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How to suss out the best person for the job

Posted by Rowan O'Grady, Hays Canada President, on Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

Blog image: suss out the right candidates - correctedEvery day that passes with an empty desk is another day of lost productivity. As an employer myself, I know how frustrating that can be. But equally, I know how important it is to take the time to find the right person for the job.

During my years working in recruitment, I’ve seen the same mistakes being made time and time again, which almost always lead to a bad hiring decision.  Most of these mistakes stem from one thing – many hiring managers don’t know what exactly it is they are looking for during an interview or how to assess this during the interview process.

I’m not just talking about looking out for hard, more technical skills and experience here, although, undoubtedly it is vitally important to assess these to find the right candidate. However, as an employer, it is crucial that you are equipped to adequately assess the less technical (but no less important), more subtle skills, such as emotional intelligence traits and cultural fit.

Therefore, in this blog, I’ve outlined some simple steps you can take to help identify what it is you are really looking for in a candidate, plus some actionable ways for measuring these criteria during the interview process.

How to assess hard skills
What are the core requirements for the role you are looking for in terms of hard skills? Hard skills are measurable proficiencies which come from experience or training. For example, you may require a Spanish speaking PA with a typing speed of 60 words per minute and 98 percent accuracy.

So how can you test for hard skills during the interview process?  Start by preparing some competency based interview questions whereby the candidate is encouraged to give examples of times that they demonstrated these skills. You would also put together some practical assessments for the candidate to complete either before or during the interview. These assessments should reflect day to day life in the role. Therefore, in the above example, you may set the candidate a typing test which measures speed and accuracy.

How to assess soft skills
It is important that you also think about which soft skills are needed for the role. Soft skills are inherent personality traits which are trickier to teach and harder to measure.  So how can you determine which soft skills to look for?

Think about which soft skills would be of benefit to the role. For example, you may be hiring for a sales executive and would need someone with an ability to build up a rapport with stakeholders.  Therefore you would look for the soft trait of having good interpersonal skills. Also think about the attributes the previous job holder had which were beneficial to the role, and which weren’t.  You should also speak to colleagues in the industry to find out which personality traits they recommend, as well as to your recruiter to get their expertise.

Your recruiter will most likely meet the candidate before you do, and many soft skills, such as having strong interpersonal skills, are much better-demonstrated face-to-face. Therefore keeping your recruiter involved and fully briefed, will help them screen for the right traits, giving you the best to choose from during the interview process.

Once the candidate is in front of you, how can you assess a candidate’s soft skills in an interview situation? One thing I will say is that it’s actually much harder to do than assessing technical skills. Ask questions which give them the chance to demonstrate this skill, for example, “can you think of a time that you build a lucrative relationship with a client, how did you do this?”. You can also read between the lines to see how they demonstrate this skill in the way they talk to you as a senior stakeholder.  Do you feel that they come across as confident and able to build a rapport with key decision makers?

Soft skills are not to be underestimated when interviewing for new talent, they can set the difference between a candidate that’s good on paper, and one that’s great in practice.

How to determine cultural fit
Many employers only scrutinize qualifications and skills without properly evaluating how well the candidate will fit in with the team, organization and company culture. Here at Hays Canada, we have actually developed a report  which reveals that fit is one of the lowest considerations in the hiring process, yet it is the main reason that people are either let go or choose to leave a company. In order to avoid this mistake, before you start interviewing, brainstorm the keywords which describe your team, organization and culture. For instance, you may work at a close-knit organization where everyone is very friendly and team-spirited. Therefore you should look for these attributes in your candidate during the interview.

Prepare some questions which can reveal whether or not the candidate possesses the traits that could make them a good fit. For example, in the case of requiring a team spirited individual, you would ask questions like “how would you describe your style of working?” or “can you give an example of a time when you worked well in a team?”

It may also be a good idea to introduce the candidate to other people within your team and organization, and let these colleagues know what exactly you are trying to gauge. This way they can ask the right questions and feed back to you on how well they think this candidate would fit in.

How to assess their career goals
Think about the opportunities available within this role. For instance, there may be scope for the successful candidate to progress their skill-set and career within your organization.  Will this candidate take advantage of the opportunities available? Ask them questions like “what are you looking for in this role?” and “where do you see yourself in x amount of time?” You should also find out what their expectations are for training and development opportunities.

Internal progression and development could be a core part of your staff retention strategy and a key driver of company performance. Therefore it is important to find a candidate whose career goals are aligned with this.

In sum, there are plenty of things you can easily forget to assess for when interviewing for new talent. I’m not just talking about skills and experience, but also things like soft traits, personality and ambition. These factors are harder, but not impossible to gauge. In following my advice on how to do this, you increase your chances of finding, and more importantly retaining the best candidate for the job.

For more tips on conducting interviews or to get more insights into the hiring process, download a free copy of the Hiring Essentials Handbook.

Talk to Rowan O'Grady, Hays Canada President, on the Canadian labour market.

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