These past 20 months have seen a monumental shift within the hiring market. The balance of power is now tipped away from employers and now leans toward candidates. In The Great Resignation era, employees are willfully resigning their jobs by the millions. Given the greater risk of turnover, it is now more imperative than ever that employers understand how to hire the right candidates for the right roles — a goal they can better achieve by focusing on three key principles for hiring in The Great Resignation era: pre-interview preparation, interviewer question technique, and the interviewer’s listening skills.
Hiring Mistakes Aren’t Cheap
Even before The Great Resignation began, research indicated that a single hiring mistake at the management level could cost a company $1.5 million or more, annually — an average of 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary. Poor hiring decisions also decrease organizational productivity and workforce morale.
In their New York Times Bestselling book, Who: The A Method for Hiring, authors Geoff Smart and Randy Street share a number of best practices for avoiding common hiring mistakes during the interview process. As a Certified Forensic Interviewer, I see the three principles within this book as especially applicable for hiring during The Great Resignation — starting with pre-interview preparation.
1. Pre-Interview Preparation: The Ideal Candidate Profile
Companies must ensure their interview process is designed to bring the best candidates to the fore. That process begins with what the “Who” authors call, “the scorecard”: a document which describes the organization’s hiring goals. Put another way, your company needs to ask the question, “What does our ideal candidate profile look like?”
Answering this question can help the interviewer establish consistent guidelines for evaluating each candidate. The company should not build its candidate profile around the tasks that they want the candidate to execute. Instead, they should build it around the outcomes that the organization wants them to achieve. Once the outcomes are established, the interviewer can then identify the skills and attributes the candidate must possess to achieve those outcomes.
Without a clearly established profile, interviewers may over-prioritize factors such as years of industry-specific experience and education or end up comparing candidates to one another instead of measuring how well each candidate’s skills and attributes match with the ideal candidate profile.
2. Interview Questions & Technique
The kinds of questions an interviewer asks during hiring play an outsized role in the responses they receive–and, therefore, hiring outcomes. Several commonly used techniques can muddy the interviewer’s understanding of the candidate’s skills:
This type of question often starts with the phrase, “tell me about a time.” However, this opener gives the candidate leeway to take poetic license with their answer or to provide a canned response.
To avoid this issue, an interviewer should rephrase questions to ask about specific times, events, or people. Key phrases like, “when was the first time,” “when was the last time,” or “what was the most difficult time?” help prompt less generalized responses. The interviewer will also gain a clearer behavioral read as the candidate answers the question.
One of the other big mistakes interviewers make is asking the candidate long, compound questions — a series of questions instead of one. A compound question looks something like this: “Please tell me about a time you experienced conflict with one of your supervisors and what the conflict was about and how it started and how it made you feel?”
An interviewer should ask one question at a time. This helps ensure the candidate answers the question and that the interviewer remains fully attentive throughout their answer. Once the candidate finishes their reply, the interviewer can ask any necessary follow up questions.
Questions With Implied Answers
Questions with a clearly implied “correct” answer are among the least useful. Examples include asking a candidate if they are able to perform a particular job function — asking an accounting candidate, for instance, if they know how to use Quickbooks. The candidate knows the answer the interviewer wants to hear, and will, in all likelihood, give that response.
Rather than asking about abilities, an interviewer should consider adding experiential elements to the interview process. For example, if a job requires experience with a certain software, an interviewer might ask candidates to perform a task using that software. They can ask the candidate for a demonstration during the interview, or as a follow up.
3. Interviewer Listening Skills: Creating a Focused Environment
Interviewers often make up their minds about candidates’ strengths or weaknesses based solely on reviewing their resumes. These expectations create biases during the interview process. An interviewer might forgive poor answers if they believe they are speaking with a strong candidate. Vice versa, they may over-index on poor answers if they think they’re speaking with a weaker candidate.
As an interviewer listens to each candidate they should pay close attention to specific word choices and apparent comfort-levels. They should take note of the way candidates describe their ideas and experiences. Does the candidate sound confident? Do they use appropriate, industry-specific terminology? Do they appear more comfortable answering some questions than others?
Ideally, an interviewer will not just listen attentively, but take a disciplined listening approach. Disciplined listening requires the interviewer to remain focused on their prime objective: finding the candidate most likely to help the company achieve its long-term objectives. It calls for interviewers to limit their internal monologues and to unearth the true value each candidate has to offer.
The Importance of Strategic Interviewing
As companies navigate the dynamics of the The Great Resignation, it’s important for interviewers to implement a solid pre-interview strategy for hiring the ideal candidate. Interviewers must refine their questioning technique and create an environment in which to focus and listen to each candidate. With these three considerations in mind, organizations can hire the right candidate for the right role, even in these difficult times.