‘So- tell me about yourself!’

A well prepared interviewer saves time and more often chooses the right candidate

Tony Johnson
TJ & Associates

Finding talent is one of the most important aspects of any growing, successful business. Recruiting has many aspects, including a thoughtful job description, placing ads, networking, interviewing, referencing, testing, negotiating and making an offer. Interviewing is just one area that can allow business owners and managers to maximize their time and effort in hiring skilled professionals to meet their changing needs.

I am a strong proponent of phone screening. To facilitate a telephone interview, create a list of questions as a tool and use it consistently. It is important to identify the information you need, which may include skill set, education, why they left their last positions, and salary history and expectations. Spend about 20 minutes on the phone with the candidates and get all the basic questions answered. When the telephone interviews are complete, you will have gained a good sense about who the candidates are, how they answer questions, their ability to communicate and their ability to respond. Perhaps they will take this opportunity to ask questions of their own. If you liked their answers and developed a rapport with certain candidates, then it may be a good investment of your time to meet them in person.

When meeting a candidates in person, notice: How are they dressed? Were they on time? Did they shake your hand? How did they relate to the rest of the office staff?

When identifying appropriate interview questions, first remember what not to ask. Don’t ask anything that can get you into legal trouble. Some of these areas include marital status, kids, religion, race, sex, orientation and disabilities. A good general rule is to stick to the requirements of the position. Be smart and plan your questions ahead. If you have any specific concerns, discuss them with a human resources or legal expert.

After planning your questions and scheduling the interview, remember these key points about interviewing:
• Create a professional, inviting environment to conduct the interview.
• Welcome the applicant by offering water or coffee; if it is a group interview introduce them to the team.
• Your job is to ask some good questions and then to listen. You should not talk more than 10 percent to 20 percent of the time; this means you are listening 80 percent to 90 percent of the time.
• Prepare and ask open ended questions. If possible, ask for specific examples; these are sometimes referred to as behavioral based questions. If the applicant is giving an example of an interaction with a coworker, ask for a first name of that coworker. This will cause the applicant to get specific and make the example more real for both parties.
• Always allow time for questions from the applicant. Find out how much they know about you and your company; if they do not know, they may not care. If the applicant does not ask questions, he or she is not prepared.

Be prepared to honestly share information about your company, management style and work environment. Depending on how well the interview goes, you should take this time to "sell" the company and the opportunity to the applicant. Remember that interviewing is a two-way street – the application should walk away from that interview wanting to work with your team, in your company, in your culture, with your clients.

The hiring process can be fun; a well organized interview can help give businesses a solid foundation to handle the joys and concerns of adding and/or replacing staff. Being prepared may prevent an interviewer from walking into a room with an applicant he or she knows nothing about and just blurting out, "So, tell me about yourself?"

Tony Johnson is president of TJ & Associates, a small business offering custom services in recruiting and human resource consulting. The business can be reached at 360-263-2676 and https://www.TJandassociates.com.

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