Job interviews can be very intimidating, even for seasoned candidates. To get the very best out of every candidate your questions should be challenging but fair at the same time – after all, you don’t want to waste your time on candidates who have the wrong expectations, are not fully prepared or are not actually qualified.
To be truly fair, the hiring process needs to be free from discrimination. George Alpert Tarca, Managing Director of RGF Executive Search Philippines, suggests achieving this by asking all candidates the exact same questions. He says this can help safeguard the interview process from bias, and notes that you should avoid asking questions that pop into your mind so that you can ensure an unprejudiced comparison of candidates.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to interviewing fairly and effectively. Here are more tips on how to prepare and conduct effective and fair interviews with senior candidates:
Give candidates time to prepare
Before meeting any senior candidate, you should give them both enough time and adequate information to prepare. As you typically don't have much more than an hour or two to interview the candidate, you shouldn’t waste your time with basic questions about the role or your business. Use the interview to zoom into the details.
In order to make the most of your time with the candidates, give them details about the role, your company and your expectations prior to the interview. Doing this helps ensure the candidates you interview are fully informed and up for the challenge. Ideally, you could also give them a small task prior to the interview in order to see how they tackle it. Likewise, you should do your research on the candidate and come prepared with specific, personalised questions.
Discuss strategic challenges
To get a better understanding of how senior candidates think about and approach challenges, outline an issue that your business is currently facing during the interview. Although there is no need to go into the exact details, provide them with sufficient background information and resources for them to get a complete overview of the challenge.
Then, ask the candidate how they would tackle the challenge given the circumstances. While you shouldn’t expect them to solve your business solution in just a few minutes, this exercise will reveal whether they are able to think strategically, if they can grasp a long-term vision and how they approach solutions. This question could also be expanded into a written exercise or homework for the candidate, if you’d like to continue the conversation with them or use it to determine if they will be invited for a second interview.
Ask about tough decisions
Whether you like it or not, senior leaders in most businesses will have to make very hard decisions during their tenure, be it managing a crisis with a client or having to let go of an employee. Asking the candidate to describe the toughest decision they have had to make in their career will give you an idea of whether he or she has had the relevant experience – or, if not the exact experience, the type of perspective – that’s necessary to face the challenges of this role and in your business.
Talk about past missteps
Nobody is perfect. However, not everyone is able to recognise mistakes, accept them and learn a valuable lesson as a result. Get your senior candidate talking about a mistake they have made in their current role or a time when their supervisor criticised their work. Then ask them how they reacted and dealt with it?
This is not meant to expose the candidate or make them feel defensive, but rather to give them the opportunity to show self-awareness. If they are able to talk openly about their mistakes and learning experiences, they will likely be open to critical feedback from those in your company. After all, the last thing you want is someone who is too narrow-minded to acknowledge his or her faults and mistakes.
Learn about their approach to collaboration
Regardless of experience and seniority, every employee in your company should be able to collaborate with others. However, not everyone is a great team-player. To find out whether the person you are interviewing fits into your team, you should get them to talk about how they collaborate with other people, teams and departments.
The best way to gauge this is to have them describe what makes a good team-player. Other questions, such as how they have dealt with difficult co-workers or subordinates in the past can also help to reveal how they feel about teamwork.
List must-have skills
Create a level playing field for everyone and establish a qualification checklist that has been aligned with stakeholders in your company. You can use this to pre-qualify candidates and shortlist the most suited ones for the role. When it comes to interviewing, use a scorecard that clearly defines numeric values in conjunction with the job description, competencies, performance objectives, and skills. It will help you to assess candidates empirically based on their scores. This way of assessing candidates provides balance in all areas and guarantees that you have looked at everything that is critical in choosing the right candidate.
Establish a value-based process
To avoid discrimination throughout the hiring process, you should develop a value-based approach to hiring decisions. Take your company’s values and clearly define what they mean and how they should be reflected in your senior leadership team. For example, ‘innovation’ may mean ‘the willingness to fail, reflect and improve’ for your company. To put this into practice during the interview, Tarca suggests using a scorecard. “A scorecard is one of the tools that helps me achieved unbiased interviews,” he said. “Using a rating system with clearly defined numeric values that are linked to the job description, competencies, performance objectives and skills will aid you in assessing candidates empirically based on their scores, and guarantees you have looked at everything that is critical in choosing the right candidate.”
While having established guidelines for your hiring process is crucial, it’s equally important to continuously collect feedback, review and adapt your hiring process. It’s only through flexibility and the willingness to improve that a company and its employees will succeed.
Unintentional predisposition is an instinctive human attribute and can lead to unsuitable selection in the hiring process. However, if you honestly aspire to find the best person for the job, it’s indispensable that you commit to actions that will facilitate you become an impartial interviewer and objectively evaluate every candidate you’re taking into consideration.
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