hiring lessonsThere is little disagreement that hiring the right people is the most important part of building a successful company. Finding the best employees to fill the proper roles is what makes a company hum. There are many steps to accomplishing this, the most important of which is often the interview. This is why it was so surprising to hear recent stories of how some tech giants are going about hiring.

The 30 minute phone interview
I have heard about this approach more than once. A candidate is deemed a good fit by a company recruiter and is then passed along to the hiring manager for a 30 minute phone interview. This interview with the hiring manager is do or die for the candidate. But should it be?

I recently spoke to a friend who was interviewing for a Sales Engineer position. The position was client facing and involved meeting clients in person to demo products and “upsell” customers on more and better features. A fairly high responsibility position with a tech giant in Silicon Valley. The only problem was that the interview with the hiring manager was 30 minutes long and over the phone. Hardly enough time to assess the candidates qualifications to interact with clients in person. In addition, the first 10 minutes of the conversation was going over the ins and outs of the position. That left 20 minutes for the hiring manager to assess, over the phone, the candidates ability to interface with clients in person. Not an ideal approach to finding the best candidate. And this is just one example of a disconnect between the interview length and approach compared to the position being filled.

Always ask the candidate to come into the office, any office, and sit down with someone in person. Even if its just for 30 minutes. A candidate who is really interested in the position will be happy to carve out some time to meet in person. It takes no more of the hiring manager’s time and is a much more effective way to learn about a candidate’s fit for a critical position.

The hiring manager and recruiter not on same page
This happens more than most Silicon Valley companies care to admit. A recruiter is sent off to find and screen candidates for a hiring manager. The recruiter thinks they have found a handful of top-notch candidates and schedules time with the hiring manager for each candidate to interview. The only problem is that the recruiter’s understanding of a quality candidate is very different from the hiring manager’s.

In a recent example, an acquaintance of mine interviewed with a recruiter who emphasized the candidate’s marketing background. The candidate was led to believe she was a great fit after two separate conversations with the recruiter. The problem came when the candidate spoke with the hiring manager. The hiring manager was more interested in the candidate’s sales experience, of which she had very little. She was asked about her comfort working with sales quotas and was asked to do a thirty second, off the cuff, sales pitch. It was clearly a waste of time for everyone involved.

The obvious solution here is better communication between the hiring manager and the recruiter. A job description, like anything else that is in writing, can be interpreted differently by different people. A hiring manager should always spend at least 10-15 minutes upfront with any recruiter, whether they are internal or external, explaining what they want to see in a candidate to ensure the ones coming through are a good fit. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The arrogant interview
Some of the large tech companies have been accused of being arrogant and patronizing during interviews. Part of this has to do with the sheer number of candidates they are interviewing on a daily basis. Its tough to be polite when you are trying to get as many candidates through the interview process as possible; sometimes the desire for efficiency borders on indifference or arrogance. But its important to remember that just because a candidate has expressed interest in a position, doesn’t mean you, as the hiring company, have the upper hand and should behave as such.

Good candidates have a variety of options when it comes to choosing their next career move and treating them as if they are lucky just to be interviewing is going to be detrimental to your hiring process. Sites like Glassdoor allow interviewees to post their experience. Word spreads fast so make sure you are honest, fair, and respectful during the interview process, even if the candidate doesn’t seem to be a fit. They took time out of their day to speak with you. It’s not difficult to make the effort to respect that. Remember that how you treat them may get back to someone you do want to hire; your reputation matters.

It’s hard enough to find great IT professionals these days, don’t make it harder on yourself by falling in to any of these interview traps. Take a look at your current processes and see if there are areas that can be tweaked or even overhauled. Look at your reviews online and see what people are saying about you. These too may reveal opportunities for improvement. Pay attention to the interview, this critical point in the hiring process, and you’ll certainly see results.

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