Interviewing Face-to-Face I

I talked about telephone interviews in the last posting. Hopefully if you are in a hiring mode you will have started to implement telephone interviews as part of your process.

One thing I forgot to mention is that if you are using a headhunter then they should be doing the telephone interview. In fact you should provide them with a list of questions and inform them that you will not see any candidates of whom these questions haven’t been asked.

So you have conducted phone interviews and now you are ready to bring candidates in for interviews. If you have done things right you should have 3-4 candidates (no more, no less) that you are excited enough about to want to see in person.

The biggest challenge you will face initially is scheduling. To make an effective hiring decision you should try to interview all the candidates in one day. That way everyone is fresh in your mind and you can easily compare each candidate. If you spread things out over time you will tend to forget what earlier candidates said and you will find that the last candidate interviewed will be the “best” for some reason.

One of the biggest challenges and frustrations that headhunters face is getting clients to put some urgency into their hiring process. Often we will have candidates lined up and ready to go and the client can’t make time to see them for two weeks.

Look, we all understand how vitally important your day-to-day activity is to the company but if you can’t set aside some time immediately to hire someone who is going to make a crucial contribution to the team then just how important is filling this job really?

Don’t wait two weeks to start interviewing people. Remember candidates have their own agenda and the good ones are interviewing with other companies and other headhunters.
There is competition for good people and you know what? There should be. Good people are very very hard to find. So don’t sit on your ass get going – make this a priority. Clear a day from your schedule and start interviewing. Can’t clear a whole day? Well clear two half days. That way you can interview two people per day and make your decision by the end of day two.

When planning your interview schedule make sure not to squeeze the candidates too close together. Most people I know are lousy at estimating the time an interview will take. A common mistake is to assume each interview will be exactly one hour long and that you can schedule one candidate at 9 and one at 10 etc.

This is a big mistake. I guarantee you that your first interview will probably last one hour and 15 minutes. So you are already 15 minutes behind schedule right from the get go. By the end of the day your last candidate will be waiting for an hour before you get to him or her.

Here is how I do it. I plan for two hours per interview. That gives me plenty of time to run over and also gives me a buffer between each candidate so I can review the previous interview and also prepare for the next one. In addition it gives you some breathing room to answer any urgent voice mails or emails. Also it prevents candidates from encountering each other in the lobby which is very uncomfortable for them.

A good interview should take about 90 minutes unless you are interviewing for a very low level position. Some people invest a lot of time and effort into shortening the interview process. I don’t know why that is because this is a very crucial decision for you and the company. You should be 100% sure that this person is going to make a significant positive contribution to your company and if you can’t invest an extra 15-30 minutes up front to make sure that the person you hire is the best fit, then you aren’t a very good manager.

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