Startup HR: 5 Tips for Great Interviews

by Tricia Hollyer | Startups

Interviewing candidates for a job in your company may seem like a no-brainer, but there are some key steps to make sure you hire right, right off the bat. After all, the cost of a bad hire is huge – estimates range from $25,000 to $100,000 in hard costs, and that doesn’t count the stress and lost possibility.  You can even use this handy calculator to figure out exactly what it would cost you if you hire the wrong person.

So how can you be sure that you use all the tactics at your disposal to hire right in the first place? Here are five tips to master the hiring experience.

1) Be prepared: Too many interviewers show up completely unprepared and it tells the candidate that you don’t care enough to take the interview seriously - not likely the impression you want to make. Being prepared means having your questions ready, ideally in writing so you’re asking everyone the same questions to get a good basis for comparison; reading their resume before you go in; having a clear description of what the job actually entails (in your head at least, if not in writing); and being ready to talk about your company, not just ask questions. Interviews are a sales process – both ways – so be prepared to pitch your job and company if you’ve got a rockstar in front of you. Ideally you want everyone to want to work for you, whether you choose to hire them or not.

2) Allow for discomfort (but don’t be a jerk): Silent pauses can be very useful to get a sense of their real personality. It doesn’t work well with basic informational questions, but when you ask something that they can expand on, give them a moment after they finish speaking to see if they add anything. Tolerating the uncomfortable pause allows you to get a better glimpse into their true personality – they may add more information or change direction in their answer. The caveat is don’t go out of your way to make it uncomfortable, that will just turn them off working for you.

3) Ask behavioural questions: this just means asking them to tell you what they actually did versus what they think. “Tell me about a time when you solved a particularly tricky customer problem” gets to the heart of what they tend to do in situations, rather than “What would you do if you had an unhappy customer on the phone”, which can give you a staged and unhelpful answer. Even if they don’t have work experience with the situation you’re asking about, personal experiences still give you insight into their typical behavior.

4) Include the right people: Panel interviews with ten people are no fun and not very productive, but once you’re down to a few short-listed candidates it pays great dividends to include the people who will be working with the new guy. You’ll get additional perspectives on the candidates, and you’ll be able to see the fit for the team in action. This is especially important if you are hiring a manager – let the people who will be working for them meet them ahead of time and you’ll have considerably more buy-in after they start.

5) Pay attention to first impressions: Once you’ve decided who to hire, make their first day great by being ready. Have their desk, computer, phone, etc. ready to go if possible. You may have a casual, flexible environment, but you still want them to be able to be productive right away (so do they), and it shows them you actually care that they are coming to work for you. Think through how you’re going to get them oriented to the work, the culture, the team, and have a plan. Most companies just throw the new guy into a desk and forget about them, hoping they will learn by osmosis. Being intentional about what happens in their first day (or week, or more) starts the working relationship off in a caring, professional, productive way. Isn’t that how you want them to behave? Show them you mean it by acting the same way towards them.

Compassionate Leadership
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Compassionate Leadership provides specialized HR consulting, coaching, and training for fast-growth companies. Build your people strategy, enhance your leadership, and manage your growth strategically with our on-demand people expertise to give you what you need when you need it. more

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Tricia Hollyer

Tricia Hollyer

Tricia Hollyer is the owner of Compassionate Leadership, a consulting firm that specializes in providing HR expertise, coaching, and management training to fast-growth companies. Prior to starting her own company, Tricia was an HR executive in the technology industry for 18 years, going from startups to buyouts of multi-national public companies like Peer 1 Hosting. She is an expert in people... more

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