Interviewer skills - getting the right person for the job

"Remember, you can hire quickly and repent at leisure... or get it right the first time."

Brian Tracy

One of the most important decisions an organisation ever has to make is a hiring one. The success of the business relies on having the right people, with the right skills, at the right time doing the right job. It is also a very significant investment - many recruitment campaigns will cost in the region of €30,000 - too much money to be wasted by getting it wrong.


At Consulting Excellence we believe in getting the decision right first time. We provide pre-set (Public) and tailored group and individual training to managers and HR personnel tasked with recruitment and selection.



Based on the competency or behavioural interviewing model, we will:

- Help you to understand the recruitment and selection process fully

- Appreciate the legal environment within which recruitment takes place

- Build your knowledge of interview questioning

- Through practice and critique, develop your confidence and ability to choose the best fit for you organisation.


By having trained interviewers your organisation will:

- Reduce the risk of making the wrong hiring decision

- Minimise the cost associated with recruiting someone who is not the right fit 

- Ensure that all interview processes maintain the same high quality standard that operates throughout your   organisation

- Minimise risk associated with inappropriate questioning

- Inrease your Human Resource potential through successful intervewing

For more information on how Consulting Excellence can help your organisation to get the right people please submit your details below and we will contact you.


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Given the current climate you would be forgiven for thinking I am a bit mad to be blogging about recruitment.  But the recent survey I conducted amongst SME owners suggests that there will be some shift upwards in the jobs market during 2010.  Whether this transfers across larger companies remains to be seen but business – and the economy generally – is definitely showing some signs of recovery.  Anyhow given that positive vibe I thought it might be worthwhile writing something on how to improve your chances of getting the right person for the job and for your business.


And that really is very important.  Given the huge choice of candidates on the market at the moment it is easy to slip into mode of “oh well, if (s)he doesn’t work out I’ll just hire someone else”.  It is true that you can of course, but you might want to think about the cost of such a mistake.


Opinions vary on the actual cost (in monetary terms) of a bad recruitment decision but it is generally accepted that the cost ranges from around 50% to 300% of the annual salary.  So if you hire someone for say €20,000 – they may only last three months but the least it is likely to cost you is €10,000 but it will probably cost you more.  And that doesn’t include the cost of hiring someone else to do the job.  Nor – more importantly – does it take account of things like lost opportunity, damage to customer relationships, loss of productivity overall in your team that often result.  Or the effect it has on managers – this is particularly important if you are an SME who is centrally involved in both the hiring process and perhaps training, and dealing with the poor performance and other issues that arise.  So can you really afford to get it wrong?  I think not!

Here are my 10 key steps to help ensure you get it right, first time.


1. Understand your need – job analysis.  Ok so you have decided you need to take on more staff because you have got more business, need to spend more time on sales or whatever.  Great.  But do you really know what you need?  Critically evaluate your existing resources.  How does that measure up to what you need going forward.  This gap, which might be described in functional terms like tasks, responsibilities, skills is the basis of defining the role.  It is important to go one step further though and consider what would someone who is doing the job well look like.  Always aim for a high performance level not an average one.  Look at the existing team dynamics – how it works together, who fills what team role and is there anything missing. It might be worth using some psychometric profiling like Myers Brigg or DISC to help in this process – both can also be used as part of the selection process to get a “fit”.


2. Understand what you want. It isn’t just about what you need for the business but about the type of person you want, or more precisely the type of organisation you want to create or maintain.  Broadly speaking what I am talking about is culture – “the way we do things around here”.  It is about the values and ethos you want your business and the people in your business to promote.  It is about how you communicate with each other, the level of engagement and involvement, the way customers and suppliers are dealt with, the degree of flexibility and “we’re all in this together” that you need, the image your business portrays and so on.  It is a fundamental part of your brand.  It is important therefore that each person you bring into the business reflects and buys into that culture. 


3. Write a job description.  By now you should know the following:


• Broadly what the role entails (definition)

• The tasks, responsibilities and accountabilities involved

• What a good performer looks like and what competencies i.e. skills, knowledge and attitudes are necessary to achieve that

• What challenges and opportunities will be involved

• What type of person will fit your organisation – the personal characteristics

These elements basically make up your Job Description or Job profile and shouldn’t just be used for the recruitment process, but form the basis of your selection criteria, your training plans, goal / target setting and performance review.


4. Decide on your selection process and criteria.  Once you have decided what you need and want and have written your job description you should figure out how you are going to receive applications and assess and select candidates.  Applications are typically by CV and perhaps cover letter or by application form.  Some organisations opt for online processes.  It really depends on what you prefer.


Interviewing is the most common form of assessment, with competency-based interviewing being the most robust interview method (it is proven to be the best in terms of predicting or assessing future performance capability).  In addition you might want to consider shortlisting as a first step – this is a CV screening process and is usually based on some limited essential criteria.  Given the high volumes of CVs being received currently this is a sensible addition to the process.  You should also consider aptitude tests and / or psychometric tests.  These should never be used as the only selection method but rather as an additional aid.


The criteria should be clear (and based on your Job description) and you should devise a marking system – this will make the selection process much easier, not to mention more reliable and transparent.


5. Identify sources and launch search.  Now that you have all the ground work done think about where you can find suitably qualified candidates.  You can of course resort to newspaper adverts and recruitment agencies. More likely though you will go the route of Jobs Boards / websites.  But please don’t forget your networks and contacts.  LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are all valid (and increasingly popular) sources.  The more targeted you can be, the better the outcome.  Networks are probably the most cost effective way of targeting new employees but may not always be the most efficient.


6. Shortlist candidates.  Using the criteria you have already set and taking pen and paper sift through all of the CVs and identify those that meet the requirements.  You may want to have a marking system for particular criteria – this will make life easier if you have a large number who meet this first stage but only want to progress a small number to the next stage of the process.



7. Make your selection – Interview, assessment, reference check, medical – dig deep

Once you have your shortlist of candidates you will move to the next stage.  We have already mentioned the value of psychometric testing.  In terms of interview you may decide to do one, two or several.  You can conduct telephone interviews, one-to-one or panel.  In any case what is most important is that you know in advance what you are going to ask, that it is based on assessing the extent to which the person meets the criteria and that you dig beyond the surface.  Lots of people are polished at interview and will give good “textbook” answers – you need to know that they can do what they say.  The best way of assessing this is by asking for examples of where they have done a similar thing before probing their answers.


Following on from the interview stage(s) when you have a preferred candidate or even two or three preferred candidates, conduct reference checks and a medical assessment.  These are really important and can save you an enormous amount of grief down the line.


A word of warning – make sure you know what questions you should not ask at interview and what checks you are allowed to do.


8. Offer.  You should now have a top preferred candidate so time to make an offer.  The offer should include details of salary, job role and responsibilities etc.  You should never make an offer before completing Step 7 but if you do, please ensure it is conditional on a satisfactory outcome to checks and medical.  The offer should also be subject to the candidate having provided you with accurate and honest information.


9. Onboarding and Training.  So the offer has been made and accepted and the person is ready to go.  What next?  All too often a new employee arrives to a “damp” welcome.  The manager / boss is too busy to meet with him / her or isn’t even on-site.  No one is quite sure what the “newbie” is supposed to be doing so they all just get on with their own work.  I know this sounds exaggerated but you get the point I’m sure.  


So what should happen?  Well there should be some form of induction – rules, regulations, health and safety and other policies should be explained, introductions made, arrangements made to ensure the “newbie” has a buddy for lunch.  Expectations should be clearly outlined in terms of behaviours and performance.  Set and agree performance objectives – make sure you and they know what they will be measured on.  Any training plans should be explained and initiated as quickly as possible.  


This is the onboarding period – getting the “newbie” settled in, ensuring they become part of the team as quickly as possible and that they become productive as quickly as possible.  A little time spent at this stage can reap huge rewards later.


10. Review.  There are two elements of review needed.  Firstly look back over the recruitment and selection process.  Did it go as well as you had hoped?  What could have been improved upon.

More importantly is the review of the new employee’s performance.  You should always include a probationary period in your contract (and offer) – at least six months.  During that time you (or the line manager) should meet regularly with the employee to review performance and address any issues.  If there are problems you need to know and deal with them quickly.  If they don’t work out then it is much easier to terminate a contract during or at the end of the probationary period.  In my opinion the recruitment process does not end until the employee has satisfactorily completed this period.

And a final word.  It might sound like a long and complicated process but it just takes a bit of effort.  And yes you might need the assistance of a professional to set up the process for you or even to implement it, but ultimately you will have gone a long way to avoiding those costs of a bad hire and to protecting your business.

If you have any questions about job analysis, psychometric testing, or any aspect of this article please feel free to comment here or contact me directly at  - I will be happy to help.



Attracting and retaining the best people




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