It’s easy to hire people based on the raw skills for a particular job. What’s more difficult is hiring someone who can grow, innovate, and thrive within your business. We outline three key ways to hone your hiring process and uncover the self-starting superstars you need:
1. Reconsider your process.
No one likes hiring. It’s like apartment hunting or dating – utterly depressing until you find “the one.” Employing additional pre-interview applicant screening measures is an easy way to avoid non-starter interviews that end up being a huge time-suck.
One particularly useful technique is to have each promising applicant fill out a survey. Creating a 7-10 question survey takes just minutes with Google Docs, and it can be extremely effective at weeding out candidates.
By making them go the extra mile with a pre-interview task, you can quickly assess how dedicated they are. What’s more, by asking just a few simple questions, you will immediately see vast differences between the candidates that weren’t evident “on paper.”
2. Recognize what makes your culture distinctive.
Being aware of the key features of your company culture is crucial when it comes to hiring. If you aren’t honest with yourself about the environment you’ve created, you’ll be hard-pressed to find folks who are a good match.
Think about the qualities that really set you apart. Some companies, for instance, have cultures that are very confrontational – statements are frequently questioned, counter-arguments proposed. In this case, you want to hire someone who’s comfortable fighting for their opinion, someone who won’t just retreat in the face of a challenge.
Other companies are very tightly knit, with employees spending most of their free time with other employees. If you hire someone who doesn’t mix work and play, it’s likely that they’ll eventually feel alienated from the team. Here, you might want to get a sense of how much the applicant makes a division between their personal and professional lives.
Whatever the qualities are, you’ll want to tailor your interview questions to get a read on the candidate’s disposition. Which brings us to the last point...
3. Ask the right questions.
As a small business owner, you are likely looking for people who will be proactive and creative within their roles. Here are a few tips on how to gauge those qualities in an interview:
- Suss out their ability to communicate clearly. The ability to communicate well and pass on knowledge is a key asset for any hire. You can quickly assess this ability by having a candidate explain a simple task. If you were hiring a Systems Administrator, for instance, you might ask something like, “Walk me through the process of setting up a secure shared network.” It doesn’t have to be a hard question; the point is to get insight into their ability to communicate clearly and concisely.
- Find out how they take initiative. Inquire about past instances where the candidate was proactive. Have them explain how and why they started that club, magazine, or film series listed on their resumé. You can also get a glimpse into their future willingness to take initiative by asking questions like: “If I put you in charge of the company today, what would you do differently?” or “What are some things that you would change about the product (or sales process, or website, etc.) if you had the chance?”
- Explore shades-of-grey situations where there is no “right” answer. Don’t focus on leading questions, or questions that have a correct answer. Instead, ask questions that emphasize shades of grey, and offer insight into the candidate’s character. For a Community Manager position, a good question might be, “How would you deal with an irate customer who won’t stop posting negative comments on message boards?”
- Gauge their curiosity. A high level of curiosity is typically indicative of other good qualities, such as inventiveness, resourcefulness, and problem-solving ability. You can test for this with simple questions like, “Tell me about something outside of your area of expertise that you recently learned about?” or “What was the last book you read, and why?”
- Look out for red flags. A good way to get a candidate to show their true colors is to shake up the formality of a standard interview. There are many approaches: one company invites applicants into a game of Jenga, another has them participate in a company softball game, while yet another likes to interview candidates over dinner. All of these situations immediately offer insight into how the candidate performs under pressure, their level of competitiveness, ability to work as a team, or to behave professionally in an unfamiliar context.
How About You?
What questions have you found to be particularly effective at drawing candidates out? Any insights you can share from major hiring snafus?
***This post by J.K. Glei is based on research by the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think tank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.