Interviewing can be a scary and daunting task, especially if you haven’t done much of it in the past. As the interviewer, you’re in charge and driving the conversation. While you’re trying to keep things moving in the right direction, you’re also trying to gather enough information about the candidate and how they might fit (or not) into your company and role that you’re hiring for.
Make the wrong decision and you could create pain and misery for months to come, even ruin the company if its one of your first hires and you make a bad decision.
You also don’t get very much time to assess this individual from head to toe, so everything you do and say must be optimized to get the most out of your time together.
Before the interview, you can set yourself up to be more efficient in the actual interview by gathering and reviewing information about the candidate. You should have a resume and potentially a cover letter or application before the interview that you can review, as well as information from online sources.
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools that can be used ahead of the interview to allow you to do some pre-work. Find the individual on LinkedIn and do a few things –
- See if you have common connections. If you do, you can reach out to the people you are connected to and gather information.
- Compare the resume to the LinkedIn profile. People often target resumes to a specific job where the LinkedIn profile is more generic. If the resume is far off from what shows on LinkedIn, it’s probable that the resume has been “padded” to meet your job description.
- Look for things that show up on LinkedIn that aren’t on the resume. Sometimes these make great talking points for figuring out the person that you’re talking to.
Pick a couple things on the resume that you can dive deep into. Try and pick things that are a little more obscure if possible. Ask detailed questions, and follow up with deeper questions based on the answers to the initial questions.
Your goal here is to establish trust in the information the person has presented on their resume and other sources. If you can feel good that they are being honest about the obscure things, you can trust they are being honest with the more obvious things.
Assessing Their Learning Ability
If a person enjoys learning and is adaptable, this is a good sign that they will be a good employee, especially in a world where technology is playing a bigger and bigger part in how we work and is always changing.
Ask some questions around learning they had to do in their current or previous roles. Why did they need to learn? How did they go about doing it? What did they get from it?
Technical Skills vs. Soft Skills
The difference between technical skills and soft skills becomes an important distinction in the interview process. Technical skills relate to executing the specific work on an individual basis. Can this person use Salesforce? Does this person know how to build Facebook ads? Does this person know how to program in Java?
Soft skills relate to doing the work within an organization. Can this person communicate well? Do they work well with others? Can they work across multiple teams or juggle multiple projects? Does this person handle conflict well?
In the interview process, you should be assessing both from a specific viewpoint; which skills do you want to have to teach this person?
Three Questions to Ask Yourself
In a perfect world, everyone you interview is a unicorn and is awesome at every single thing you could possibly want. In the real world, perfect candidates are rare, and you might not be able to afford them anyway. You’re going to have to make concessions, and there will be things that you’ll need to teach even the greatest of employees.
What you need to do is ask yourself a few questions –
What are you able to teach?
What are you willing to teach?
What is easier to teach?
Personally, I have found it much easier to teach technical skills than soft skills. I would much rather teach someone how to be an expert in Excel than how to communicate properly with customers. I would rather teach someone how to administer Salesforce than how to keep your cool in a tense disagreement with coworkers.
The soft skills are often overlooked as people tend to focus on “can this person technically perform this job?” This is backwards and as long as the person can learn (which is why we assess that second), having soft skills is more important than crossing off all the technical skills desired for a role.
By doing some pre-work, establishing trust at the start of the interview, and then assessing the skills that are harder to teach, even if they aren’t the technical skills, you’ll ensure a higher success rate with the employees you bring on and more efficiently use your interview time on the things that matter the most in making a successful hire!
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