Monday, March 10, 2008

Don't Blow It When the Boss Asks for Your Help in Making a New Hire: How to Ask Great Interview Questions

In my previous post, I wrote about how important it was to make a good impression on everyone you meet when you go for a job interview, because the boss may ask various workers for their opinion about you.

But what if you're one of those employees who is introduced to the job candidate and asked to "chat" with a potential hire? What are you supposed to talk about? The score of last night’s game, the latest technology or if they have a family? You may not be aware of it, but what you talk about may have a big impact on your career.

That's because this little chat may not only be a test for the job candidate, but for you, as well. Not only is the boss looking at how the job candidate performs, but he's also looking at how you handle the situation. Your performance during this interaction can be important if the boss is trying to decide whether it's time you moved on to bigger and better things.

Specifically, if you give an insightful, logical assessment of this person’s skills and the ability to fit into a current culture, then you’ve proved you have another useful job skill that directly impacts the boss and your company's bottom line. But if you blow it, and can't offer the boss anything more substantial than the fact that the candidate likes the Red Sox, then you've failed to take the opportunity to show the boss that you can handle whatever is thrown your way.

So, the next time the boss provides an opportunity for you to interact with a job candidate, be prepared to show that you can rise to the challenge. Here are some points to becoming an effective interviewer:
· Think about what it takes to succeed in the job. If it’s important that the interviewee have strong people skills, then ask about team experience, or how customer complaints are handled. You might even relate a real experience (omit names) that caused problems, and see how the interviewee would handle the situation.
· Ask about past jobs. Find out what the person liked most or liked least about former positions. What was the atmosphere like?
· Inquire about organizational skills. The last thing you need is more work dumped on you because a new hire is disorganized and inefficient. Ask how they make sure they meet targets on time, how they schedule their work, how they decide what they should do every day when they show up for work.
· Find out whether past training or education would be beneficial. Maybe the candidate spent three summers in France and is so fluent in the language that he or she could handle the clients you’ve been having difficulty with in Paris. That might be a key point supervisors would miss, but your inquiries would net this new information.
· Try to avoid “yes” or “no” responses. Don’t ask, “Did you like your last job?” but “Tell me about your last job.”
· Be professional. Greet the candidate with a smile and a handshake, and avoid interruptions. When it’s your turn to talk to an interviewee, it’s best to do it in a quiet place, with no ringing phones or people walking by. Find out how much time you’ve been allotted, then stick to the schedule. This will prevent you from chatting too much in an endless sessions.
· Avoid legal minefields. Ask only job related questions. It’s against the law to ask about sexual preferences, religious affiliations, disabilities, age, race, marital status, child care arrangements, citizenship and memberships. At the same time, do not ask if the person has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, or make any mention of gender.
· Motivating factors. Find out what the candidate sees as their personal motivation: money, creativity, chances for advancement, etc. If the answers don’t fit in with what the company offers, it means that this person would probably become quickly dissatisfied – and you’ll be repeating the interviewing process sooner than you -- or your boss --would like.

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