Interviewing 101 Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2009

You’re not getting off the hook easily if you’re interviewing with Hany Girgis.

The founder and CEO of SGIS wants only A players sitting at his company’s desks, which means each potential employee receives a grilling.

Those lucky enough to land an interview must answer questions that cover a range of topics. And while the interviewee talks, the multiple SGIS employees asking the questions write down the answers to create a report for discussion after the interview.

“I don’t think interviewing is obvious,” says Girgis, whose 750-employee company provides IT, engineering and intelligence services for government agencies. “I think many people don’t know how to interview, and so that’s why we’ve created this process.”

Having a process in place that involves multiple employees is critical to attracting and hiring the type of employees you want, says Girgis, whose company posted 2008 revenue of $87 million.

Smart Business spoke with Girgis about how to make sure you’re hiring the right people.

Recruit employees. We have internal corporate recruiters who are responsible for going out and identifying potential candidates for our open positions. They’re doing a lot of scouring, so they’re actually calling into our competitors and trying to sell them at an opportunity here.

It’s pretty proactive. It’s not, ‘Put a posting and see what kind of resumes come in.’ We go out and try to find opportunities. The best employees out there aren’t necessarily always the ones who are looking, so being proactive is really part of their job.

I really encourage my people to talk to our competitors and find out what they’re doing, what they’re doing well, what they’re not doing so well. As part of that process, you interact with a lot of your competitors out in the field at networking events, and that’s really a great opportunity to recruit. If one of my people comes back and says, ‘Hey, I met this guy at so-and-so company and I think he would be really great for our company,’ that’s a really good recruiting opportunity.

Take the time to do a thorough interview. We have a long interview process. It’s basically a two- to three-hour interview with each person, and there’s usually at least two members of the team.

There’s a preset list of questions, and they’re really questions that are meant to dig out … some of these qualities [we’re looking for]. The key is to not have a short 30-minute personality-type interview but really ask questions that dig.

We go in and talk about their college experience and their extracurricular activities in college. What they thought of their prior managers, what their managers would say about them in prior jobs.

Ask in-depth questions to identify characteristics you’re looking for. One of the questions is, ‘Give us a feel for what kind of school you went to. Was it large, small, rural or urban? Generally, what your college years were like. What kind of school activities did you take part in? What people or events during college might have had an influence on your career? Were there any class offices or honors or special achievements during your college years? What were the high points during your college years?’ And then, we also ask for low points.

For some of the work history questions, we ask, ‘What would you say some of the mistakes or failures you experienced in your jobs were? What is your best guess as to what your supervisor honestly felt were or are your strengths, weak points and overall performance?

I think for some of the questions about extracurricular activities, obviously, if they were a fraternity president or they took on some sort of office or they were the leader of their math club or the yearbook team, it shows some sort of leadership there. If they have a 4.0 [GPA], that shows that they’re smart and have a good work ethic.

Maybe they didn’t enjoy school, but they went through the motions and they worked hard and they studied every night in the library to 12 o’clock at night to get good grades. That says something about their work ethic, their desire.

The jobs that they’ve been at, what were the reasons they left, what were the reasons they stayed there, what did they like about those jobs?

Are they willing to admit to some of their mistakes they made at their last positions, and if they are, how did they resolve them? That shows their problem-solving abilities.

Include multiple employees during the interview process. When we hire somebody, we want it to be unanimous. If two people are iffy and two people are gung ho, we want to know why those people are iffy, and maybe that is an opportunity to go to somebody else.

It just improves your chances of getting the best person in the seat, that A player. There’s a stronger likelihood that a 100 percent unanimous decision will work out better than a 50-50 decision if you have four people interviewing them.

When there’s multiple people in the room asking these questions and firing off these questions, No. 1, it’s less time for the interviewee. Rather than going to these three-hour interviews with five different people, you can do the three-hour interview with a set of people in one room, and then you can also see how they handle pressure and how they react to the questions as a group because some people ask questions differently.

How to reach: SGIS, (858) 551-9322 or www.sgis.com