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Three Things You Won’t Learn About a Candidate from a Job Interview

by Jen Cohen Crompton

Three Things You Won’t Learn About a Candidate from a Job Interview image
Three Things You Won’t Learn About a Candidate from a Job Interview

When it comes to hiring new talent, recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers do their best to accurately evaluate potential candidates and determine whether they are the best fit for each job opening. By knowing the responsibilities of the position and the culture of the company, it is the responsibility of everyone on the hiring team to compare resumes to job requirements and settle on the talent that is the best fit.

After combing through resumes and cover letters and having some initial phone screens (usually conducted by recruiters, whether internal or external), the hiring team and the candidates enter what can be the most important part of the process—the job interview.

Creating and executing a job interview is an art. The interview must be carefully planned and strategically approached. Without careful planning, things can get missed during the process and you can wind up with an incomplete assessment of the candidate—a mistake that can cost time, money, and a lot of headaches.

Thankfully, there are ways to ensure a complete evaluation of prospective employees (or long-term contractors). That is, there are three things that hiring teams really won’t get at during the job interview—unless, of course, they implement strategies that focus directly on evaluating them.

1. Soft skills

Although an interview is obviously an interpersonal situation (at times, even, a small group situation), the one-on-one skills exhibited in this relatively artificial context differ from the soft skills someone will need when working productively in a team setting, skills that include the ability to communicate, collaborate, and deal with stress and/or conflict in a mature and constructive manner.

That being said, figuring out if someone possesses the particular soft skills they will need to succeed in your specific company environment and culture can be very challenging. At the same time, according to Steve Dempsey, VP of Recruiting at Aquent, finding our whether a candidate possesses or lacks these skills is critical to making a good hire.

“Hard skills and technical capabilities,” he says, “are not the leading reasons why candidates don’t make the cut. It really comes down to their soft skills: how their personalities, group management skills, and coping strategies jibe with the company culture.”

To evaluate this, Dempsey recommends having a skilled interviewer present the candidate with theoretical situations created with your specific organization and culture in mind and inviting the candidate to describe how they would navigate each situation. The interviewer should then evaluate the candidate based on his/her responses.

Another, potentially more accurate, option is to put the candidate in a mini-workgroup of employees, a group which would include those with whom the candidate would be directly working if hired. Ask the group to complete a short task and conduct a post-mortem where the team evaluates the candidate’s actions.

2. How Someone Actually Works

Steve also says that, too often, candidates will present him with a work sample without providing a full explanation of the their role in the project. Just because a candidate sends a link to a finished website as part of his/her portfolio, for example, doesn’t mean the candidate built the entire website! Dempsey explains that the candidate should clearly outline his or her role in the project in order to give you a full understanding of his/her capabilities and actual contributions to the business.

In addition, there is no harm (and, frankly, only benefit) in asking the candidate to complete a solo mini-project. After all, the best way to see a candidate’s actual work is to ask them to do some actual work for you! With an exercise like this, the interviewer can see the candidate “in action,” thus getting a better sense of their real work-style, habits, and approach to workload management—all things that can be key to their success as an employee.

3. Loyalty

Although no one can really tell the full scope of the loyalty of a person during an initial meeting, it is a characteristic that could take an employee from mediocre to exceptional if he/she acts on those loyal instincts.

One option for evaluating this characteristic is to ask probing questions that allude to how the candidate may or may not demonstrate team and company loyalty. The trick is to avoid asking loaded questions about ethics and morality, instead focusing on how the candidate has demonstrated loyalty in their personal and/or professional lives.

Getting It Right

Too often, hiring involves a lot of guesswork and gut-level reactions. This can especially be the case when interviews are conducted without formal structure and coordination. To remove the guesswork, you and the hiring team need to reflect on the specific soft skills and professional experience you are looking for in a candidate. You then need to construct an interview process in which the questions are designed to uncover those skills and the interviewers are trained on the types of responses they should be looking for.

If you coordinate your efforts, structure the process, and ask thoughtful questions, the candidate will provide you with the insight needed to make an informed, and successful, hiring decision.

Image Source: Bill Strain

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