Getting the Most From Your Interviews - How to ask the right questions to ensure you get the right consultants.
The global economy is still something of a question mark, but Canada’s unemployment rate has been on the decline and forecasts indicate that it will continue to drop. That news is good, but it does mean that organizations face stiffer competition for talented consultants—as the market tightens, there will be fewer candidates to consider.
One of the best ways to ensure that you identify and engage top consultants is to perfect your interview technique. The interview is the most important employee selection tool at your disposal. When done correctly, it enables you to gain valuable insights into your prospects.
Three types of interview questions
Most organizations work with one or more of the following approaches to interviewing:
- Technical-based interviewing involves asking questions that determine a candidate’s skill and experience in a specific area, such as programming.
- Behavioural-based interviewing involves asking questions that identify how the candidate would respond—or has responded—in a given situation, such as meeting a tight deadline or resolving a conflict.
- Performance-based interviewing involves asking questions that probe for past successes on the job.
All three types of questioning are beneficial and offer insights into how well the candidate meets your requirements. But performance-based interviewing is by far the most important. If you want to hire someone who can achieve success for your organization, what you really need to know is whether they have succeeded on projects of similar size and scope to those they would undertake for you.
Veritaaq has seen clients make the mistake of relying too heavily on technical-based interviewing. In the past, the assumption was that candidates needed to meet a minimum number of years in order to be considered for a position. For example, they might have been required to have at least 10 years of experience in Java programming. With technologies evolving so quickly, that way of thinking is outdated. The reality is that if your prospect has a proven record of success with similar technologies or work assignments, it does not matter whether they have five years or 20 years of experience—what matters is that they can deliver.
Preparing for the interview
To ensure that you will recognize a strong consultant during the interview process, it is vital that you know in advance what you are looking for. You can begin by outlining a list of mandatory and preferred attributes. One option to consider, if time and process permits, is to pre-screen interview candidates by phone. This will give you the opportunity to become familiar with each candidate’s qualifications while you prepare a shortlist of prospects. You can then prepare your interview script based on the information gathered during pre-screening.
Creating a strong interview script
A good script includes questions that address all three types of interviewing questions. It should provide for an interview of approximately one hour, and revolve around six points:
- Work experience. Review the candidate’s résumé in advance so that you can ask them to elaborate on previous experience.
- Education. Use their formal education as a platform from which to ask questions that reveal how the candidate learns and applies knowledge.
- Self-assessment. Give the candidate an opportunity to tell you what makes them uniquely qualified for the position.
- Information gathering. Assuming that the interview has gone well up to this point, you can invite the candidate to ask questions about your organization. This gives you the opportunity to make a strong impression on behalf of your organization, and it also lets you know how much background research the prospect has done.
- Next steps. Use this section to close the interview and determine the candidate’s interest and availability.
When forming your questions, consider which ones will give you insight into how a candidate approaches problems, people and a new organization. Avoid questions that can be answered with a “Yes” or “No.” Instead, probe for in-depth answers that will give you a sense of the candidate’s intelligence, adaptability, creativity, confidence, assertiveness, initiative and attitude, as well as their ability to make decisions and communicate well.
Making a good impression
When you first meet the candidate, take a few minutes to chat and put them at ease. Introduce yourself by name and establish an early rapport so that the prospect will get a favourable first impression. You should always take thorough notes during an interview to allow for follow-up; be sure to explain this to the candidate and reassure them that everything will be kept in confidence.
In a tight labour market, it is more important than ever that you conduct effective interviews so that you can easily identify the best fit for your organization and so that talented consultants will choose your organization over others.
We are here to help
Veritaaq has 28 years of experience providing IT consulting services to public and private sector organizations. As one of Canada’s leading IT suppliers, we are well versed in the interview process and have a strong appreciation for the vital role it plays in finding the right fit for every client.
We understand that there are different best practices for interviewing, depending on your situation; for example, whether you need a consultant or a permanent hire, or whether your organization is in the public or private sector. It would be our pleasure to provide additional information on how you can conduct your best interview, and advise you in developing the optimal script for the positions you need to fill.
We look forward to hearing from you.
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