By Suzanne Lucas
It’s a great American tradition: people dress up in their best clothing, parade in front of a judge and answer questions, hoping to sound intelligent yet totally inoffensive. A beauty pageant? No, I’m talking about a job interview.
But it shouldn’t be that way. A pageant judge never sees the contestants again, but a hiring manager has to work with the new employee every day. So stop treating the hiring process like a pageant and, instead, act like it’s a date.
Yes, a date. What’s the goal in dating? To find someone to spend the rest of your life with. What’s the goal in an interview? To find someone to spend 40 to 60 hours a week with. Here’s how you can bring the dating process into your office with fabulous (and completely platonic) results.
Don’t talk (entirely) about the past.
Of course, you want to know something about a person’s history. That’s called the resume. But many interviews spend too much time on the past when they should be focusing on the organization’s needs.
Headhunter Nick Corcodilos gives an example of how ridiculous focusing on the past can be. Imagine, he says, if you went out on a date and your date said, “So, the last three women I dated really liked me, and I bought them flowers now and then, and took them out for dinner, and listened to them tell me their problems. I’m a great guy. You can ask them. So, will you marry me?” You’d run long before the check even arrived.
So instead of saying, “Tell me about a time where…,” give candidates a real task to complete or ask them to prepare a presentation. Throw them problems and see how they solve them. It will give you a better idea of what they really will bring to your organization.
Introduce the family.
When hiring, it’s not uncommon for the boss to do all the interviewing and decision-making, then drop the new employee into everyone’s lap. She’ll announce, “Here’s Bob!,” then walk out and expect everyone else to love and cherish Bob the way she does.
Mimecast founder Peter Bauer learned this lesson. “During high growth phases, I’d hire lots of new people and somehow mistakenly imagine that they all knew each other as well as I got to know them during the interview process,” he says. “It took me a while before realizing how important it was to help employees integrate and get to know each other in order to develop a positive team culture.”
Just like you wouldn’t drop your new boyfriend off to spend the weekend solo at your mom’s house, when you bring someone new on board, it’s your responsibility to integrate. And if you can involve your current staff in the hiring process, even better. That way, you’re more likely to find an employee that benefits the whole “family.”
Let opposites attract.
The ideal employee loves your business the way you do, so naturally the person most likely to do that is one who is just like you. Right? Unfortunatelly, that doesn’t work in your business’s best interests. EZ-PR founder Ed Zitron started out looking for employees who could do exactly what he could do. “I thought I needed to clone myself. I thought I needed to just do more of what I do, getting results to make up for less-than-passionate press releases or slowly-delivered blogs.”
When he finally realized that he needed assistants who had strengths where he had weaknesses, he got results. Perfect ones, actually, because these hires had skills that Zitron didn’t have. When you stop looking for mini-me and instead look for someone who completes you (or your department), you’ll get a perfect match.
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. Follow her at Twitter, connect with her at LinkedIn, read her blog, or send her an email.