Sunday, October 15, 2006

How to Run an Interview

Every senior manager or a top level business executive will have to interview another peer or a middle level manager. In the knowledge driven economy, hiring the right manger is crucial for the organization. But given the current shortage of talent, companies cannot afford to lose a good candidate.

Here is a set of guidelines that will enable you to get the right candidate.

  • Know what you want

    Before you meet the candidate at an interview, clearly understand what you want. Define the post, define the role, have a clear set of expectations from the candidate. This will save everyone’s time and help you plan decent questions.

  • Be prepared for the interview

    Many managers are so busy that they don't prepare for the interview - and hope to ‘wing it’. Sharp & intelligent candidates will figure out that you are unprepared for the interview and may be put-off by the shoddy interview. Preparing for the interview will also help prevent the mistake of hiring the wrong candidate.

    At a manager level, the interview is a two way process. The candidate is also interviewing you and your organization. If your preparation is sloppy, it will create a negative impression on the potential candidate.

  • Get the room ready

    Ensure that the room is ready for the interview. This means booking the room in advance, having arrangements for water, coffee/tea during the interview, getting the white board and flip charts in place etc. The quality of the room and the facility can create a good impression on the candidate. This impression helps the candidate choose your organization if selected.

  • Be consistent but flexible

    When interviewing a bunch of candidates, it is a good practice to level the playing field by asking questions of equal difficulty. I often start off by investigating their resume and building on it. This allows me to frame questions which are relevant to their past experience and how that can be applied to the job for which they are being interviewed for.

  • Let them shine

    The main point in an interview is to let the interviewee do most of the talking. The best way to ensure that is to ask open ended questions such as: "What was the toughest challenge you faced in your current/previous jobs?", "What was the toughest decision you had to make in your work?" Etc. The idea is to let them speak - and then you can pickup from what they said.

  • Keep a record

    Maintain a record of the interview. Note down the answers, main points etc. during the interview process. The recording process must be objective - to the point that it should help you choose between different candidates, help you filter out unsuitable candidates and most of all, it will help you defend your decision - when explaining it internally to your organization.

  • Don’t Discriminate

    Discrimination of any sort can be dangerous. Legally your decision to choose a candidate over another (from different race/religion/sex/age group etc.) may be OK, but if any candidate files a discrimination case, then the reputation of your organization and your personal reputation within the company is at grave risk. The best policy is the let meritocracy win!

Closing Thoughts

For many managers, interview is a regular business process - some have acquired the art of interviewing, but in today’s busy world, even the best of the interviewers are prone for mistakes. Having a plan for the interview, getting the questions in place and conducting the interview with an eye for hiring the candidate is essential for the organization. In my past experience, I had heard one manager telling that he wanted to hire people who are smarter than him - this was an indication of his seriousness, his preparedness and his modesty. All these factors help in selecting a right candidate.

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