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Making the Best Hiring Decisions

Bernadette Kenny
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May 26, 2014

Deciding which candidate to hire for a role in your organization is one of the most important management challenges there is.  Regardless of job level, the wrong decision is very expensive, reflects poorly on you as a manager and is demoralizing for other employees. The longer a job vacancy is open, productivity suffers and you can get the reputation as indecisive.  It also begs the question “do you need the job filled at all?”

The common sources of finding appropriate candidates include social media, recruiters, networking, and advertising.  Human Resources departments have this process pretty well managed.  Their lament is that the hiring manager takes too long, or the manager is not readily available for interviews.  These laments are generally true.

As a hiring manager, ask yourself how many actual answers to questions you really remember from candidates.  What you are really assessing is style, reliability, knowledge, integrity and fit.  As you ask these questions of candidates focus less on the answer and more on the way the question is answered.  Are the answers defensive, rambling, or boring?  Or are the answers straightforward, confident and knowledgeable of your industry and organization?

Here are some important questions to ask and evaluate how they are answered.

If a candidate is unemployed, between jobs, or even returning to the workforce after a longer period of time, don’t let this be a turnoff.  These candidates can be your best employees.

Ask why they are interested in your organization and ask the reasons for their lack of employment.  Good candidates will not be embarrassed or apologetic.  They should provide an honest review of their work history.  Do you believe them?  This will answer your integrity question.

Has the candidate had many jobs?  Again, ask the reasons job by job for the changes.  Do you see a pattern of mistakes or job changes that were not well thought out?  If job changes make good sense, you have a candidate that thinks about their career carefully, and is always interested in being challenged.  They can pick themselves up and move on.

The best question to ask a candidate is “what do you know about our organization?”  Despite the availability of information, many candidates are poorly prepared.  The focus of the interview should be about your organization and not what the candidate did before.  You are assessing their ability to think with you through your challenges in your business and thinking about solutions.

Ask a candidate, “if I did a reference on you via the grapevine, what would I hear?”

Every candidate should offer a list of references, but they are all going to be glowing.  How a candidate fields the question about their reputation tells you a lot.  Are they worried?  Confident?  Overconfident or not in touch with how they are perceived?

When asked how a candidate would approach their first six months on the job, the candidate who has a high level plan of what they would hope to do demonstrates thoughtfulness, and an ability to showcase and understand what they have heard you say.

A hiring manager needs to take time conducting interviews.  It is always recommended that interviews are in a private room with no interruptions.  A first or second interview could be 45 minutes or so, but a final interview should be over coffee or a meal. There is no better way to determine compatibility or style than over a meal.

Will the candidate fit your culture?  Will your customers like the candidate?  Will you?  In particular, executive interviews must include the private time of sharing a meal.  It is only in this environment can a manager determine the “executive style” of a particular individual.

Today’s job market is competitive and there are many candidates.  It is your job to find the candidate that will contribute well over the long term.  It is not the job of HR, it is yours.

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