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What You Must Do To Successfully Evaluate Everyone You Interview

By Author: Eileen Smith
Total Articles: 4

You have a high profile opening on your team and have to hire the right candidate who blends technical savvy, strong communication and interpersonal skills and fits right into your fast paced, crazy busy culture.  Oh, and they have to hit the ground running with zero learning curve because there is no time to offer training and development. 
To increase the odds of finding the best candidate and avoid hiring someone who could be dreadful on your team, you need to fine tune how you evaluate candidates.  To assess who will be the best fit for your team you must recognize potential to identify a successful candidate and screen out the below average people who may say the right things but won’t deliver on their promise.
 Maintain accurate interview notes
Just as texting and driving are dangerous as it causes distracted driving, distracted interviewing will also cause problems with how you gather facts during an interview.  A key part of interviewing is staying focused and taking accurate notes.  In the sample interview notes below, notice actual behaviors and assumptions from the interviewer.  Make sure you have supporting detail from the candidate before you determine an actual behavior.  If you are not clear, probe and clarify a candidate’s comments so you don’t make an assumption about their experience instead of making a decision based on facts about their fit for the role.
Sample Interview Notes:                               

Improved morale on team by offering flextime          (actual behavior)             
Has two direct reports, must be a good leader          (assumption)                             
Gave examples of how she increased productivity     (actual behavior)             
Led a project independently and met timelines               (actual behavior)
Deals with budgets, good with numbers                   (assumption)                                        
Seems shy, may have difficulty dealing with others  (assumption)        

Assumptions will not guide you to make the best hiring decision.  Get evidence for each response.  When you’re in a meeting with your manager and peers to discuss who you should hire, you want to lead with examples of actual behaviors and evidence.   When the candidate offers less evidence when further questioned you will have just cause for potential concerns about their fit.  Defer judgment until you have completed the interview and can summarize findings, look for trends and reflect on all feedback.
Consider the following three examples of a successful, average and below average candidate.    While no candidate is perfect there are some clues candidates share on interviews that can determine future potential.
Successful candidates are confident, intelligent and have authentic examples of a strong track record for every question you ask.  They show pride when discussing their experience and enthusiasm when considering their future.  Consistently demonstrates integrity, team work, excellent communication and drive.  Shares examples of demonstrated edge to make tough calls, problem solve and remove obstacles.  They tend to answer questions using real life examples of how they solve problems, manage difficult customers or meet tight timelines.  These candidates tend to be rare and in high demand. These candidates tend to do their homework and come armed with insightful questions on the role, leadership style, growth potential, organization and how it compares to competitors and most of all, why they should work with you.  
 Average candidates may demonstrate solid experience but may not be as insightful as the more successful candidate.  An average candidate may lack experience or be unable to define a complex strategy in detail.  Average candidates can do very good work if expectations are clearly defined and consistent training is offered.  An average candidate can be open minded and able to find a new solution to a problem.   This candidate can meet key consistency expectations.  It’s important to remember that many “average” candidates can quickly soar with the right encouragement, mentoring and training and development.  There are also “average” candidates who are growing into the “successful” role.  If their experience matches the job description and they fit into the organization’s culture and were able to offer strong feedback to each interview question, they could be a solid candidate.
Below average candidates typically have difficulty concisely answering questions during interviews.  They may either give short answers that need more probing or offer verbose responses that lack appropriate details. While it’s always important to give a candidate a little time to warm up during the interview and encourage more feedback or redirect a long response, there comes a point when they need to fully respond to questions with detailed feedback.
Below average candidates may share examples indicating they embrace tradition over forward thinking and share how they are reluctant to change preferring the status quo. They may talk about frustration in dealing with complex, fast paced situations.  When they describe problems without offering solutions, you need to probe for proof of their qualifications in dealing with the types of challenges they’d face on your team.  When they describe learning new tasks, look for signs that they enjoy new responsibilities or is it something they tolerate.  Are they very negative in describing their manager or employer?  While none of us has an ideal work situation, I’m always leery of candidates that feel the interview is the time to get on a soap box to air all their work related complaints.  Bad mouthing a current manager or employer shows poor judgment rather than candor and total honesty the candidate may have been targeting.
Look for candidates to share frustration over change and new processes.  Does the experience they describe seem like theirs alone or was it more team based with them in a minor role.  Sometimes you really have to drill down and question their role to learn how much or little of a part they had on a project.  Some candidates pad their resume with industry key words regardless if they have the actual work experience.  Below average candidates tend to give more theoretical responses (sounding straight out of an interview guide book) than real life examples of how they handled a situation.
Always probe for more details to ensure you have the full picture of the candidate’s experience.  Do not settle for vague responses or unclear answers to your questions.  If you have doubt about the candidate’s ability to do the job well evaluate the interview responses and consider your concern against fit.  Give the candidate a fair chance to prove their ability but ensure you have the facts needed to evaluate their fit to do the job well.
Eileen Smith is the author, coach and CEO of The Recruiting Advisor, LLC which offers recruiters the tools to showcase expertise, gain fast credibility and boost their career to new heights at http://www.therecruiteradvisor.com.    Contact Eileen at eileen@therecruiteradvisor.com

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