Most small and medium businesses operate under the assumption that they’re going to one day expand and hire more staff. Even if that hiring involves just a single person, it’s important from day one to develop an interview process that can be used for that conversation and similar ones in the future.
Once you recruit prospective staff members, the next step is to get the hiring process right. Each person you hire will either contribute to — or take away — from the employer brand you’ve worked hard to build. Good employer branding is especially important for small businesses looking to gain recognition in a certain field. You want your staff to be memorable, friendly, and helpful in all the right ways.
That’s why you shouldn’t think of developing an interview process as a bureaucratic process reserved for huge corporations. Hiring talent is an important strategic choice that will greatly influence your business.
The Introduction: Sell Yourself and Your Business
The first step in any interview process is to put your prospective hire at ease. Welcome them to your business and make small talk. This will be a good indication that you value employee comfort and culture, and is a way to ensure you get an impression of your interviewee’s best self.
Just as a job interview is a time to scope out potential employees, it’s also a time for prospective hires to find out more about you, your business, and its values. In some cases it may even be the chance for you to sell a talented candidate on working for you. Before the interview, make a list of your business’ values. Then be prepared to advocate for them during the interview.
Next, give a brief overview of who you are, the job position, and the qualities of the candidate you envision fitting well in that role. This will provide the interviewee more context for the coming questions.
This overview will also give you the opportunity to test how well a potential hire listens. Consider their responses during the interview, and make note of any time they directly refer to what was mentioned in your overview.
The Interview: Stray Away From the Question Line
This may seem counterintuitive when it comes to creating a standardized interview process. Just like a journalist speaking with an interviewee, you should listen closely to what your prospective hire says and ask follow up questions to gather details and specific examples.
For example, if an interviewee says “I had a really positive experience with my last employer and that enabled me to work much better as part of the team,” you shouldn’t skip that tidbit and move on. Ask a follow-up question about that experience — it will help you get a better sense of what that potential employee values in the workplace, and may even help you tailor your approach to dealing with your current employees.
When it comes to questions, stay away from the irrelevant ones. Sure it makes sense to ask someone what book they’re reading if you own a small bookshop, but other than that, these questions do little to inform you about a candidate and to tell the candidate about your business. Allow them to show their personality in other ways.
Get Other Team Members Involved
While you don’t want to intimidate an interviewee with a panel of seven inquisitors, it is good to get colleagues involved with the interview process. This will serve a number of purposes:
- Show the prospective employee that you value collaboration over isolation and the team over the individual;
- Help gain perspective on the candidates. It’s hard to make hiring decisions based on a single opinion — so include others. Team members with different areas of expertise may also have specific questions to ask;
- Make your colleagues feel valued as they contribute to this important strategic decision.
Consult with the members of your team to set out a chunk of time for interviews. That way everyone is fresh, focused, and free for the process.
Make a question period at the end of a job interview a standard part of the process. Prospective employees may be shy to speak up with their questions, and will appreciate being asked if there’s anything else they’d like to add or ask.
Be sure to tell the interviewee when they can expect to hear back, and then make sure you get back to them by that date. There is nothing worse than finishing a job interview only to receive radio silence for weeks on end.
When it comes to the call back, ensure you keep in touch with talented candidates who perhaps didn’t get the job. Their applications make great fodder for future employee searches.
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