Digging Deep

“I’ve hired two employees who haven’t worked out even though their resumes and interviews seemed to fit the position exactly. How can I be more confident of my hires in the future?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Many people are either inexperienced with interviewing candidates or they just aren’t sure what to ask. As with most things, being prepared can help. Every interview has a standard set of questions but every position should also have a set of specific questions to help judge the candidate’s skills for that job.

We often see the same set of questions used for every position. Or the interviewer reads the resume and assumes skills that may not be there. It is up to you to dig deeper when interviewing to ensure this candidate can actually do what the resume says they can do.

As an example of digging deep based on a job description, we’ll use the job of Marketing and Sales Coordinator. One of this position’s principal responsibilities is: “Prepare correspondence, presentations, reports, and other documents as requested, using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Coordinate and fulfill requests for field correspondence and follow up on field sales activities as needed.” Below are questions we’d ask:

  • Describe the types of correspondence you have recently worked on, whether you created the correspondence yourself or edited someone else’s work, and how the correspondence was delivered.

  • Describe the last two presentations you worked on, who and what they were for, what programs you used, and how much formatting was involved.

  • Describe the type of reports you have done, your role in the creation of the reports, what programs you used, and why the reports were created.

  • Describe your experiences using Microsoft Word to create tables within documents and what the documents were for.

  • Describe the time you have used MS PowerPoint, why you used it, and any special formatting you added.

  • Describe your experiences interacting with off-site personnel, including the frequency and type of personnel.

  • Describe the type of interaction you have had with inside and field sales personnel, including what you did for them.

  • Describe a time when you prepared documents for a person with better grammar or computer skills than you had, and what was done about it.

  • Describe a time when your supervisor returned your work with red ink all over it, what you did wrong, and how you ensured it wouldn’t happen again.

  • Describe a time when speed was more important than accuracy, what the project was, and what was done about the accuracy.

If you look online or in a book store, there are hundreds of books available to help candidates answer questions in a way that will help them get hired. However, it’s much harder to find books that will help the interviewer ask the appropriate questions so the candidate’s “book responses” aren’t usable and they must create their own answer. It helps if you think through the actual work then ask questions that will help you understand whether this candidate has actually done that work successfully and can repeat that success.

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