Being in small business means as the business owner, we need to wear many hats. Much of what we are required to do, was never taught to us as we went about learning our trades or stepped up to the role of admin in our businesses. One of these skills that is often lacking, is learning how to interview a potential employee, in fact it is often seen as a scary part of growing our businesses.
I was fortunate to have training in the art of interviewing, when I worked in Pharmacy and thanks to the question of one of the members of our Tadies in Business group, I’m going to share my tips with you today. This post will actually be of benefit to both small business owners looking to employ and potential employees as they prepare for an interview.
How To Interview A Potential Employee
Know What You Are Looking For
The most important part of your preparation is knowing what you are looking for in your new employee. Does your position require someone with experience, or are you able to offer training, do you require them to have a certain set of skills?
Spend some solid time preparing a position description before you even advertise your vacancy, this can be used for writing the add and determining what key points you are looking for when interviewing.
Single or Group Interviews
I thought I would tackle this question straight up as it is often the first asked when speaking about this subject. I absolutely advocate group interviews. While they may seem intimidating for an employer who has never run them before, they offer such an insight into the personalities of your potential team members.
I believe that once you have received all your applications, you narrow your field to 3-4 applicants that stand out the most. From here a group interview should be called, but here is the first tip, don’t tell them! Part of this process is to see how your potentials perform under pressure, and there’s no pressure like walking into an interview with another 3 people.
You also want to see how they perform within a team, are they assertive or aggressive, loud or clear and concise do they prefer to stay out of the limelight or perhaps encourage others. These group interviews will give you plenty of time to reflect over their personalities.
From there I suggest single interviews for the best 2 applicants, in which you can get to know your applicants a little better.
Start your interview process asking each person to tell you about themselves. All of us are keen to make a good impression and this questions allows the potentials to get comfortable talking about themselves. When interviewing for the group interview, keep these questions really open ended and allow space for interpretation. With various interpretation will come a variance in answers. Ask questions like why you think they would be good for the job, or what they would do in a pre-prepared situation.
You must never ask about race, religion, sexual orientation, age, marital status or anything that could be interpreted as discriminatory. Give everyone the chance to answer each question and take turns asking a different potential first. Finish the interview by allowing your group to ask questions of you! This is one of the most revealing parts of the process.
Interviewing in a solo situation allows you to get a little more personal, you will be able to give the potentials a good understanding of the role as it is, and be honest. Don’t sugar coat the difficulties, but don’t overstate them either. Run through a typical work day outlining what is expected of them.
Don’t make promises that could come back to bite you, for example don’t promise a pay increase, bonuses or other incentives unless it is a usual part of your employment terms. You can ask as many questions as you need to understand who your potential employee is and how they can fit in with your workplace.
Don’t forget to ask questions about any part of their resume that you need, if there is a pause in the timeline or a job that didn’t last long, ask why. You may not always get the truth, but you will get a good feel for if it is or isn’t.
The Power Of The Pause
The single best tip I ever learned to use in an interview setting is to pause. I can put my hand up and say I find interviewing still to be a nerve wracking experience, an in such I tend to rush through my list of questions. That doesn’t allow the potentials to show me who they are though.
In my training, we were taught to hold a lengthy pause at several stages during the interview, maintain eye contact if you can, with a neutral expression. This pause will be where you learn more about your potential employees than at any other time, as when faced with a pause our instinct is to fill it. Your potential employees will fill the silence if you are able to hold it long enough, especially when holding eye contact.
This is not sneaky or underhanded, rather it is designed to allow you as the interviewer to see who your potentials are with a self imposed pressure. It will give you a better understanding of the stripped back version of who they are, because just like you they are keen to impress.
It is not always possible to get everything covered you would like to cover in the group and solo interview. Occasionally you will need another interview and I encourage you to do so if you ever get into this situation.
As the employer, you are required to ensure that the potential staff member is a good fit for your business, take as much time to find this person as you need.
This is the most under used part of the interview process. You must reference check! Now naturally everyone is going to put referees that will speak favorably about your potential new employee, so it’s up to you to find a way to ask the tough questions of that referee.
Ask questions about how they felt the potential employee handled a difficult situation, ask about their strengths and their weaknesses. Often referees are so surpised by these questions they tell the truth as they have nothing else prepared.
With careful preparation, finding your new employee will be a breeze.
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