Interview questions and structured interviewing
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Interview the Job Before the Candidates

Dinah Daniels

The scenario is familiar to human resources professionals and hiring managers. A job opening occurs within the organization, and a file drawer full of resumes is pulled open to start the arduous task of finding the “right” candidate.

If the company is on its toes, a written “job description” may exist, giving the human resources department a roadmap to the educational background, job experience, skills and qualifications that the ideal candidate should possess.

However, if HR proceeds with interviewing candidates before performing one critical internal assessment, a potential hire who looks great on paper may, in fact, be the wrong person for the job.

First, the HR department should “interview” the job before interviewing the job candidates and define a “job profile.” This profile should include information about key result areas, critical connections within the company, behaviors, values and education and experience required to perform the job.

Creating a job profile gives an organization far more useful information than a written job description gives. While a job description states the functions of a specific job and the education, background and skills required to perform it, a job profile illustrates how the job fits into the context of the company. It profiles whom the person holding the job will deal with as key connecting people within the organization. It looks at values and how the job impacts the entire organization as well as specific, measurable outcomes of job performance.

With the creation of a job profile for a given position, a company connects that position to the entire organization in a meaningful way. It requires human resources professionals and line managers or department supervisors to work together and establish a consistent understanding of how a job should be filled and the type of person who should fill it.

Traditionally, the interview and selection process is viewed as a chore that happens in isolation from everything else in a company. But with the creation of a job profile, utilizing input from everyone who is affected within an organization, the decision makers are able to take a fuller view.

The second critical step in the interviewing and selection process is building a candidate profile. Based on the job profile, the candidate profile will give the hiring managers a clear picture of the person they want for the job before they meet a single candidate.

The candidate profile is critical because there is more to matching people to jobs than simply finding the right education, job experience and skill set. Two candidates may possess the same college degree, similar levels of professional experience and work skills that match the job. But if the job requires an assertive decision maker, someone who embraces risk and thrives in a fast-paced environment, suddenly the two candidates may not appear so equal. One may function well in an environment that is more deliberative and predictable, making him inappropriate for the opening. The other may possess the quick-thinking, authoritative characteristics needed, but may also show signs of being somewhat reckless.

No candidate is a perfect fit for any job. There are always gaps between the requirements of a job and the capabilities of even the best person hired to fill it. But an enlightened company will not wait until that person is on board to discover – and be caught unaware – by those gaps.

A successful interviewing process will have several key results. It will: Determine where the strong fits are between a candidate and a job. Determine if there are gaps between the company’s needs and a candidate’s capabilities.

If there are gaps, the interviewing process should yield enough information about a candidate to determine if there is anything the company can do to bridge the gaps or compensate for them. Perhaps the candidates need only take a college course, or perhaps another person within the company can spend a short amount of time providing assistance and training to the new hire.

Many organizations make the mistake of engaging in wishful thinking when job candidates come to them with recognizable gaps. Hiring managers believe that when the person starts working at the job, he or she will adapt to its needs just by becoming acquainted with the organization’s culture. That rarely happens, and the company ends up shaking its finger at the new employee, when it should be blaming itself.

Even in a tight labor market, a company is setting someone up for failure by hiring him when it knows of serious gaps between the candidate’s personality or skills and what the job requires. An enlightened company may go ahead and hire this person, but with a clear idea of the options for filling his or her gaps:

The company can shore up the gaps with other resources within the organization. Or it can redefine the job to fit the capabilities and qualities of the new hire, understanding that some functions will have to be absorbed elsewhere in the organization.

Most failure in the hiring process comes from the fact that people are vague about what a candidate can or can’t do. Maybe they like the way a person meets and greets, or they like the candidate’s education level, but they don’t look at the whole picture, and in the end they make the hiring decision based on the wrong factors.

Most importantly, hiring professionals need to avoid the temptation to compare one candidate to another. What they really need to do is compare each candidate against the job.

By creating both a job profile and then a candidate profile, hiring managers dramatically increase their chances of long-term hiring success – before ever meeting a single job candidate.


Finding Candidates

Interviewing Basics

Interviewing Best Practices

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Line Manager / Recruiting Partnership


Pre-Planning & Retention

Reading the Candidate

Recruiting Basics

Recruiting Best Practices

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