data.

To become a more effective interviewer:

  1. Avoid clichéd interview questions.

    Every candidate is expecting questions like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Job applicants have probably prepared answers for these typical questions, and they’re probably the same answers they’re giving at every other interview they’re taking. Save your time (and theirs) and avoid tired, predictable interview questions.

  2. Pose high-quality questions relevant to the job role.

    You need to know if the person in front of you is a fit for a particular job at your company. Ask questions based on the abilities and traits you need. If you have testing data, you can follow up on any areas that don’t completely match what you’re looking for, too.

  3. Make sure each question has a specific goal.

    Use your interview time to focus on those questions that will really help you understand whether the person has the skills and traits you need.

Avoid the standard interview format

Standard interview formats are ineffective for a number of reasons. They’re too generic and usually don’t target a particular job at all. If your interview questions can be anticipated, you won’t get genuine answers or really learn what you need to know.

A job candidate can look great on paper, do extremely well in an interview, and not be right for the job (or your company) at all. Here are some suggestions for a successful interview format:

  • Get multiple opinions on the job candidate.

    Talk to other team members and/or involve them in the interview process. What abilities and traits do THEY see as being important? What qualities will make someone right for the team as well as for the job? Do they feel like this person will be right for the job and for their team?

  • Get past your own bias and avoid hiring the “mini me.”

    Employers often hire someone they like or with whom they have things in common. It’s really hard to get past your own biases when hiring. But remember: You need a team that’s made up of people with many different strengths in order to succeed.

  • Keep diversity in mind.

    Having people with different backgrounds and experiences on your team is a great way to bring new ideas and ways of doing things to your company.

  • Focus on the future instead of the job candidate’s past.

    Having previous experience is important for many jobs, but don’t spend a lot of your interview time on this. You have their résumé, so you know where they’ve worked and where they’ve gone to school. Instead, find out what they can do for your company and if their goals meet yours.

  • Remember that attitude is just as important as aptitude.

    Many skills can be learned on the job, but you can’t teach someone to be friendly or enthusiastic. If you find someone who has the dominant traits you need, is a hard worker, and shares your company vision, that person may be better suited to the job than someone with better skills and a lousy mind-set.

  • Notice what questions the candidate asks.

    Any candidate who’s serious about joining your business should have questions for you, too. Pay attention. Are they asking about your company values or about the paycheck? Do they seem more concerned about the work or their coworkers?

Use references to get under the surface

References — especially past employers — may be hesitant to provide too much detailed information about a job candidate. If you have test data, however, you can use the results to guide your questions and get much more specific information.

For instance, if the job you’re hiring for requires a person who’s extremely detail-oriented, you might ask, “Can you think of a time when so-and-so’s attention to detail helped complete a project successfully or made a difference in reaching a particular goal?”

Don’t rush into any hiring decisions

When you need to fill a job, it can be tempting to hire someone as quickly as possible. Don’t. Hasty hiring rarely (if ever) pays off. Take the time to hire the right person with the right skills and traits, even if you need to put someone on a three-month paid trial period or ask them to complete a particular job-related task as part of the final interview process.

Remember, too, that tools like Hire Success® can speed up the process of finding top job candidates so that you don’t waste time on the wrong people. With a professional hiring system, you’ll find great candidates faster and have more time to focus on them.

Review and save your interview notes

Once you’ve completed your interview process, don’t throw away your notes! Review and save them, especially those of any job candidates you hire. The information you gain during the process can be used to help train that person and ensure their success at your organization.

For instance, if the candidate you hire has just the right personality for the job but shows some weakness in a particular software program, you can target some of their future training on that program. Demonstrating that you want to help your employees grow will only help their confidence and their desire to stay with you for the long term.

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