Managing Humans: Interviewing

Today’s guest blog post is the second in a six-part series by Rachel Hands, Senior Manager, Client Administration, Patron Technology. Click here to read part one. 

In our first post in this series, we looked at how to write an accurate, inclusive job posting that sells your position to the right candidates. Now that your applications have started rolling in, it’s time to prepare for your next step: interviewing candidates.

If you don’t already have an applicant management system, there’s no better time to establish one. It doesn’t have to be fancy HR software; I personally use a combination of Trello and Google apps to manage applications for our Client Administration team. Here’s what I find valuable about it:

  • Keeping track of what phase each applicant is in: are we ready to do a screening, a first interview, a reference check?
  • Connecting my notes with the applicant’s resume and cover letter
  • Sharing the applicant’s resume and cover letter – but not my notes – with other colleagues participating in the interview process
  • Keeping an outline of my standard questions and the information I need to convey
  • Collecting feedback from colleagues in a way that’s consistent with our evaluation rubric (check out this Medium post for some inspiration)

Speaking of those colleagues who are participating in the interview process, how do you go about choosing who participates in the interview? If your organization has more than a few employees, you may be able to pick and choose from among your staff; if you’re a solo or two-person operation, you might want to rope in a board member or two to round things out.

When asking colleagues to participate in interviews, I look for a few factors I consider “must-haves”:

  • Does this person understand the requirements of the position we’re hiring for?
  • Do I trust this person to give me their candid feedback? (If the person thinks I really like a candidate, will they be willing to give me their concerns?)
  • Do I trust this person to evaluate candidates in the best interest of the team?

Okay, so now you’ve gathered your team, and you’re ready to prepare your questions. We won’t go too deeply into the specific questions you should (and shouldn’t) ask, since those will vary substantially for every position, and some legal considerations vary by location. However, I do recommend using the same inclusiveness guidelines we talked about in our previous post: ask only about attributes of the candidate that are directly related to their ability to do the job.

Once you’ve gathered your questions, there is one more thing to prepare for: the questions the candidate will have for you. When a candidate has good questions prepared or is able to think of good questions quickly, it tells you a lot about their level of engagement in the job and curiosity about the way your organization works. Here are a few that you should have a ready (truthful!) answer for:

  • What’s the most challenging thing about this job?
  • Where do you see the organization in five years? (Be candid about this, even if your organization doesn’t change much from year to year.)
  • What do you like about working here? (This can be a tough one to answer in the moment, especially if you’re hiring during a particularly stressful moment or because you’re understaffed – but this is your chance to both “sell” the position and if needed, to remind yourself why you do the work.)

There may be other questions that work as “tells” for a good candidate for the role you’re interviewing for – you don’t need to brainstorm them in advance, but do take note of them when you hear them. A good question is worth a lot.

All right! After your interviews are done, you’ve checked all the references, you’ve hired your star candidate – now what? In our next post, we’ll take a look at mentorship and cultivating individual relationships on your team.

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