How to interview job applicants

Austin Blackburne, regional director of Hays, shares some tips on how to interview job applicants and ensure the right candidate is hired.

As more job seekers seek environments where they are culturally aligned, hiring managers these days need to approach interviews in a slightly different way. Austin Blackburne, regional director of Hays Facilities Management, shares some tips on how to interview job applicants and ensure the right candidate is hired.

The job applicant of 10 years ago, even five years ago, is not the same as the job applicant of today. Not only has what’s important to people changed, but from our own experience we know that today’s job seekers want to work in an environment in which they are aligned culturally and where they will have an opportunity to advance and develop their skills. This is a huge shift in mind set and explains why hiring managers today need to approach interviews in a slightly different way.

Before interviewing a potential new employee, it’s important to prepare. Firstly and most obviously, consider the questions you can ask to test if a candidate has the right technical skills and capabilities required for the job in question. Identify the important skills and experience you need, then draft competency or targeted selection questions for each.

For example; you could ask what sites are currently included in the job applicant’s portfolio. The sites and portfolios worked on, from prestigious offices to manufacturing sites, can indicate the value of the contracts this person can manage and their level of presentation, contract management and stakeholder engagement skills, which are increasingly important.

Another example question to ask is if the applicant has any quotations or estimation experience, which is sought more and more for bids and tender teams. Operations managers are also increasingly expected to be able to quote and win new business. You should also know what you can and can’t ask in relation to equal employment opportunity guidelines.

Next, make sure you are familiar with the applicant’s CV, background and general experience. Some employers use blogs, LinkedIn and other online content to find out more about an applicant before meeting them in person.

When it comes time for the actual interview, be punctual and set the tone. A good way to open the interview is to thank the applicant for coming and explain how the interview will proceed. Make sure you ask the same questions of every interviewee so you have a comparable set of responses to consider. Make notes to help you evaluate applicants later.

Don’t forget to ask behavioural questions to determine a job seeker’s cultural fit. This is important since cultural fit can’t be taught and ensures a new recruit will integrate into your existing team and has an intrinsic understanding of your organisation’s business values and way it operates. A candidate with the right cultural fit also has a greater chance of being retained long-term.

Interestingly, today cultural fit is as important to job seekers as it is to employers, so expect your interviewee to ask you questions of their own to ensure they’re culturally aligned and their style of working suits your organisations.

It’s also advisable to come into an interview knowing what’s important to job seekers in a new role so that you recruit someone you can retain long-term. Based on a recent survey of ours of 1516 people, 61 per cent said the number one reason they look for another job is for more challenging or exciting work.

This was followed closely by a lack of career development (60 per cent), the opportunity to improve salary (58 per cent) and work-life balance (54 per cent).  Also cited were a lack of recognition or reward for completed work (43 per cent) and a feeling that the current job feels routine and is stagnating existing skills (41 per cent).

Clearly then giving people challenging work and the opportunity to advance and develop their skills are important. But remember, everyone is different so ask some questions to determine what motivates and is likely to retain this job applicant – and, crucially, if these are factors you can provide.

Another common interview question today asks a candidate to describe a time they had to be open and flexible to change. This is becoming increasingly important to employers given the rapid rate of technological change impacting all industries.

At the conclusion of the interview, give the candidate the chance to ask their own questions. Then explain what happens next and how long your decision is likely to take.  Thank them for their time.

Finally, if you are not sure about somebody or cannot decide between two applicants, call them in for a second interview and ask them to bring a one page submission on why they want the job and how they could contribute to the organisation. This never fails to determine just how much they want it.

This first appeared in the July/August issue of INCLEAN Magazine. To subscribe, click here

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