Note: This is the third part of our Covid 19 Employer Support series about recruitment. For part 1 click here.
In part 2, we looked at how to narrow down your candidates to a shortlist.
Now that you have a shortlist of applicants that you want to interview, what next? What kind of questions will you include in the interview? What kind of answers are you looking for? And how can you make sure you are choosing the best candidate?
Before arranging times to interview your candidates, there are a couple of things that will really help you during the interview process. Of course, preparing the questions you will ask is an obvious one but there are a few other things to think about...
Are you sure these are the best candidates? There may be quite some time between the first and last applications being received. Was someone put through to the interview process because they were a top candidate at the time? Now that your pool of applications has grown, are they still one of the best? Do they still measure up? Why not re-examine any possible candidates from the may-not-qualify pile upwards? You might find a few hidden gems that almost slipped through the cracks.
What is the best time to set the interviews? Setting interviews at times when you will be stressed, rushed or exhausted is not conducive to objectively finding the best candidate. Select a time where you will be able to feel relatively relaxed and engaged.
What questions will you ask? Now that you have selected the best candidates and have found a time that will work well for you, it's time to work out what questions you will want to ask. There are a multitude of lists of questions available on the internet, but beware - there are questions that you legally cannot ask. (For help with this we have an interview guide available)
What answers are you looking for? It's great to have a number of questions that you will ask each candidate, but we often forget to note down the actual answers we are looking for. How would your ideal employee answer each question? If a candidate answers your questions in the same manner your ideal employee would, maybe you're on to a winner. You could even test out your questions with existing staff members to see what good responses would look like.
COVID considerations. Even under COVID restrictions you can still do interviews using the telephone or preferentially using video conference tools such as zoom. Zoom is free to use for one-on-one video calls and you can set your own meeting times, create breakout rooms for other applicants and even share your screen. Most importantly, you can see the persons facial expressions and body language during the interview.
Now it's the big day. You have your applicants booked in and are well prepared. What can you do during the interview to get the best results? Here are a few suggestions...
Try to create a relaxed atmosphere. This will allow you to gauge what the person is really like. Perhaps disarm them by asking if they would like some water or other beverage. Ask them if they had difficulty finding your location (or logging on if you're interviewing over video conference). The goal here is to get them to relax - if they are too conscious or formal, it will be difficult to get a read on their personality and how they see the world.
Pay attention to details. A big part of the interview is you asking questions and the candidate answering them, but there is a lot to learn from what is not said. For instance, were they on time? Are they well presented? What does their tone of voice and body language reveal about them?
How they answer your questions. The way a candidate answers your questions can say a lot more than the actual words they use. For example - Do they talk all around the subject without giving you a distinct answer? This could show that they love talking with people but may have a lack of focus. Do they give one word answers? They could be really focussed but not so good at conversations. Either of these scenarios could show a strength or weakness depending on the role that they are applying for.
Don't be too harsh. Everything needs to viewed in context. This is a job interview. It is an awkward and pressure filled situation. The candidate may feel very nervous because they really want this job or they may come across as really confident because they actually don't care if they get it or not. Try to get a sense of what the person is really like and that will help you to decide if they are the right fit for your team.
Post Interview. While you should have been taking notes during the interview, it's very helpful to take a couple of minutes after the interview to note down any further information that will be helpful in making a hiring decision.
The Selection Process
Now that you have interviewed your candidates, hopefully one or more of them stood out to you. If it was just one, the choice may be obvious, but what if there are more than one ideal candidate? First of, this is a great problem to have. Here are some ways to narrow it down to just one:
Reference Checks. Most organisations have strict rules about what they will say in references, but by asking the right questions, you can often read between the lines. Ask performance based questions, team based questions and a great one is: "How would you describe their personality?"
Conduct secondary interviews. There's no law against having another interview with a candidate. Just make sure there is actually something you can gain from it. Perhaps you have a relevant skill based test you will ask them to complete. Perhaps you want to clarify some details from one of their referees. You can easily arrange this to be done just over the phone or by video call.
Diversity. I know that this word has been politicised, but diversity simply means having a variety of people in your team. If you are trying to decide between two candidates, who is more different from the people who already have in your team? Not just in terms of gender, race or background, but in terms of the way they view the world and their outlook on life. The more diversity in your team, the better chances of it being more balanced.
Getting the interview process right is the key to finding the ideal person to join your team. Take your time. Be thorough. And be fair. And in the end you might just find that special someone to help take your team to the next level!
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