Sr. Topics Page
1. How to Interview Candidates at the Interview and Beyond. 3-5
2. Turn Your Staff into a Team. 6-7
3. Get Back to Basics in Recruiting Practices. 8-10
4. Mentoring 101. 11-12
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3. How to Interview Candidates at the Interview and Beyond
Your preparation for the interview has equipped you with a number of questions
that will help you get to know and evaluate candidates. But there's plenty more to
do before, during and after the interview. Follow these tips:
Before the Interview
• Put Candidates at Ease: Interviewing can be stressful, so do your best to
help candidates relax. Make sure each candidate is greeted and escorted,
if necessary, to the interview location. Start with low-key questions.
• Don't Judge on First Impressions: We've all met them -- people who
don't make a great first impression but end up being great employees. To
make sure you don't overlook these diamonds in the rough, withhold
judgment until you've had the chance to thoroughly evaluate a candidate's
capabilities and potential.
During the Interview
• Tell the Candidate a Little About the Job: While you don't want to
dominate the interview time, you should start with a brief summary of the
position, including the prime responsibilities, reporting structure, key
challenges and performance criteria. This will help the candidate provide
relevant examples and responses.
• Don't Be Afraid to Improvise: Plan your questions, but don't feel you
must ask only those you've chosen in advance. Be responsive to what the
candidate tells you, and build new questions off their answers, says Shelly
Goldman, executive recruiter with The Goldman Group Advantage, an
executive recruiting firm in Reston, Virginia.
• Listen: If you are doing most of the talking during an interview, you will
not be able to obtain enough information to distinguish between
candidates or to determine a candidate's true competencies. A general
guideline is to spend 80 percent of your time listening and only 20 percent
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4. • Take Notes: While you won't want to transcribe everything the candidate
says, do write down important points, key accomplishments, good
examples and other information that will help you remember and fairly
evaluate each candidate. An interview guide, prepared in advance, will
make note-taking easier and give you a structure for capturing key
• Invite Candidates to Ask Questions: This can be the most valuable part
of the interview. Why do they want to be here -- is it the challenge of the
job, advances in the industry or something specific about your company?
Or is the candidate fixated on salary, benefits and time off? If the
candidate has no questions, this should be a red flag, especially for
senior-level employees. Make a note of what the candidate asks, and be
sure to follow up if you can't provide the answer immediately.
• Follow Legal Interviewing Guidelines: It is critically important that every
interviewer at your company, from HR clerks to top executives,
understand and follow legal hiring guidelines. The easiest way to keep
your interviews fully compliant is to ask only questions that relate to the
job, eliminating the potential for bias by not introducing questions or
scenarios that will elicit irrelevant information.
After the Interview
• Let Candidates Know What They Can Expect: A pet peeve of many job
seekers is that they are left hanging after an interview, or they are
promised follow-up that never comes. If the candidate is a good fit, be
clear about what the next steps will be. And if the candidate is not a good
fit? Always end the interview on a positive notes, but be genuine, says
Goldman. Don't tell the candidate to call you if you don't mean it.
• Compare Notes and Reach Consensus: The post-interview evaluation
is the time to compare notes and advance the hiring decision. Each
interviewer should be prepared to back up remarks and recommendations
with specific examples and notes from the interview.
• Deepen the Questions as You Narrow the Field: Subsequent interviews
with finalists are valuable opportunities to learn more about them.
Consider adding show-me exercises such as a strategic-planning exercise
or a walk-me-through-what-you'd-do activity involving a real business
challenge the individual would be facing.
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5. Create a Positive Image for Your Organization
Joan Woodward, assistant vice president at Fifth Third Bank, remarks that the
job market is always competitive when looking for good people. "We need to
realize that we're selling ourselves as much as candidates are trying to sell
themselves," she says. "It's important to treat people well during the interview
process. I never want to lose a potential customer or cause a candidate to have a
negative impression of our company."
Your interview process reflects the value your company places on each
candidate and, by extension, each employee. Be a good ambassador for your
company by conducting a professional interview, communicating honestly and
basing hiring decisions on an honest evaluation of each candidate's capabilities.
Not only will you make great hires, but you'll build goodwill in the community and
enhance your future recruiting efforts.
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6. Turn Your Staff into a Team
Work done by several associates, with each doing a part but all subordinating
personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.
Does this sound familiar? If so, your team is on the right track. But if your team is
a loosely organized group of individuals who get together once in a blue moon
sporting nametags, you have some work to do. Fortunately, there are several
steps you can take to turn your motley crew into a high-functioning team.
Create Opportunities for People to Get Together to Tackle an Issue
This is not something you'll have to invent, according to Kathleen Allen, senior
fellow at the University of Maryland's Burns Academy of Leadership and
president of Allen Associates. "In my experience, these issues will pop up on a
weekly basis," she says. During these crunch times, a leader "needs to remind
people what they're together to do." A time line is usually critical to success, she
notes. The more opportunities people have to work together, the more likely it is
they will begin to function as a close-knit team.
Mine the Learning from These Group Experiences
If handled well, an intense group effort can be the bridge that brings a team to an
entirely new way of working together. Too often, though, after a short project
during which people have worked closely together, the office drifts apart again.
According to Allen, that is when the work really begins.
The first thing a leader should do is celebrate the work that has been
accomplished and congratulate the team on a job well done. "It's important to
bring the team back to reflect on how it felt to work closely together," Allen says.
Leaders can expect some resistance to this. "People are probably going to say
they can't imagine working together this way all the time and getting their other
work done. And there will probably be a perception that people will have to give
The task is to convince staff members of the excitement of teamwork. "In a
shared model, everyone on the team initiates things, rather than waiting to be
told what to do by the leader," Allen says. "They have a part in creating the
values and the vision of the organization." As for the perception that teamwork
will lead to a heavier workload, Allen says the opposite often proves to be true.
"When nobody's talking to each other, there's a lot of duplication."
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7. Give the Process Time -- Lots of It
This is where many well-meaning managers go wrong. Rome wasn't built in a
day, and neither is an effective team. "So often, I get a call from a CEO who
says, 'We need to do team building this Saturday at 4,'" says Jim Jose, an
organizational effectiveness strategist and leadership coach based in Tucson.
"But team building isn't an event; it's a process." It's easy for a group of people to
pull together for a few weeks and create what he calls a "rah-rah" atmosphere,
but that doesn't make a group a team.
Perhaps the biggest reason this process takes time is that people who have
spent their careers simply following orders are task-oriented, not adjusting easily
to the more process-oriented nature of working on a team. Also, they may regard
the process of working on a team as too touchy-feely. The key is to help
employees understand that teamwork isn't about being nice; it's about smart
business. A team atmosphere calls on everyone -- not just the leader -- to
generate ideas, initiate projects and produce top-notch work.
"This is the classic 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,'" says Zachary
Green, senior scholar at the University of Maryland's Burns Academy of
Leadership. "We know organizations that are able to align the visions [of their
employees] are smarter, more effective, more efficient and, most importantly,
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8. Get Back to Basics in Recruiting Practices
It’s surprising to learn how many companies commit fundamental mistakes in the
recruitment process -- mistakes that drive away good candidates.
In a recent survey I conducted of more than 200 professionals (primarily
managers and executives), 50 percent reported that something during the hiring
process made them decide not to work at a company. These negative
experiences included rude treatment, long waits, little follow-up, an overly long
hiring process and unprofessional behavior in the interview.
“Companies should never take an arrogant tone when they interview candidates,
because they will lose people,” says Neil McNulty, president of McNulty
Management Group, a placement firm in Virginia Beach. “Nothing makes a
recruiter angrier than to hear a good candidate say, ‘They treated me poorly.’”
While no company deliberately creates a poor hiring environment, it makes
sense to review the fundamentals from time to time and make sure you have the
right processes, people and culture in place to avoid wasting recruitment dollars.
Respond to Resumes
Simply confirming receipt of a resume is a smart strategy that will elevate you
above the majority of employers.
If you use an automated system for accepting applications and storing resumes,
you can create an auto-responder. If your system isn’t fully automated, consider
creating a simple postcard with check-box options that you or the hiring manager
can quickly check off and send. This will, at the very least, let candidates know
you have received their materials.
Prepare for Interviews
Organizations create a bad impression when interviewers are poorly prepared, in
a rush or clueless about the candidate or the position. An arrogant, superior
attitude is a real turn-off. While it’s not always possible to create a perfect
interview environment, you can ensure the best possible results with some
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9. • Brief hiring managers and supply candidate resumes well in advance of
• Be certain HR and hiring managers schedule ample time for each
• Make interviewing easier by creating a library of sample questions from
which interviewers can pick and choose.
• Whether your company uses a formal interview process or allows
managers to create their own, you can add value by providing training,
sharing best practices and serving as a resource.
Be certain that everyone -- from the HR screener up through top executives --
understands what it costs to recruit a candidate and how essential good
employees are to the company’s success. This must be more than lip service or
a slogan on your employment Web site. If it is not truly ingrained into the
company culture, it’s easy for busy executives to conduct cursory interviews or
Follow Up After Interviews
The survey revealed that 28 percent of candidates received no follow-up
whatsoever after an interview. And when they did, 62 percent of respondents
said the wait averaged two weeks or longer.
Again, it’s simple but profoundly important: Follow up with candidates after every
interview, even if it’s to tell them they are not being considered. By neglecting to
follow up, you squander the chance to create a positive impression with this
candidate (and friends). You might lose a candidate who could fill another open
position, and you create enormous ill will that harms your employment brand.
It’s particularly important to stay in touch with candidates who are still under
consideration. Even if you can’t make the process go faster, be sure to let
candidates know what’s going on and what they can expect.
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10. Communicate Throughout the Process
Does your organization have a clear, consistent procedure for communicating
with candidates at every step of the process? Do candidates know what to
expect when they arrive for interviews? Is the follow-up procedure clear and
If not, it’s likely your candidates are experiencing frustration that can lead to
disgust with your organization.
McNulty puts it succinctly: “Expectations up front prevent problems down the
road.” Establish expectations, and you reduce candidates’ frustration. You’ll also
reduce or eliminate repeated follow-up calls.
Shape Candidate Perceptions
Not surprisingly, candidates are frustrated by the process of looking for a job, and
they use their experiences to form opinions and make decisions about hiring
organizations. Half of the survey respondents responded “yes” to the question:
Has a company ever done something in the interview/selection process that
made you decide not to work there?”
Of this group, half indicated it had something to do with “fit” in regard to culture,
organization, boss or position. But the other half -- fully 25 percent of job
applicants surveyed -- indicated it was the hiring process itself that caused them
to form a bad opinion about the company and decide not to work there.
This should be a wake-up call to hiring organizations. In view of the promised
talent shortage that is predicted to affect most professions and industries,
companies that do a poor job of cultivating candidates will not be able to attract
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to improve the process -- simply treat
people with respect, establish expectations, maintain clear communication and
follow up promptly.
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11. Mentoring 101
The capacity to mentor your employees is a critical workplace skill. But how do
you get started?
While there's no definitive approach to mentoring, these strategies will help you
grow into a role you may have had little or no training for.
Tune in to Individual Needs
"Mentoring everyone the same is not effective," Bell says. "Sometimes
differences in ages can be a factor -- [like] a 27-year-old manager mentoring a
58-year-old protégé. Sometimes differences in gender, race and ethnic
background can also be a factor. Protégés learn in different ways."
Reesa Staten, director of research for staffing firm Robert Half International,
agrees it's important to understand people's different priorities. For example,
don't assume every staff member wants to be a manager.
Also, consider different learning styles. Some people absorb new information
best when it's offered verbally. Others prefer documents, while other workers
want to be shown.
Once you understand what motivates an employee, it's easier to guide that
person in a direction that benefits both the employee and the organization.
Strive to Guide, Not Direct
Staten recommends checking in with staff members periodically to discuss their
career goals and how to achieve them. Be on the lookout for junior-level
employees who exhibit strong leadership skills. Staff members who display
energy, commitment, integrity, good decision-making skills and the courage to
take smart risks are your future leaders.
Mentors should let employees take the conversational lead. Good listening skills
are paramount. "The best mentors provide encouragement and honest criticism,"
Staten says. "They don't direct; they guide."
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12. Ask for Help
If you feel unsure as a mentor, discuss your concerns with company leaders.
They will likely be eager to help.
And take advantage of structured mentoring programs. These programs, usually
limited to six to 12 months, supplement informal mentoring relationships initiated
by managers, Staten says. They pair people with complementary skills and
create a systematic approach for achieving measurable results.
These programs may be coming to a company near you: A survey by Robert Half
International found 35 percent of executives whose organizations were taking
steps to compensate for the loss of Baby Boomers to retirement said their firms
are implementing or enhancing mentoring programs.
"It is vital for managers to let employees know they are acting as a mentor, since
effective mentoring is a partnership," Bell says.
Hone Your Mentoring Technique
Bell offers these tips for becoming a better mentor:
• Establish a partnership that helps your protege learn.
• Foster discovery. Thought-provoking questions are more powerful than
• Allow for mistakes. They are necessary for growth.
• Put your protégé at ease by being authentic, open and sincere.
• Act more like a friend than a boss.
• Give feedback that helps your protégé improve his performance.
• Continue your support after meetings.
• If your mentoring relationship isn't working, discuss your concerns.
Mentoring need not end when employees leave the company. Keep in touch with
former team members, Staten says. Both you and they can benefit from
exchanging information and advice over time.
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