How To Become An Unconsciously Competent Interviewer

Executive Search look imageIt seems that everyone is a little tense before an interview. For the candidate, the reason is obvious, but what about the interviewer? Why should you, the interviewer, be nervous? If the candidate does not fit the mold you will have to do this again and again and again. That could put anyone over the edge and has caused people to hire the first person with whom they meet. However, we do not advise that as a general hiring practice. Instead, prepare:

* Have you determined how to create a comfortable situation for the interviewee?
* Have you established a set of criteria and questions that will enable you to explore the person’s potential?
* Have you determined the balance of talking about the organization while allowing the interviewee to make a strong impression?
* Are you prepared to sell the organization?

Your job as interviewer will be easier, and the success of the interview assured, if you can create a comfortable situation for the interviewee. You need to use everything you have to get to know the real person, not just the game-face that matches the crème-colored resume and tailored suit. Little things can make a big difference.

1. Establish how much time you will have for the meeting. This will create boundaries that will help you both pace the interview.
2. Offer a business card. This will allow the person to know your name and title. Should they know this before they came? Maybe, but do you want to eliminate the candidate on that criterion? Having a business card also allows them to write a follow-up letter and address it properly.
3. Start the conversation by telling the candidate about the organization, how you fit into the master plan and where the position for which they are a candidate is in relation to you, the supervisor. This gives the person a few minutes to get comfortable and get a read on you. The person is then in the position to let you know where she sees herself fitting in as well as why she is uniquely qualified.

In anticipation of the interview, prepare by reading the resume ahead of time. Determine which points you would like to hear more about. Create a list of questions and pick a topic to start your discussion. Obvious? Perhaps, but you wouldn’t be the first interviewer to overlook the obvious.

Some interviewers are against having a “Personal” section on a resume. They argue that it is not relevant to the job if someone enjoys skiing, golf, or history books. On the other hand, we argue that some hobbies can provide an instant link between interviewers and job applicants. Chemistry needs to be established, and it’s not only for schmoozing purposes.

“Oh, you play golf, too? Where do you play?” will set a relaxed tone for the meeting –right in the interviewee’s comfort zone — and that is exactly where you want the interview to be. The more the interviewee enjoys the interview itself, the more you will get to know the real person. The more boring an interview, the less likely you are to engage this person, even if he is the top candidate on your list.

In addition, job skills can be learned outside of employment. Someone who plays in a basketball league may truly understand the meaning of teamwork, think fast on one’s feet, show persistence in the face of obstacles, etc. Keep an open mind.

A deserving candidate, who is experienced in interviewing, will know that he is there to impress you, but that you must also sell him on the job. Always be prepared to explain why this person should take a chance on your organization. You may know that the nonprofit is incredibly stable, the person who left had been there, loving the job, for 5 years and there is huge potential for growth, but you will be ineffective if you do not make sure the interviewee knows this as well. Always keep in mind that a new hire is a leap of faith for both parties.

When we are working to place a candidate, we advise them to sell themselves and then decide if they want the job. Don’t forget that the same is true for you: sell the organization and the position then decide if you want the person.

Competent interviewers do not abruptly terminate meetings, saying, “Oh, goodness. We have run over our time. We will have to stop.”

Subtly monitor the time. When the meeting has fifteen minutes remaining, consider whether you have asked all of the questions you had prepared. Then, offer an opportunity for a last sales pitch from the candidate, “We only have fifteen minutes left. Is there anything else you would like to tell me about yourself? Have I provided you with the information you want to know about the position or our organization?”

Finally, getting the right candidate takes time and energy. If this seems like more time and energy than your organization can spare, let us help. Mersky, Jaffe & Associates specializes in placing the best candidate for its client organizations.