Interviewing is probably the most important part of the process and the only part that can’t be omitted. Up to this point we know if the person has the credentials and background that fits, but none of that will matter if the chemistry isn’t right. Human chemistry, or how people get along with one another, is almost completely unpredictable. If we are dealing with a person getting along with several people, as is usually the case, then the outcome is even harder to determine. In short, the only way to find out about “chemistry” is to interview the candidate. Naturally, it helps if I know the people and personalities involved, but even then I have been fooled. As far as chemistry is concerned, I gave up guessing who fits where a long time ago.
If a particular candidate is not geographically close I will almost always recommend a telephone interview. Preferably one-on-one, not a conference call, but conference calls are OK if the participants are spread out and everyone is on a separate phone line. A phone interview is specifically designed to determine if the candidate is good enough to spend the money to interview in person. (Rarely does the candidate pay this cost, but it does happen). Remember, the objective of the phone interview is that, and only that. No one is ever hired over the telephone without a face-to-face interview. We are seeing more and more use of video interviewing through Skype and the like, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people (candidates and hiring authorities) are still uncomfortable with its use and that defeats the purpose of an interview. Evenutally, it will probably become the norm, but now I don’t advise its use unless both parties are completely comfortable with it.
My advice for interviewing is the same to both Hiring Authorities and Candidates:
- There are no questions that can’t be asked.
- Make it a 50/50 conversation; neither party should dominate the conversation.
- Have a preconceived agenda; know ahead of time what you want to find out and what questions you are going to ask accordingly.
Typically one of three results will occur from an interview (many times after 15 minutes):
- You will know for sure it is a fit,
- You will know for sure it is not a fit,
- You aren’t sure. This is when your “gut-feeling” will have to play a role.
What is often referred to as “gut-feeling” is many times the most effective technique in selecting people. Gut-feeling is that feeling you get about something that you just can’t put into words. Sure, it is subjective, but I almost always advise people to go with their gut-feeling about a candidate because it is usually right. You may not be sure why you like or dislike a person, but what is certain is that that feeling probably won’t change.
I will be the first to admit that executive recruiting is not an exact science.