Screening and Interviewing

Screening-Interviewing‘Interviewing and Hiring 101’ is a resource for interviewing and hiring industry best practices. We developed this series with the goal of providing you with the necessary tools to Hire Better, Engage Employees, and more importantly, Improve the Bottom Line. In an attempt to keep this forum open we would like to invite you to provide feedback through our @Hire4Impact feed on Twitter.

Over the past few months we’ve covered quite a number of topics ranging from motivation, onboarding all the way down to developing your company’s culture. While we’ve enjoyed bringing you these topics, and hopefully, you’ve been able to get something back – we’ve always done our best to give you advice regarding interviewing and hiring. Now we’re finally at that point in our story where we can begin screening, but more importantly, selecting and interviewing candidates. In this article we are going to cover résumé screening, telephone screening, and interviewing –  what to look for when you screen, and outline a process for interviewing. The goal here is to give you a process that you can follow time and time again, consistently, with as few headaches as possible.

Résumé Screening

They say not to judge a book by its cover. We’re going to tell you to ignore that for the duration of this article; because that is essentially what we are doing today. Well written résumés tend to be a good sign of candidates’ abilities. For the most part, you can tell who the high-performers are in your consideration set just by looking for clues within their résumés. If done correctly, a hiring manager will be able to determine how a candidate’s contributions, expertise and experience have benefited previous companies. Look for awards, honors and specific results. This next part is important – if you haven’t carefully defined and benchmarked the position – now would be a good time to go back through our archives.

If you haven’t taken the time to really sit down and identify the position you’re trying to fill (with some degree of introspection); you might as well throw out that pile of résumés because all you’re doing is wasting your time and resources.  Every person involved in the screening process should have a list of traits/characteristics – all of which have been predetermined. At VisionSpark, we have a process in which we score resumes. We assign point values to important resume criteria. This save time and provides a much need level of objectivity to this stage of the hiring process. We have listed some potential résumé areas to pay close attention to during the screening process:

  • Educational background (college/graduate level and certifications) – this will show whether or not the candidate is continually trying to improve upon their performance/skill-base

  • Industry experience

  • knowledge and technical skills  – this is usually where you’ll find those computer skills (typing is not a skill)

  • Communication and presentation skills

  • Committees or professional boards they may have served on will indicate the level of community involvement and leadership prowess.

Don’t be afraid of candidates who have changed positions often in a short time span. These days people will change jobs at a moment’s notice. It may mean one of two things, (1) they’re a bad employee, or (2) he or she wasn’t challenged in their last position. This is one of those scenarios where you need to take the time to find out. (Successful Manager’s Handbook)

Telephone Screening

In certain cases, depending on the size of the organization and candidate pool, it becomes next to impossible to have face-to-face interviews. It is for this reason that we strongly recommend phone screening as part of your hiring process. Phone screening, if done correctly, will efficiently and effectively reduce the size of your candidate pool. As with résumé screening, we recommend sticking to the most important job criteria when creating your screening questions. Another benefit to having predetermined questions is that it helps the hiring manager stay on track during the call. Unlike résumé screening, applicants talk back, which in some cases could derail the conversation. Moreover, it will ensure that your process is consistent, productive, and relevant for matching job to candidate.

Interviewing candidates

Whether or not the screening process was résumé-based or phone-based, the interview is the one opportunity to develop a personal relationship with the candidates. This will be the best time to figure out/identify how they think, communicate and interact. At this point it is absolutely important to have a framework in place. Much like the phone screening process, it is very easy for the interviewer to lose ‘control’ of the conversation. With this in mind, we recommend following the outlined process:

  • Provide a comfortable environment for the candidates

  • All interviewers/hiring managers should have an interview packet containing the job description, performance standards, and the candidate’s résumé (with room for notes or note taking)

  • All interviewers should also be provided with the all the competency, behavioral, and core value questions based on the job profile (if assessments were used)

  • Interviewers should be actively taking notes during the interview – never rely on recall. If the consideration set is large (and odds are it may be) there’s a strong likelihood that your candidates may start to blend together. Review your notes at the end of the interview and make additional notes if needed.

  • Interviewers should have an evaluation form based off of predetermined criteria. If more that one interviewer is involved and a consensus cannot be reached – compare the notes, deliberate and reach a conclusion based on the data at hand (avoid the ‘gut-feeling’ decision).

  • Most of the questions asked must have a response guide or answer key.  Each candidate’s response must be compared to the answer key and judged to be in line with the benchmark.  Interviews are tests, if you do not have answers how do you know how well a candidate performed?

Once the screening and interviewing is complete it’s time to bring back the job benchmark you previously established. Once again it is strongly recommended that approved and validated assessments be used. After all, interview questions will only go so far. Some candidates will go out of their way to study for the interview with the goal of giving the ‘right’ answer. A robust screening and interviewing process will help deter this.

One last point before we wrap up… Always follow-up on candidate’s references. These references may help provide more insight about the candidate that could have otherwise been missed during an interview.

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VisionSpark is the Talent Planning and Retained Executive Search Firm of Alec Broadfoot and Adam McCampbell. For more news and updates on hiring and training, follow the conversation at @Hire4Impact or like us on Facebook.