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Interviewing candidates? 3 tips to ensure you hire the right person.

by Simon Spaull on Sep 22, 2016

There are many resources out there on how to succeed if you’re being interviewed, but not so many that explain how to be successful if you are the interviewer. In the course of a relatively short conversation, how do you determine if someone is a good fit with the position and company? It’s not as easy as you’d think, and making the wrong call can be damaging to any team or business.

Having interviewed hundreds of of candidates in numerous countries, hired many people around the world, and spent three years in recruitment, I’ve arrived at some particular methods for identifying a good match in the interview stage.  Whilst most of my experience comes from the management, sales or client development side, many of these tips are applicable when assessing candidates for a wide range of roles. Here are my top tips:

Tip 1: Be prepared!

I take the time to find out about the candidate in two ways: online profiles and the good old fashioned CV or résumé. Indeed, while many people think that CVs and résumés are outdated, and therefore only give them a superficial glance a few minutes before an interview,  I believe they are still useful and relevant. Moreover, if someone has taken the time to prepare a CV, it shows respect if you take the time to read it.

When I’m looking over a candidate’s credentials, here’s what I look out for, in addition to background, experience, qualifications and general company fit:

  1. Do they sell themselves? This might seem slightly obvious, especially in a sales capacity, but I’m still amazed by the number of CVs I read that don’t list any achievements. I therefore look for CVs that list both responsibilities and achievements.  
  2. Longevity. Do they show commitment to roles or switch regularly? Have they ever been promoted internally? If they have been promoted, especially internally, this shows great character and proof they’ve impressed and deserved more responsibility.
  3. Consistency. Do all their dates, experiences line up across their social profiles and CV? I’ve interviewed candidates whose timelines in particular roles did not align across sources. Usually it’s just a mistake, but it’s worth being on the lookout for.  

Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to ask genuinely tough questions.

It’s worth assessing in an interview if the candidate can think on his or her feet, especially under pressure. Here are some of my favourite questions that can test that.

  1. What does success look like to you, and how do you measure it?
  2. If I contacted one of your clients now, what would they say about you?
  3. Tell me about one of your biggest challenges in life and how did you overcome it?
  4. What are you most excited about learning?
  5. What’s half of ninety nine? (I was asked this early on in my career, and not when we were discussing numbers or maths. It made me quickly think on my feet. Now I ask it frequently. You’ll be amazed by how many answer with forty five!)
  6. What do you know about our company? What do you know about me?
  7. What would you like to do better? What’s your plan for improving?
  8. What did you learn last week?
  9. What are your strengths and weaknesses? (I appreciate this typically gets clichéd responses, but I like to see candidates who can self analyse — it’s  a very important trait for continued development).
  10. When you tell your employer you’re looking to move on, what do you think they’ll say?

Then, when it comes to the part where I invite them to ask me questions, I take note of whether or not they’re making the questions up on the spot or if they’ve  properly researched the company and are asking intelligent, well thought out questions. Candidates who don’t demonstrate that they’ve done some investigations of their own raise doubts: Are they serious about the opportunity?

Tip #3: Look for ‘the close’

This one is particularly important when  hiring sales people: Do they try to ‘close’ the interview? Sales people by their very nature should be natural at closing business. After all, the interview is a typical sales environment — a candidate is just selling themselves instead of a product or service.  So, I expect them to ask something along these lines:

  1. Who else have you interviewed?
  2. What are the next stages after this interview?
  3. Of the candidates you’ve liked so far and who are continuing to the next part of the interview process, what did you like about their backgrounds and character?  
  4. Are there any reasons or concerns as to why I wouldn’t be considered for this next stage?

This is a great line of questioning from the candidate, demonstrating the ability to raise and discuss objections, overcome them and close the interview. Something that, for sales people, should be in their DNA!

Successfully interviewing candidates for positions takes skill and practice, just like it does if you’re a candidate interviewing for a position. But if you’ve prepared by doing a “deep dive” into the candidate’s background and qualifications, and if you commit to asking challenging questions, you’ll get a good sense of whether or not someone is a fit. Finally, if you’re hiring for a sales position, look out for the “close”!

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