Q&A: For Interviewer and Interviewee, It’s All about Preparation

Nov 2, 2012

Q: I recently have decided to add new employees for my growing small business. I can usually weed out the obvious wrong fit employees with resumes and applications. What can I do during the interview process to make sure I get the right new hire?

A: We’ve all been through job interviews, but being the one asking the questions is not always easy. You want to be fair and thorough when evaluating prospective employees, but also confident that you’ll gather sufficient information to make the right choice.

Fortunately, success on both sides of the interview comes from the same source—preparation. Doing your homework and taking a thoughtful approach to interviewing will make you as ready as you hope your prospective employees are.

Compose your questions. Develop general questions to ask all candidates, plus specific ones that may arise from reading the resumes/applications. The general questions should be broad enough to allow the candidates to share what they thinks is important for you to know, yet allow you to accurately compare their responses.

Choose a good place to meet. Not all interviews have to take place in your office. Another part of your store or facility, or a “neutral” location such as a coffee shop may make for a more congenial environment. If you do meet at your business, consider including a brief tour, demonstration of the job, and/or brief chats with existing employees.

Be a good host. Do what you can to make each candidate feel comfortable and relaxed. You want to give your undivided attention, so make sure your schedule is cleared and set your phones to go to voicemail (that includes silencing your cell phone). If you expect a call that simply can’t be put off, inform the candidate at the outset of the interview.

Trust but verify. There’s a reason for requesting references: you want to make sure you’re getting the facts, and clear up any uncertainties. Professional background checks are a wise investment for highly sensitive positions, or those that involve handling substantial amounts of money.

Still not sure? Don’t be surprised if you have more than one “best choice.” Invite them back for a second interview where you can ask more detailed questions. You may also find no one measures up to the “ideal” hire. Look for other strengths or skills that may offset shortcomings. And if all else fails, bring in other candidates or restart the search. You’re better off investing more time to find the right employee than trying to make up for hiring the wrong one.

Need more help with hiring? Then contact SCORE, a nonprofit organization of more than 13,000 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. For more information, visit www.score.org.


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