Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Interviewing for Results

Hiring the right employees for your business is critical.  Your employees represent your company.  They create the product or service that propels your business forward.  They, as a group, create your company culture.  If you are a new company, you may be anxious to get people on board to allow your company to evolve quickly.  Certainly makes sense, but taking the time to hire the right employees using the right approach, can help you ensure that your company will be successful.

A bit about company culture:  It starts with the founders/owners and expands quickly around the first group of early hires.  It is worth the time to sit down early and consciously plan your company culture.  Create a company mission statement.  Think about the values you want associated with your company.  Then, very deliberately, behave and hire in such a way that you instill those values into your culture.

It isn't uncommon for early stage companies to hop immediately on the hiring bandwagon without fully vetting out their interview process.  Some may focus immediately on their technical needs and go with their 'gut' regarding cultural fit.  This approach can be augmented to ensure that cultural fit, including personal values and work style, are explored more fully during the interview process.  It is also recommended that workplace peers and/or other managers interview candidates to ensure that multiple perspectives are solicited.

Hiring basics, Step 1:  What's 'legal' and ethical to ask during an interview:
During an interview, questions should be aimed at learning about the candidate's ability to perform the job requirements and match your corporate values.  All questions should ensure that equal employment opportunity (EEO) is taken into consideration.  Specifically, managers should be familiar with three important federal EEO statutes: 
  1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - applies to employers of 15 or more employees and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin or religion.
  2. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) - also applies to employers of 15 or more employees and bars discrimination because of a person's physical or mental disability and requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations during the hiring process and during employment.
  3. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) - applies to employers of 20 or more employees and prohibits discrimination based on age against employees age 40 or over in favor of younger employees.
Examples of allowable questions:
  • Do you have the legal right to be employed in the United States?
  • Are you able to work the days/times required for this job?
  • Are you over 18 year of age (or 21 for some jobs if a bona fide occupational qualification--i.e. being a bartender)?
  • Can you perform the essential job duties or functions for this position?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

Unallowable questions or practices:
  • Are you married?  Do you have kids?
  • What is your national origin?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Unallowable practice: asking candidates to attach a photo to an application 

One last note regarding allowable practices, do take interview notes, but focus on job-specific criteria and commentary and write your notes on a separate piece of paper instead of on the resume.  Interview notes should not become a part of an employee file.
Technical Qualifications, Step 2:

Asking or testing your employees to find out if they have the technical skills to perform their job duties is allowable as long as the approach is uniformly applied to all candidates for a specific role.  Having a small group of individuals create a technical question profile to use with all candidates will ensure that everyone is compared equally.

Company Values 'Fit', Step 3:

One of the most effective ways to approach a candidate's values 'fit' is to first identify those key values for your company and for the role in question.  Once that is accomplished, behavioral questions can be developed to help assess the candidate's fit.  A behavioral approach is based on the premise that past performance is a strong predictor of future behavior.  Managers should develop interview questions that seek to uncover candidates' real-life experiences to illustrate their ability to perform essential job duties.

Examples of behavioral interview questions:

If the role is going to face deadlines at times, a question may be:
  • Describe a time when you had a tight deadline and how you reacted to the requirement?

If having excellent communication skills is essential for the role:
  • Talk about a time when you had to communicate verbally to convey an important point and how you did it?

If initiative is a core value:
  • Describe a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty to accomplish a key task?
The key is to ask open-ended questions so the candidate will recount real-life experiences. 

Making the Hiring Decision, Step 4:

Now that you have a technical profile and a behavioral assessment on each candidate, you have the information you need to determine the best candidate for your role and your company.  Once the interview team has discussed the candidate pool and identified the chosen candidate, do check the candidate's references.  Once the candidate accepts the job offer in writing, leave the other candidates with a positive impression by contacting them and letting them know that they were not the chosen candidate.  If they ask for feedback, you can provide it, but keep the comments job-specific and brief.

Create a cohesive and successful company by hiring great employees.  Effort on the front end will pay dividends for your company.