Four Screening Questions To Ask All Job Candidates
As a manager, you can do quite a bit to control the quality of your job candidate search. Cancel 20 interviews. Save a week’s time and spend it working side by side with one new hire who’s prepared to hit the ground running in a job interview. Every candidate should be ready to show you the ROI you’ll enjoy by meeting with them.
Question: I’ve complained to my HR department several times about marketing candidates they send me who are not a fit. HR just doesn’t seem to get that having a shopping list of qualifications doesn’t make someone worth interviewing. Do you have any advice about how I can save time on these interviews and increase the success rate without having to fight with HR? It’s a losing battle! I’d rather take more control of candidate selection myself.
Nick Corcodilos: Managers are busy enough; they don’t need to waste precious time with job candidates who aren’t worth hiring. I can’t tell you how to handle your HR department—that’s your “political” problem, and you must address it whatever way might work best in your company’s culture. But you’re right—you can do quite a bit to control the quality of your job interviews. (See “Why Do We Keep Waiting On HR?”)
The typical hiring process might involve interviewing anywhere from five to 10 candidates for one to two hours each. When a manager is filling several positions, this might entail 15, 20, or 30 hours of meetings between you and your team members.
As a manager, you can safely eliminate most of those meetings. Ten minutes on the phone with each candidate will reveal the necessary evidence you need to judge them. Even if HR does a phone screen, talk with the candidate on the phone yourself!
- Has the candidate studied your business?
- Does he understand your needs?
- Does he have a handle on how to help you?
That might sound a bit presumptuous. How would an applicant know all that? If applicants don’t know all that, they have no business applying for the job. Truly motivated candidates who really want to work for you will do all that homework in advance. That’s their “job” when they’re looking for a job. If they can’t answer those questions on the phone in some basic way, then they’re not worth interviewing, no matter what HR says.
Once you’re on the phone, you can tell quickly how prepared a candidate is. If the candidate waits for you to do all the talking or if the person talks more about his or her experience and credentials than about your business, you’ve just eliminated a weak candidate.
Experience, past accomplishments, and credentials—historical evidence—can’t tell you what a person can do for you in the future. Only the candidate can tell you that. Few care or know how to communicate on this level. They’re not worth meeting.
On the phone, ask for specifics, but keep the discussion very brief. Remember, you’re screening, not interviewing.
1. What do you know about my company and what my department does? Sparse comments reveal a failure to do necessary research and a lack of motivation to work for you.
2. Do you understand my needs? If he doesn’t, he should immediately ask you what they are and be able to carry on a useful discussion that reveals his ability to do the work you need done.
3. Do you have any ideas about how to help my marketing team be more successful? One candidate who shows how he can apply his specific abilities to your specific needs is worth 50 resumes sent to your HR department.
4. Who do you know that I know? I’ll be accused of advocating nepotism, but if candidates have not taken the time to research you and to talk to some people who work with you, then they’ve got little motivation to go the distance in a job interview with you. They need not be friends with people you know and work with, but they should demonstrate that they know something about you. The best salespeople use this simple method of personal contacts to close sales. Why should you expect any less of a job candidate?
Cancel 20 interviews. Save a week’s time and spend it working side by side with one new hire who’s prepared to hit the ground running in a job interview. Every candidate should be ready to show you the ROI you’ll enjoy by meeting with them.
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