- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
Hiring is often a stressful process. You go through all the work to parse resumes, select a handful of candidates you think will fit the bill, and invite them for an interview. But although an interview is ostensibly supposed to help you find the best employee for the job, there’s almost always the nagging feeling: did you really hire the right person?
Learning how to hire the right person is an exercise in patience and interpersonal analysis. There are several ways you can switch up the standard interview format to better your chances of selecting the perfect candidate for your needs. Let’s go over them now.
HAVE THE INTERVIEW AWAY FROM A DESK
Firstly, it’s a great idea to interview your candidate away from a traditional desk or closed office environment. Whether this means having the whole interview away from a desk or moving the interview out onto your business’ floor after the initial meet-and-greet is up to you.
The point of doing this is to see how your candidate reacts to a more flexible interview format. Chances are that they’ve been in other interviews before and are used to a simple song and dance where:
- they show up in an office
- they shake hands over a desk
- the answer a few questions
- they learn whether they have the job or can expect an offer
By changing the entire format of the interview, you throw the candidate off guard. Sound a little mean? Not really. You’re looking for the best person for the job, not someone to just fill a spot.
SEE HOW THE CANDIDATE REACTS TO OTHER PEOPLE
Related to the above, we’d strongly recommend taking your job interviewee out on your business floor or to lunch. Either way, have them interact with other people so you can see their social skills in action.
It’s arguably just as important that this potential team member gets along well with other people as they can also do the technical or material tasks of the position well. It’s not just enough to be an excellent software programmer, for example: any potential hire needs to also get along well with the rest of their future software team.
To this end, it’s a great idea to take your candidate around the business and show them all the rooms or people they may be working with. Introduce them a few times to different folks and see how they respond. Are they personable? Are they a little standoffish? If so, is there a reason for that and is it indicative of bigger social problems?
After the interview, you can also ask the people that the candidate spoke to what their impressions were. This may be a valuable way to gather feedback apart from your own biased perspective. It may also be particularly important to see whether the candidate’s future team members think that the potential hire will be a good fit.
ASK UNUSUAL QUESTIONS
The standard interview questions are essentially all known at this point, and candidates can practice them ad nauseam until they have answers down pat. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and you should keep a few wrote questions on your interview sheet for completion’s sake, we’d also recommend asking some unusual questions to shake things up.
Why does this help? It throws your candidate off guard which, as mentioned, is good so you can see what they are really made of outside of a constructed interview personality. Furthermore, it allows you to gain more of a specific look at their personality and how they think.
Consider asking wild questions like:
- What the candidate’s favorite color is?
- What’s their favorite animal?
- What’s their best work memory and worst work memory?
- What do they think of the latest summer blockbuster?
None of these questions actually pertain to your workplace. But they do give you a “soft” social insight: in other words, they help you develop a gut opinion about candidates.
ASK FOR MULTIPLE OPINIONS ABOUT A CANDIDATE
We touched on this a little bit above, but let’s reiterate to stress its importance: you should always ask for multiple opinions about a candidate. The best people to ask these questions are the folks who spoke to the candidate during their walk around the office.
However, you can also ask for more opinions about a candidate through reference checks. Speaking of which…
PERFORM EXTRA-THOROUGH REFERENCE CHECKS
The standard reference check, which might have you call one or two places on a resume and inquire as to whether a candidate was ever late, is often not enough to determine whether a candidate will be a good fit for your organization.
Instead, you should try to go the extra mile and be very thorough with your reference checks. If you have a candidate’s former boss on the line, ask them as many questions as you can imagine. Try to get a full picture of a person, and encourage the other boss not to hold anything back.
Even if there are mistakes that the candidate in question made in their past, that doesn’t automatically disqualify them from being hired now. Mistakes are part of professional and personal life. Even better, you can see whether a candidate was upfront about their weaknesses by inquiring about those things with their former bosses and coworkers.
It’s always good for optics to prioritize diversity these days. But it’s also a great thing for your business if you focus on diversity during the hiring process.
In a nutshell, diverse hiring allows you to bring multiple perspectives into your workplace. Different people have different life experiences and will examine problems from different perspectives. This is valuable since it means your business won’t be hampered by 20 employees who all see a problem the same way and can’t find a solution.
Consider the example of crash dummies for automobile safety tests. In past years, the vast majority of crash tester positions were held by men. They designed cars to be safe for their natural assumption: male drivers. The dummies they chose were the approximate size and weight of average men.
However, when female testers were eventually brought into certain companies, they discovered that cars were actually unsafe, more often than not, for women’s’ slighter, smaller frames. In this way, having a more diverse employee base would have resulted in safer automobiles for decades.
In the end, no one can be guaranteed to hire a perfect candidate every time. But emphasizing these techniques in your next interviews will help you nab a great candidate for your open position more often than not. These will also help you refine your interview technique so you have fewer “dud” employees overall.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell