Mature professionals with the right experience are usually wary of jumping for the first position they are offered. They’re more concerned about the kind of company they join, and the work they will be expected to do. They know there’ll be other companies keen to hire them, and they are usually in a position to be able to wait for the right offer. In such an interview, the candidate is evaluating you or your company as much as you are evaluating them. It’s critical to show that you value their knowledge and opinions, and that you can offer a good interview experience.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW:
• TALK TO EVERYONE.
If your recruitment agency or someone you trust recommends a high level executive, consider having a chat with them, even if you don’t have a position open at the moment. If you find that they are a good fit for the organization, you have a ready list of options when you do have a position open or when the funding is available. It may be possible to create a role for them if their talents are in line with what your company needs. In addition, they feel like they are being valued, and may start considering your company.
• DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
If you have arranged an interview with a candidate, do spend some time going through their details. While it is one thing to glance through a resume before interviewing a junior candidate, it should be different when you’re meeting someone with more experience. Understanding their work history or being able to discuss their big projects or portfolio makes them feel like your company appreciates their merit, and will also give you a perspective on what to talk to them about.
At this point, it might be worthwhile doing a quick reference and background check. In this age of digital access, it shouldn’t be hard to find some details about your candidate and see if they match his or her resume.
• CONSIDER WHAT YOUR COMPANY NEEDS, NOT WHAT THE CANDIDATE IS OFFERING.
Before you meet a candidate, no matter how great his or her experience is, spend some time understanding the requirements of the role. And this means, not just the expectations and deliverables, but the ‘soft skills’ also. This will help you go into the interview with an idea of what you’re looking for and what red flags to watch for.
DURING THE INTERVIEW:
• IF POSSIBLE, CREATE A TASK FOR THE CANDIDATE TO COMPLETE.
Giving the candidate a task like making a presentation or interacting with a team member for a project is a great way of assessing how they would approach a daily requirement if hired. It allows you to see how they interact with other people, if that is part of their role, or how they perform under limited guidance.
• EXPLAIN THE ROLE AND ITS CHALLENGES.
A high level talent will have more questions for you than just about the role and expectations. Do make a full explanation of the role and what is expected from the candidate if they were to join. Don’t leave out the hard parts. When you are honest about problems your company has, you have a chance to judge how they react to this and if they’re willing to see themselves as part of a team to work it out. You could phrase it in a manner that asks how they see themselves using their skills or talent to help fix it.
Also, if the role being offered has some drawbacks, do mention this at the beginning. This works to avoid any surprises once the candidate has joined. You don’t want to go through the process all over again.
• BRING IN OTHER TEAM MEMBERS.
For upper management candidates, do ask your other team members to be a part of the decision making. Your understanding of the candidate’s personality and skills can be enlarged with different perspectives. Do remember that interviewers are likely to feel a bias toward someone who is very similar to themselves, but should be able to work by the same values as your company, not its members.
• ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS ABOUT SOFT SKILLS.
It’s relatively easier to judge a person on their past experience. But you’re also looking for someone who can work with a team, work with clients, and work with emergencies and deadlines looming. Phrase your questions about behavioral attitudes in an open-ended manner so that the candidate has to talk to explain themselves. Make sure you respond in a noncommittal manner so as not to guide the interviewee.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.
Everyone is at their best for an interview. Resumes can be ‘creatively edited’. References can be set up. The only failsafe metric you have for judgment is your own instincts about a candidate. If you feel there is a chance that a candidate is not being truthful about something or is not the right type for the company, do a little follow-up work or call for a second interview to make sure.
MAKING AN OFFER:
• BE HONEST WITH THE CANDIDATE.
When you make an offer, do explain to the candidate why they’re being hired. This is helpful because it allows a candidate to understand what the company will expect of them. It is especially true in the case of a candidate who wasn’t exactly what you were looking for, but has a trait that made you hire them. When you make the offer, do explain that you appreciate a particular merit, but you would like them to undergo a training period or develop a specific skill set once they join.
• FILL IN AN ASSESSMENT SHEET.
It’s a good practice to create a form to fill in after an interview. The template should be team- and role-specific, and allow you to grade candidates based on the skills and knowledge you’re looking for. Jot down a few notes that will remind you of salient points in the interview. This helps when meeting multiple candidates in a day.
An interview that is researched and well-planned can be an interesting experience for both candidate and interviewer. It takes time and effort, but it’ll be worth it many times over to find the right fit for your company.