As the Operations Director for a local County government, I was leading a team conducting interviews for two positions in our Code Enforcement/Building Inspection Department. We were looking for a Department Head and a receptionist. The applicants for the Department Head position were not very impressive. We had some very good candidates for the receptionist position and were about to conduct the final interview for this position.
The young woman walked into the room with a big smile and introduced herself. It was obvious that she was not intimidated by the four people in the room. I noticed that she listened carefully to each question and looked right at the person who asked each question when she answered. During the interview, I learned that she was already certified as a building inspector by the state. When it was time to wrap up the interview, I asked her if she had anything else she wished to share with us. She reached into the folder that she had with her and produced a flyer that she had created. She explained that she had gone over the requirements for obtaining a building permit from our County website and created this little handout that would be beneficial to our citizens when they were going through permitting process. All we had to do was copy it, fold it in thirds, and it was ready for our citizens. She then laid it on the table, thanked us for our time, and left.
When she walked out of the room, I looked at each person and announced, “We just met the new Department Head.”
In the difficult job market that still exists in this country, the interview process can be daunting because of the large pool of candidates that apply for a vacant position. Therefore, as a leader, you must be prepared to learn as much as you can about each candidate in a very short period of time because, in the end, you have an obligation to find the best person for your organization. So, be prepared by following these guidelines.
Review each candidate’s resume and application in detail before they come to the interview. In additional to the standard interview questions, make notes as to specific question that you will need to ask to clarify anything that may not be completely understood. Create a sheet with each question listed so that you can ensure all questions are asked and that you can make notes during the review process.
Ask yourself, did the candidate prepare by researching the organization for which they are interviewing? In the above example, it was clear that the candidate had done extensive research about our operation by reviewing the content of our website. Today, with the vast information on the internet, each candidate will be able to find sufficient information that should acquaint them with the company. So your job is to find out just how well they researched the organization because it will demonstrate their level of interest.
Did they dress for the part? The candidate in the above example had done her homework. She had on a pair of khaki pants and a shirt that was almost the same color as the shirts worn by our Code Enforcement and Building Inspection personnel. She could have stood in the middle of the existing team and blended in completely. With this little touch, she demonstrated that she would be a good fit for our organizational environment. So, a coat and tie or a woman’s business suit may be appropriate for some interviews but don’t let that be a deciding factor for a job that never requires this style of apparel.
Trust your first impression. When the candidate walks in the room, the process of evaluating them has begun. You may feel this is not fair but like it or not, it is the reality. So, just as the candidate in the above example made it a point to smile and introduce herself, your prospective candidate should walk in and announce by their demeanor that you are looking at the perfect person to fill the position.
Did they make a connection? The question and answer period is the candidate’s opportunity to not only impress you with their experience and knowledge, it is also their chance to make a personal connection with each of the people sitting in on the interview. Remember, you are going to spend at least a third of each day working with this person so you will want to ensure that they will be a good fit for the entire team.
Did they demonstrate their ability to add value to the organization if hired? The icing on the cake in the above interview was the handout she created and offered with no strings attached. There was no doubt in the minds of those in the room that this person would add value to the organization and that hiring her was going to be in the best interest of the County. And that is the bottom line in this entire process. Will the person you hire add value to your organization?
I had a difficult time convincing the decision makers to hire the young lady for the Department Head position but in the end, I prevailed. Six months later when she had successfully completed her probationary period and she was made a permanent employee, they enjoyed bragging about hiring a woman for a position normally held by a man.
The best part of the story was when I told the candidate that she was being hired for the Department Head position. At first, she said she just was not ready for that kind of responsibility. I assured her that not only was she ready but that I would mentor her so that she was successful. She was still hesitant so I played my trump card and showed her the starting salary. Six months later she was so proud of what she had learned and accomplished when she was made the permanent Department Head.
If you are in a leadership position where you are responsible for helping to hire or hiring the right people to fill a vacancy, then be ready to see the potential in each candidate so that you can find that wonderful “diamond in the rough”. Then, be willing to take a chance on them but commit to being a mentor to them. If you do these things, you will help create an unbeatable organization that can tackle any challenge because the team will be comprised of the very best people.
Be an exceptional leader – hire the best person for the job and mentor them so that they achieve success. Do this well and you will always attach the best talent. That is called winning.
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