Managing the Search (Part Two)

by Luke Miller

You’re busy. You have a number of job responsibilities, and a to-do that gets a little longer each day. And now you’re tasked with hiring a new employee. How will you find the time to search for applicants, read through dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes, and communicate with your top candidates?

Last week we looked at the best ways to cast a narrow net and to quickly sort applicants into easily manageable groups. How does a busy professional, like yourself, manage the interview process? I’m glad you asked.

Pick up the Phone

Once you’ve identified which candidates you feel would be a good fit, you most likely have a few key questions that you want answered sooner rather than later. You probably would like to get a feel for the applicant’s personality as well. I’ve found that the best way to accomplish both goals is to make an unscheduled telephone call to the applicant.

Catching a candidate off-guard with an impromptu call will provide you with some really good information - like how much do they know about the organization to which they’ve just applied. I once called someone we considered to be a great match for a position we were hiring for, but, after chatting with her, I realized that she had no idea who we were and she had blindly applied for the position. A few minutes into the conversation, it became clear that our position was not actually what she was looking for.

These are some of the types of questions I may ask on the call:

- How did you hear about the organization/position?
- What makes you want to apply for this position?
- I noticed you have experience in X, why are you applying for Y?
- I see you’re currently living in Colorado, are you planning to relocate to Texas?
- Are you currently employed?
- Why did you leave your last job?

Many of these questions will be repeated in an interview, but this initial conversation can be helpful in eliminating (or elevating) some candidates before they ever come in. Again, in today’s job market, it’s very common to have people send their resumes to any and every open position they find, even when they may not be interested in the job.

Bring Them In

Initiating a conversation with the candidate over the phone saves you a ton of time that could be wasted by bringing in every applicant who looks good on paper.  Assuming the call goes well, I try to schedule an in-person interview over the phone. They’ve already answered the above “qualifying” questions, and now it’s time to dig in. During the in-office interview, I try to fill in any remaining gaps. I tend to be straight-forward, but probing.

Some of my favorite interview questions are:

- Do you prefer to work on projects individually or with a team?
- Who would you say was your best boss? Why?
- What excites you about this position/organization?
- You probably have your own favorite questions as well.

I aim for questions where I can learn more about the person by how they answer the question rather than what they give as a response. For instance, most jobs will require an employee to work o their own some, but also require them to work well with a team. I ask the first question (above) to hear how they negotiate those two.

Finding the right person for your opening and your organization will take time and energy, but it doesn't have to be unmanageable. Cast a narrow net and search deeply for the right kinds of candidates, organize incoming resumes into well-defined groups, make initial phone calls to determine applicants' fitness the job, and make the most of your interview time by asking good questions and providing space for the candidate's questions.