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Methods for Winning the Candidate on the First Interview
By David Rains
Going to an interview can be very intimidating. You must wear the right clothes, show up on time, effectively communicate your abilities, and leave with a firm handshake. Some individuals start sweating just thinking about it.
However, there is one angle that people don’t consider. We tend to believe that most people who go to an interview will automatically take the job if it is offered, but many times that is not the case. It is important to remember that while you are interviewing the candidate, the candidate is also interviewing both you and the company. Just as the company has a checklist of what it is looking for, so does the candidate. If not enough of the criteria is met or some of the details are left obscure, the candidate might not feel comfortable committing to the position right away or ever.
Here is a guide to some of the most tried and true ways for an interviewer to ensure a ‘Yes!’ from a candidate after only one interview.
First, there are a few common courtesies that should be extended to all prospective employees. You should show that you value the time of the candidate by paying attention to them. Candidates are only given a handful of minutes to demonstrate who they are and what they have to offer the company. Almost nothing is more irritating for them than being forced to wait for an extended period of time before being seen. Additionally, please leave your cell phone in the other room as nothing seems to say ‘this candidate does not matter’ as much as fiddling with your phone during the interview. These kinds of behaviors show the candidate that their time is not valued and that they are not important to the company. Why would anyone choose to work at a place that does not value them before they are even hired?
Along the same lines, another courtesy you should extend is to listen to the candidate without interrupting. Not every candidate is going to be articulate, but not all positions call for good speakers. By listening, you show that you care about what the candidate has to say and that their input will be taken into consideration.
Also, you should be as prepared for the interview as the candidate. If you are having to constantly check your notes to see what the position description is and what the duties are, you will not only come across as unprofessional, but will appear to not be taking the interview seriously. Showing a lack of knowledge about the position will not make the candidate feel very confident in your ability as a leader. This is especially true if you are going to be the candidate’s boss as this can cast some serious doubt on whether or not to accept the position.
Additionally, you should strive to make the candidate feel comfortable. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but the most effective method is to simply be open with them. Tell the candidate the good things about working for the company as well as the bad. While this may seem to be counterproductive, it is not. Candidates are more likely to be themselves, and to be honest about their abilities and motivations when they feel that they are receiving full disclosure. Once both you and the candidate can communicate openly, you will start to build rapport, which is the beginning of trust.
Often we think our role as the hiring authority is to only ask questions, but that is not the case. You must be willing to do your fair share of the talking. Candidates will have lots of questions of their own and the more of these that can be answered, the more they will come to understand the role in front of them. Additionally, you should attempt to convey a feeling of excitement to the candidate when talking about future plans, such as where the company hopes to be in the next five, ten, and even 20 years.
It is important for you to answer any questions that the candidate has in the same open and honest fashion as previously discussed. The unknown is frightening, especially to candidates when they have a big decision in front of them. The best individuals will attempt to gather the facts and make the best decision possible with the information they are provided. The more easily and sincerely they receive this information, the more trust will be built between the candidate, you, and the company.
Another excellent tactic, if appropriate, is for you to show the candidate around the office/space where they will be working. If it is a BDO candidate, then introduced them to an underwriter who will be working with them. This will give the candidate a concrete look at the working conditions and they will start to envision what it would be like to work there. It also allows the candidate the opportunity to meet some of the employees and get a feel for the company culture.
Let a good company culture be a selling point in the interview. Human beings spend nearly a third of their lives at work. If that time is full of strife and frustration, not only will they be a poor employee, they will probably also begin looking for a new position. Alternatively, if a company has a great culture, employees will find their time at work fulfilling and enjoyable. There is a huge difference between feeling like just another cog in the machine and knowing you are an influential member of a hardworking and committed team.
Finally, you must consider the reason the candidate is looking for a new position. Most of the time, they are either seeking to advance their career or trying to improve the quality of life for themselves and/or their family. Once you understand their motivation, reveal how the position with your company can help them accomplish their goal.
When it comes to advancing their career, candidates want to hear about the training opportunities, networking events, and advanced technologies that will be offered to them. They are looking to improve their skills and need to know that they will have further advancement opportunities down the line. If your company can provide them a chance to truly grow and flourish within their industry, they will feel the desire to rise to the challenge.
For those looking to improve the lives of their family, you should be sure to mention all the benefits that will help secure the future for themselves and their loved ones. Things such as monetary bonuses, health insurance, and vacation time all fall into this category. Also, you should be empathetic toward any concerns that they have. Once a candidate sees how much a company cares about their family, they will be easily won.
In closing, I would like to say that while it is always nice to be able to acquire new talent on the first interview, it is more important to be honest with them. Otherwise, even though they have come to work for you, they will not stay. Being dishonest is the most counterproductive thing you can do since after they quit, you will be forced to start the hiring process all over again, and production will be even further behind as a result of the lost time.