How to interview experienced candidates

5 Dos and Don'ts during an interview

Managing and motivating your team is a crucial part of your job as a manager of a successful company. But before you can actually manage a team, you need to create it. Even though you won't do the recruiting yourself  (you have an HR department that will do that for you - or at least an HR manager), sooner or later, you will have to conduct interviews with a few final candidates for your open job positions. 

After working for a recruitment company for several years, I learnt many important things about interviewing an experienced, highly qualified professional that has made it to the final stage of your recruitment process. Here are few useful tips on what you should and shouldn't do.

What to do

1. Proper research

When interviewing an experienced candidate that could enhance your team, carry out thorough research beforehand. Check the candidate's profile by looking at their CV, reading their LinkedIn page and motivation letter. If you do all this prior to the interview, you won't have to spend the first half an hour discussing their background and experience - you can get on with talking about the position, how they would fit in your company and what benefits they can bring. Spend the interview time talking about important things and not about things you could easily find out by doing your research. 

2. Make it personal

You're interviewing a candidate that's already got very far in the process, so clearly they fit the position and your company. Your job now is to make sure that you, as a manager/director, can see this person in your team. Don't make a common mistake like the use of tricky irrelevant questions and don't follow an "interview manual" - be yourself, make it personal, talk about your company and your vision for the future and ask the candidate where they see themselves in your team and how they could join you on the path to growth.

3. Let them talk

Over the years working in the headhunting environment, I learnt that at every stage of the recruitment process, you need to give candidates opportunity to talk and express themselves. Ask them valuable questions and let them explain their opinions and ideas. At this stage, you can even use real examples. For instance, ask them for their opinion on one of your company's projects. In any case, let them talk, don't interrupt and listen to their ideas. Even if you don't end up hiring a particular person, you can still get useful insights and fresh points of view. If you do hire the person - even better! You can let them work on their ideas for the project.

4. Share with them

When a candidate gets so far in the process, they understand that they've got a good chance of getting the job. We're talking about experienced professionals here. By now, they've done their research on your company, the position, your projects, etc. Now they want to know more. Share with them your own experience and opinions about the company. Explain why you love working there or what's bothering you. Your candidate will gain a deeper understanding of your company and if they're hired, they'll be able to fit in faster and understand the company culture.

5. Follow up - whatever happens

You made it through the whole interview - congratulations. Now it's time to choose the perfect candidate. No matter who you offer the job to, make sure to follow up with all unsuccessful candidates as well. I've seen many hiring managers making the mistake of not contacting the candidates that didn't make the cut.
You were interviewing 
professionals that didn't get a job in your company, but they'll get a job somewhere else and you never know what future can bring - one day you might encounter them again, on a new project, with a partner company, so it's good to keep the doors open and make sure none of the candidates leave with bitter feelings and a negative impression of your company.

What not to do

1. Don't judge too quickly 

Your final candidates have made it to this stage because they've passed all the previous stages (first interview with HR or line manager, test, assessment, etc) so these people are definitely worth your time. Be careful of judging them solely on first impressions - just because someone arrives late, it doesn't mean that they'll always be late (maybe there WAS an accident on the highway or maybe they DID get a flat tire on the way to the interview). Same goes for things like clothes and appearance. My former company hired a person who postponed the interview twice for personal reasons and then showed up late for the third one. But he had what it took to do the job and in the end, he turned out to be a very valuable addition to one of our projects.
professionals get stressed during interviews, so take this into account and try to look past it.

2. Don't go for experience, go for potential

Someone can have a flattering resume and/or application with amazing experience that will wow you. And someone might have less impressive experience, but a lot of potential to fit into your company and business. Always choose the latter. An amazing CV doesn't mean amazing potential and you should use this interview to estimate whether candidates have capacity to bring something extra to your company.

3. Don't ask questions from a book 

Be creative and formulate your own questions that are relevant to your company. For our interviews, we created a tailor made list of questions specific to our business and current projects. Do you really want to know where does the person see himself in 5 years? Or would you prefer to know what they think about your new product? Do you want to know their 3 weaknesses or do you want them to assess something you're doing and tell you how they would improve it? Prepare the questions that'll help you to understand the candidate's personality and how they would fit into your company and the value they would bring.

4. Don't rush and don't be rude 

It can happen that you get a candidate in this last stage, that you really don't consider a good match for the job and there's no way that you'll hire them. Even if this situation occurs, never be rude and never rush them out of the interview. You can still have an interesting discussion with such an experienced professional. And you never know, there might be an opening in the future that might be just perfect for this person, so it's good to finish the interview anyway.
Once I interviewed a great candidate for a position overseas and it turned out that he wasn't willing to move. We didn't offer him a job at that time, but 6 months later there was a new opening in the offices nearby. He did get that job.

5. Don't do the interview if you don't feel you can handle it :-)

And last but not least - if you're a director/CEO/manager of a company, you should conduct the final interview to make sure that you're hiring a person that's the best one for the opening. But if you feel that your HR skills aren't good enough, or you simply don't think that you can handle the interview - don't do it. Leave it to your HR manager, vice-president or line manager and trust their decisions. If you're a CEO and don't handle this interview well, you might end up losing the perfect candidate.

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