Interested in becoming an MB Interim Leader?For more information, please visit www.mbinterim.com.
Is Preparation Missing in Your Interview Room?Posted by Rod McDermott
We focus at length upon the need for quality preparation by candidates engaged in the interview process. As we stated, “everyone knows the basics of interviewing” and then shared some of the key points the hiring manager would, or should, expect in the discussion with a candidate:
- Industry knowledge supported by research
- Company knowledge driven by investigative research beyond just the company website
- Being prepared to answer questions (to do that, the candidate has to anticipate)
- Thoughtful questions about the industry, company, executives, position, and work environment
- Managing objections that stem from a candidate’s skills, expertise, experience, accomplishments, and capabilities
- Demonstrating a commitment to the opportunity, the company, and the industry
Just as for candidates, this can serve as an equally strong starting point for hiring managers and those charged with interviewing responsibilities. The purpose of this article is not to address the technical and legal questions to ask, rather, it is to speak to the need to be as prepared for each interview as you would expect from the candidate.
In taking a look at the basics, as an interviewing manager, you need to have in-depth knowledge of the position, the company culture, the career path, the critical objectives as well as the overall objectives of the position, the industry benchmarks for this type of position, and the expectations of direct reports, peers, customers, and superiors. As part of the preparation, having an organizational chart to show the position’s fit within the company is a critical and often a forgotten element. Many hiring managers go beyond the position description and try to visualize or paint a picture of what the ideal candidate will “look” like. Among the many considerations in this, they will include skills, industry expertise and company pedigree, education, challenges faced and managed, demeanor, and presentation skills. One HR executive we have worked with consistently teaches her executives to draft a set of must haves and a set of nice to haves, ranking the components on each list. A CEO of a major retail client convenes a meeting of his direct reports to ask their participation in mapping out the position and the characteristics of the ideal candidate. All of this takes place before the hiring manager begins to contemplate the structure of the interview.
What about the actual time with the candidate? It is essential to plan the interview in three phases: the introduction to overview the company and the position, questions to ask, and answering the candidate's questions. The more critical the position, the more time you will need to expect to spend in the interview meetings with the candidates. In working to build out the senior executive team for a rapidly scaling enterprise, a VP of HR that we work with creates a comprehensive questionnaire for each position. She uses this to apply consistency from one candidate to the next. Based upon the length of the questionnaire, she calculates the time needed for the interviews, often spreading them over two interview meetings. “I use the answers to the questionnaire to prepare a candidate summary while it’s still fresh in my mind.” While many of her questions cover the position-specific needs, she also asks the candidates:
- Why are you in this industry?
- Why are you interested in our company?
- Why is this the kind of position you aspire to and could you retire from this position?
- What are your goals?
- What does the term “success” mean to you?
- How would a close friend describe you? A business associate?
As you begin to wind up the conversation, allow for enough time to answer questions. Here again, preparation is essential. Try to anticipate candidate questions and prepare answers for them. The goal is to respond with information that is thoughtful, on message, and consistent from one candidate to the next. Try to avoid rushing through the answers so that a candidate is encouraged to ask as many questions as possible since the quality of these questions will speak volumes about the individual and his/her approach to investigation.
Once the interview is completed, take the time to compose a summary. Since the candidates will very likely be spread over several days, it is important to have an accurate assessment to refer to when evaluating each candidate as you make your decision about next steps.
It is a time-consuming, detailed process that best draws out the necessary information in the interview process. A candidate we recently placed as CFO said, “Getting ready for an interview is like preparing for final exams. You only get one chance to earn an ‘A’ on the exam and it’s the same for interviews.” This is true for the candidate as well as the hiring manager.
Click here to return to the McDermott & Bull Executive Search home page.
Please Excuse Our Mess!
We're still in the process of updating our site bringing new features that will improve your experience here at McDermott & Bull, but we're happy to announce you can once again register for events if you're already a member of the Executive Network.
Thank you for your understanding, and sorry for the inconvenience!