Improve Your Interview Process and Find the Right People

One of my favorite business books is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In it he argues that to be a Great company you first have to focus on Who (people) and then What (strategy). The people you bring onto your team (and keep!) will make your organization what it is.

In my experience, organizations feel pressure to fill empty roles and rush the hiring process, with disastrous results. One of the key parts of the hiring process is the interview conducted with potential candidates. Here are three ways to make those interviews more effective:

1. Know what you want and write it down.

We have the tendency towards unconscious bias. We notice the well-dressed candidate, or the nervous candidate, and we lose focus on what the organization needs. One way to reduce the risk of this is to build a matrix of need for the position before you start the interview process (example below). During the interview ask questions and watch for behaviors that you have identified as important. After the interview, rate the candidate. This has the added benefit of helping you distinguish between candidates when you have conducted numerous interviews over a period of days or weeks.

2. Invite others into the conversation.

When interviewing, it helps to involve other members of the organization in the process. Others will often see strengths and weaknesses that you don’t.  I was assisting a client in filling a senior position and we were down to two very qualified candidates. The executive team had the candidates meet with the team they would be managing. I sat in on both interviews. The questions were the same, the interviews lasted about the same amount of time, and when we were done I went through the hiring matrix with the team. I was shocked when they stated very bluntly that they felt, very strongly, that one of the candidates was a terrible fit. When I pushed on why, they were able to identify two very specific areas where this candidate was lacking experience and character traits we needed. These were two areas that the rest of the team had completely missed.

3. When in doubt interview again.

In his book “How to Hire the Right People”, Jim Roddy suggests we tend to move too fast in making decisions about hiring people. He says that if you are unsure of whether you should hire or disqualify a potential candidate, you should interview them again. I was assisting another client with a unique culture fill a key role. We had two candidates that had been through numerous interviews. The owners were leaning towards one and I was leaning towards another.  We agreed to bring both in again for another interview, but to focus less on asking them questions and more on how it would feel to work with them. This helped us get on the same page about who was the best choice for their team. They were very happy with the hire.

We all want to have the right people in our organizations. Interviewing is an important part of finding those people. Making sure that we know what we want ahead of time, involve the right people in the process, and take the time to thoroughly interview candidates will make this process successful and help us build stronger organizations.