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Three ways to get straight to the point

By Lee-Martin Seymour

In HR, we’re tasked with hiring the best and brightest – it’s one of the most important parts of the job, because, as we all know, a business is only as good as its people. However, recruiting the right personnel can also be the most challenging part of the job.

HR professionals come across a lot of great and not-so-great candidates, recruiting for all manner of positions. Interviewers also ask a lot of great and not-so-great questions.

Professionals who are earlier on in their careers can fall into the trap that many newbies in the industry find themselves – not being direct enough and asking too many questions that cover off the same trait. While it’s important to dedicate a good chunk of time to each candidate to ensure that you’ve fully vetted them, it’s also important to be realistic and cognizant of the investment that comes along with it. Interviews take time, and time equals money.

As important as it is to be thorough, no one has time to play 20 questions when conducting a job interview – it’s no fun for you or the candidate.

It pays dividends to get straight to the point, rather than play hard to get. This may seem easier said than done, but it can be as easy as applying a few simple rules to every interview. In return, you’ll quickly be able to start establishing the vitals: is this person the right fit for my organization’s needs and our culture? Do they have the right qualifications? Will they perform well under pressure? And what will they bring to the business?


Three ways to get straight to the point when interviewing

1. Does the question tie directly back to the role?

Every role has its own nuances. With the growing trend of dynamic teams and more integrated approaches in the workplace, many employees are taking on more than ever before, and job descriptions – across varying industries – are no longer clear-cut. This can make it difficult to pinpoint the types of skills that are required versus ones that are nice to have.

Sit down with the direct report manager and go through the job description. Together, hone in on the top three skills that are absolutely essential to the role. Remember, other skills can be taught on the job. This exercise will help you frame questions that allow the candidate to elaborate and speak to his or her capabilities. Always ask for examples – it will help you get a clear idea of pertinent skills and help separate the wheat from the chaff. Getting the department lead’s weigh-in will also ensure there are no surprises when it comes to expectations.

2. Will the way you’ve worded the question give you the answer you’re looking for?

There’s something to be said for ambiguity in certain situations, but it has no place in an interview setting. Ambiguous questions not only draw out an interview, making it longer than it needs to be, but also won’t give you the answer you’re looking for.

Make sure to look over the wording of your questions beforehand. Read them out loud and ask someone else if what you’re asking is clear. This will help you cut down on confusion and maximize the time allocated to each candidate. It will also ensure you get the answers you’re looking for to decide whether this candidate is the real deal.

Also, consider the seniority of the role. Questions should be tailored to the level you’re hiring at; it’s unrealistic to think a junior candidate will have the same knowledge of the industry and scope of the position compared to that of a more senior, experienced workforce.

3. Does your question address cultural fit?

Great HR departments and hiring managers understand how important cultural fit is to their company. How well an employee feels connected to the mission, values and attitudes of an organization often determines how well they’ll perform, because motivation counts for so much. Need proof? You can probably think of an example where someone who’s unhappy in their job gives off a toxic vibe. It’s the same with new hires; don’t underestimate the impact a fresh face will have on team dynamics, good or bad.

When you’re going over your shortlist of questions, make sure at least 30 per cent of them touch on a trait that will help you determine whether or not the interviewee will be a good cultural fit. Is your organization relaxed? Ask the candidate what they would do in a high-stress situation and assess their response. Want to know if the candidate shares similar visions? Ask them what traits they find most valuable in the workplace.

Applying these three steps to every interview process helps lead to stronger hires. A business is only as good as its people, so invest in refining your interview technique now to reap the longer term rewards. 

Lee-Martin Seymour is co-founder and CEO of Xref.

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