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Searching for Top People

It’s one thing to evaluate a tradesperson whose abilities and quality of work can be determined by giving them a short on-the-job trial. When it comes to hiring a senior person however, it’s a different story.

You never really know how a new manager is going to perform until they have started in their position, but there are things that you can do as part of the selection process to lessen the possibility of making an appointment you’ll later regret.

Know what you’re looking for

Before advertising for the position have a clear idea of the skill set and qualifications you’re looking for.  What are the ‘essential’ and what are just the ‘desirable’ characteristics? This will help you create the advertisement for the position, and to evaluate the resumes when they come in.

When you have identified the candidates that claim to meet all your ‘must haves’ as well as some or all of the ‘desirables,’ you’re ready to start planning interviews.

Use the resumes you’ve received as a guide to the questions you might want to ask particular candidates. What you really want to find out from interviewing them is how well they’ll fit into your business; their resumes are about their previous employment and won’t answer this most important question.

The interviews

Outline a structure that you will use for the interviews – the basic questions that you’ll ask everybody and the particular questions for individuals about whom you’d like some more specific details. Now you’re ready to begin.

It’s always best to have more than one person interview a candidate. This will help remove the influence of particular personalities and give you some different views when it comes to making the final selection. Two or three people should be enough; you don’t want a committee interview situation.

Greet each candidate and explain your objectives for the interview. Tell them the structure of the interview and an estimate of how much time they have with you. Stay on track and don’t deviate from the structure you’ve outlined.

Provide a brief company profile – the background of the business, what it does, how it relates to the market, and anything else you feel they might need to know. Tell every candidate about the position you’re hoping they’ll be able to fill and how it fits into your organisation. Be sure they’re clear about the work they would be expected to do.

As much as possible let the candidate do most of the talking for the rest of the interview. Pay close attention to everything they say and make as many notes as you need so that you can be sure you remember the candidate and what they said.

Use ‘situations’ questions

Ask them to tell you the details of a particular situation that arose in their previous position – something they see as a personal achievement. Find out what situation they faced and how they handled it. Let them tell you why they feel it’s an example of their managerial abilities.

Now pose a hypothetical situation that they might experience in the position with your business – something that’s a definite challenge but that they should be able to cope with if they get the job. Let them tell you how they’d handle it and why they’d do it that way.

The third stage will be for you to ask them to relate the two situations. What were the similarities of the situations and the solutions?

From this you’ll gain a much better understanding of how the candidate feels about themself and what their approach is to problem solving. You’ll also have given them a chance to relate their past role to the one in your company and assess if their experience could benefit your business.

When each interview is finished do a quick review of the person against the job requirements. Review everything you’ve written down and make additional notes about your personal impressions. This isn’t final selection time but it may be the only opportunity to meet the person face-to-face and you want to be very clear in your mind about which candidate said what.

The selection

When all interviews are completed meet with the other interviewer or interviewers and rate each candidate against the job requirements. Rather than trying to choose ‘the one’, rank all candidates and give careful consideration to whether the number two or even number three could also handle the job.

Now check all references carefully. This is where most job selection processes fail; if not done well it can open the door to someone whose background isn’t quite as portrayed on their resume. Reference checking requires asking direct questions and getting detailed answers, and you need to probe the referees almost as much as the candidate.

Only now, when you are happy with both a candidate’s personal interview and their referees assessment should you move to making an offer of appointment.