Companies must hone their interview process to land the best candidates

Some employers have a very effective interviewing process and are adept at identifying the best candidates for open positions. Others, however, struggle.

“The problem most organizations have is a lack of structure and coordination in their interview process,” says Paul Brown, a branch manager at Nesco Resource. “That creates an inefficient process that takes longer and may not reveal everything they need to know about a candidate.”

The interview is also a candidate’s first look inside the company and an indication of how it operates. A disorganized interview process may send a signal to candidates that they should look elsewhere for work.

Smart Business spoke with Brown about how companies can improve their interview processes to land the best candidates.

What must companies discover about candidates during the interview process?
Fundamentally, companies are trying to determine which candidates have the basic skills needed to do the job, but of equal importance is understanding the candidates’ soft skills. Companies need to view candidates through the lens of their company culture and customer relationships, and hire someone who fits that description.

Some companies do a good job of uncovering both candidates’ traits and abilities through the interview process. However, many companies ask questions that don’t pertain to the job or ask leading questions that steer candidates’ responses, neither of which are productive and ultimately just waste time.

Who should conduct interviews?
Generally it’s a good idea to have everyone who that candidate will report to in the candidate interviews. Sometimes companies have various vice presidents and possibly executives sit in, but direct managers should always be involved and carry more weight when it comes time to make a decision.

Companies should coordinate questions for each stage of the interview process. Have a specific set of questions each person will ask in the different phases of the interview and make sure the same questions are asked of each candidate so that an apples-to-apples comparison can be made.

In multiphase interviews, include a collaborative meeting after each interview in which everyone on the company side can hear the answers that candidates gave and get each person’s position on each candidate.

How should the interviews be structured?
The structure depends on the position that is being filled. If, for example, a company is interviewing someone who works with customers primarily by phone, interview them over the phone to get a sense of their phone presence.

There’s no ideal timeframe in which to conduct the interview process. The higher the stakes, however, the more time that should be devoted to the process. For instance, it can be catastrophic to a company to make a mistake on a CEO hire, while a mistake on an entry level hire is less costly.

As soon as a company identifies a candidate who can do the job and fits with the culture, pull the trigger and make an offer rather than wait to finish the interview process. There’s little sense in waiting, especially considering the better candidates may have multiple offers.

How should test scores that gauge technical skills be weighted against soft skills?
Hire for soft skills and teach to fill gaps in technical skills, especially if it’s a soft-skill business, such as sales.
There are positions that require solid technical skills, so testing is certainly important. If a person can’t handle the technical aspect of a job, he or she will fail and hurt the team. Soft skills are equally as important because, regardless of ability, a person must fit in with the team so that everyone can accomplish the mission.

How can a staffing agency help employers hone their interview process?
Employers should see staffing firms as a consultative partner. Staffing firms regularly interview and hire people, and can help employers create a process to identify the best candidates.

Talented people are quickly moving between companies and landing jobs. Employers need to think through their interview process and ask themselves if it’s serving their needs. If not, it might be time to talk with a staffing company to fix it.

Insights Workforce Development is brought to you by Nesco Resource