Superstars required. But how do you hire them? Robert Smith of recruitment consultant Hays Montrose explains.
Employing someone to do a job is not just about filling a position. You’re making an important investment in your company. But are your positions being filled by the highest quality individuals? To be an effective manager, you must have the right employees behind you. No amount of training can overcome all the problems the wrong individual can bring to a job. So, to hire the right employee, you need to get as much out of the interview stage as possible.

Where do I begin?

Preparation is the key. You will already have an idea of someone’s strengths and weaknesses from their application form and CV. Key points to look out for are: how similar were the responsibilities of their previous job to the one you are offering? How recent was their experience? How long did they stay in their jobs?

How can I create a good impression and make the interviewee feel at ease?

Make sure you leave the candidate’s name at reception on the day of the interview. If you forget, it casts a bad light on your organisation, and does not make the interviewee feel welcome.

Prepare the interview room in a way that will encourage the interviewee to relax and talk more personally. Choose a place where you will not be disturbed. Rather than sitting behind the intimidating barrier of a desk, perhaps you could relax in easy chairs.

What is the best way to open an interview?

Start by explaining how long the session will be, what will be involved (for example, a test or a separate interview with human resources) and what your objectives are. Let them know that you welcome questions. If you are going to take notes, warn the candidate at the start. Ask whether they object to any of these things. This will help gain their trust and put them at ease.

Is taking notes too off-putting?

Not at all. No one has a perfect memory, so note-taking makes good sense. You will have information to hand when it is time to make a decision, rather than trying to retain an impression of the applicant. Not taking notes may reduce a good interviewee to the memory of the initial handshake or smile.

How can I find out whether the candidate can take on the responsibility of the post?

You need to ask questions that identify what they have done, rather than what they imagine they could do. Weed out those who are just talk by asking concrete questions, such as: “Tell me about the largest sale you made and how you did it.” Asking “What makes you think you can sell?” encourages a woolly response. Avoid closed questions such as: “Did you leave your last company for career progression?” Try to give candidates the impression they are doing well. Be impressed by positive accomplishments and try to understand the reasons for problem areas.

What should an interviewer avoid?

Imagine how you’d feel if your dream candidate was so put off by the image of your company you projected that they preferred to work elsewhere – for less money. You can avoid this by, for example, never criticising colleagues, the previous incumbent or your superiors.

How should you wrap up the interview?

Encourage the candidate to ask questions or comment, so that they have a fair chance to present their capabilities. If you feel sure that they are unsuitable for the job, don’t leave them in suspense. Explain tactfully that you don’t think the job is right for them. If they are suitable, explain the follow-up process and give them some idea of when they will hear the result.

For further advice on getting the most out of an interview, call Paul France at Hays Montrose Consultancy Services on 0171-931 7714.