Did you know that most leaders and managers have no idea how to interview? Its why most interviewers ask such generic questions in an interview. It is often the only questions they have ever heard of. Its not their fault though, if you think through all the leadership training programs, how many focus on practical realities like how to hire someone? In most firms, its very common that someone becomes a manager one day and then they are just expected to know how to interview. A lot of managers figure out the basics over the course of their career, but never become great interviewers and often struggle to hire good talent as a result. Let me walk you through some simple tips that will greatly improve your hiring decisions.

Prepare for the interview

Ok, lets start with the basics and prepare for the interview. I have lost count of how many managers I have seen fail to do this during my career. If you are taking an hour out of your day to meet with someone to fill an important position in the team, why wouldn’t you prepare? Read through their CV in advance of the interview and prepare questions. You will be amazed at how many questions naturally come to your mind just by reading the CV of the applicant. They may say they were on an important project that saved the company $1m – you should ask about it. If they have only listed generic duties, maybe you should be asking what else they did besides the day to day job. Maybe they stayed at one company a lot longer than others, find out what kept them there.

Introduce yourself and set the scene

Its incredibly important to build rapport during an interview. The job applicant is likely going to be interviewing at other companies and you need to make a good impression. The job applicant is not only there to impress you, you must impress them as well. If they are good, you will want to make them an offer and want them to spend several years working for you. Would they agree to do that if they didn’t like you? Of course not. So, make a good impression.

Take 5 minutes at the beginning of the interview to make small talk. How was their commute to the office? Did they find the office OK? (If it is a digital interview, ask if they had any issues logging in etc) Did they do anything interesting over the weekend, or have any plans for the coming weekend? Share what you have planned as well. Once the small talk is out of the way – formally introduce yourself and explain why the position in your team is important. High performers are not attracted by job titles and salary, they are attracted to a purpose. By highlighting the value of the role and the impact it has, it will make the position more appealing to the right kind of applicant.

Ignore HR competency questions and focus on your challenges

OK as a HR Professional, it hurts me to say this. But as a leader or manager, seriously, just ignore all those HR competency type questions. They can add value, but only in the hands of an experienced interview who understands competency frameworks. As a leader, you don’t need to know or understand any of that to make a good hire. Instead, focus on the practical challenges that are causing issues for your team. Maybe your team are struggling with manual processes that make simple tasks long and complicated. Or perhaps your sales team struggle with following up on leads. Do your customer service team take too long to respond to queries? Whatever challenges you have, be open and candid about them in the interview.

By doing this, you will find out significantly more about the job applicant than by asking generic questions or following a competency framework. Let someone in HR worry about that stuff, you need to focus on whether this person can improve your team’s performance. If you take the customer service example above. Everyone in customer service is going to give similar answers about how they deal with customers and respond to queries. But not everyone is going to be able to say, we had the same problem, and this is how we fixed it. Or maybe they have never had to fix it, but they share some good ideas on how it could be fixed. That is so much more valuable to you then a generic question around how they handle a difficult customer or describing their day to day duties. You should spend most of your time interviewing them based on their ability to help you resolve the challenges and nothing else.

Don’t look for a perfect fit

Finally, do not look for someone that can do 100% of the job. You want to try and find someone that can do about 70% of the role as it is, and they can grow into the rest of the job. If someone could already do 100% of the job, why would they want to take this job? They are not going to learn anything new. A high performer will want to develop and grow. So, you are either going to hire a high performer who is going to get bored and leave. Or someone who wants an easy life, because they already know how to do everything and can take it easy. Neither option gets your team to the next level. Its better to find someone who can do the core 70% and who you can teach the rest to. They will stay longer and work harder in return for the opportunity which is a win-win for both you and them.

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