The Interview Process: Speed Dating in the Corporate world

Yesterday I was part of an interview process. Basically, I was hiring the person who would be my boss and someone I not only would have to work very closely with, but someone I would hand over the reins of a project I had worked on for the past 6 months.

The official face to face interview lasted hours and involved the ‘applicant’ sitting in a room being interogated by 6 people from various departments. Despite the fact that we had interviewed him over the phone numerous times and had also worked with him, we flew him into NY, made him work on an emergency project on the first day then submitted him to hours of questioning.

So why the long process? Having been involved with many recruiting endeavors, I find that its not so much the skills or the experience but more about the person and their fit into the organization and team. Yes, they most have the skills neccessary, but in many ways, that is not the indicator how long they will stay or how much they will contribute. If a workplace was ‘perfect’ then we probably could just read off resumes and select someone. But there is no perfect workplace and there is no perfect project. Like entering into a relationship, you look for someone who will complement and enhance your strengths while overcoming (or at least enduring) the weaknesses.

As an interviewee, you already know what the relationship is like. You know all the bad sides. Perhaps it is the best policy to scare the living daylights out of a potential hire, take out all the glam, lay your cards bare on the table and see if he or she STILL wants the job. At many dotcoms, the hiring process is partly about selling the company. Usually the turnover rate at these companies are high. Its NOT normal for a person to leave a company after less than a year. Its costly and its bad for morale. Some people seem to treat the hiring process like a date. Wow the person with a fancy restaurant, padded bra, make-up, shaved body parts, unending attention and promise them the world. Then one day that person wakes up screaming next to someone they hardly recognize….hmmmm.

So how can we cut through the bull and really figure out WHO it is that we are hiring. The organization I am a part of, submitted this poor man to a personality index test. Is it fair? Well probably not, if that is your sole source of information for the hire. But I have heard of handwriting samples, astrology readings and many other dubious requirements.

Referrals? They work but you always have to take them with a grain of salt. A referral generally will not be the person’s enemy. Sometimes the refferal themselves are a good indicator of the personality of the applicant. (Is this person intelligent? sincere? successful? Do they actually care about the applicant?) Also if the refferal has nothing bad at all to say about the hiree, that immediately sends off alarms for me. (No one is perfect) Also be sure to call up a referral that is NOT on the list 🙂

Lastly, I always tend to look at their last job very closely. Like dating, after a while, you want to know what went wrong with the ex. Why did they leave? Usually this is a very good indicator of the fit. Its not just about what they can provide for you, but also what you can provide them. What are they looking for in a job? How long were they at that job? WHY ARE YOU LEAVING?

A few last thoughts on the hiring process. I know I’ve made some mistakes. But once you hire someone, you (as an organization) are responsible for that person. If it clearly doesn’t work out…end it … as quickly as possible.

Oh yeah? Anyone know any good programmers? project managers? designers? instructional designers with human rights knowledge? (man, its a tough market out there)

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One response to “The Interview Process: Speed Dating in the Corporate world

  1. Contacting a referral NOT given to you can create problems for the candidate. Candidates read advice columns and job boards and are told to contact their referrals and let them know they might be contacted. Sometimes a colleague or co-worker does NOT want to participate for their own personal reasons. Sometimes people do not want the responsibility of being a referral. Contacting them after they have asked your candidate to refrain from using them as a referral is disrespectful. Additionally, it can create a bad relationship between your candidate and their colleague.

    Referrals are NEVER an indicator of an applicants personality. If the referral has a negative personality trait then it shows how your candidate is able to work well with others.

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