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Not all interviews are equal. There are great interviews and great interviewers, and then there are not-so-great interviews and interviewers. The tips below will ensure that you are in the great camp.
1. Make time to prepare. Don't go into an interview without a plan of action. This includes taking the time to review the resume of the candidate carefully and preparing a list of thoughtful questions in advance. Going into an interview with a comprehensive list of questions will ensure that you don't forget to ask anything and that the interview will move along smoothly. Make sure, too, that you have some generic questions, as well as questions tailored to the open job position itself.
2. Include other colleagues in the process as appropriate. It's always a great idea to bring other colleagues into the interview process. For starters, they can be an invaluable source of feedback as you evaluate candidates, and they also can provide candidates with a more nuanced and layered understanding of the organization. Take the time to prep your colleagues and make sure they have all the relevant materials (including the job description!) and a clear idea about what you'd like them to ask. Don't feel as if you have to include a large number of people, as that can be overwhelming for a candidate and make it more difficult for you to absorb and assess feedback. But do aim for a cross-section of people likely to interact with a new hire on a regular basis.
3. Use the opportunity to shed light on your organization’s culture. If the candidate doesn't ask, be sure to share aspects of your organization's culture so that both of you are able to evaluate whether he or she is a good "fit." You can talk about values, how people communicate with each other, whether or not attendance at a retreat is part of the job (and what the retreats are like), how big decisions get made, what people do for fun — anything that will provide a sense of the overall culture at your organization.
4. Balance the amount of time you spend listening and talking. If you've ever watched a video of an interview, you've probably been surprised by how much talking the interviewer did compared to the interviewee and said to yourself, "That's not me." Think about it: If you do most of the talking in an interview, you're probably going to walk away from the interview without the information you need to make an informed judgment about the candidate's ability to do the job. You may also give the candidate the impression you aren't really interested in what he or she has to say. Aim for a balance, and when it's your turn to listen, really listen. One more thing: Be sure to ask follow-up questions, and give the candidate you're interviewing your undivided attention as he or she is answering them.
5. Follow through. At the end of the interview, tell the candidate when he or she can expect to hear from you and what the next steps are — and then follow through. You don't have to give a specific date, but do provide a range — for example, "You'll hear back from us within two weeks." If your decision-making process is delayed, let the candidate know. There is nothing worse for a job seeker than having to wait endlessly after an interview for a decision (except not hearing back at all). Communicating well with job candidates is a critical element of the hiring process and will help ensure that your organization remains an employer of preference.
The above tips are designed to help you identify the best person for any job opening at your organization — and to make the interview process enjoyable and productive for both you and prospective candidates. Do you have an interview tip of your own? Feel free to share it in the comments section below.
Molly Brennan is a founding partner at Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm dedicated to the nonprofit sector.