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How do we hire the right candidate for the position?

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Dear Kathleen:

How do we hire the right candidate for the position? We’ve hired an administrative assistant for one of our managers several times, but each one turned out to be the wrong person. During the interview process, they all seemed to be the perfect candidate, but once they actually started working, it’s obvious they were not right for the job. What are we doing wrong?

Annette B.

A. Dear Annette:

I can understand your frustration. Without knowing your hiring process or the problems you’ve had with your unsuccessful hires, it’s difficult for me to say what your company is doing wrong. However, I can give you some tips to help hire the best candidate possible.

Keep in mind that there is no quick solution; it’s a process… that is, if you want to do it right.

Job Analysis

Ok, first things first. Before you interview a candidate, you have to do your homework, starting with conducting a job analysis for the open position. A job analysis will tell you what tasks that person performs, as well as the percentage of time devoted to that task. It should include many details, such as to whom that person reports, what the minimum educational and experience requirements are for the job, and the skills necessary for success. It will also tell you what physical capabilities are necessary to hold this position, which is also helpful for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Once completed, the job analysis will serve as the foundation of this process. Analyze the information it provides, and create a list of competencies that would support these tasks and create a successful candidate. For example, if you are hiring a customer service person for a position that routinely must deal with difficult customers, you want to hire someone who can stay cool under pressure. If you are hiring someone in your marketing department that has to adhere to stringent deadlines, you want someone who has the ability to meet deadlines. Your competency list will help you create your interview plan.

Interview Questions

Once you decide on the competencies important for the success of the position, create a logical, effective list of interview questions designed to obtain the information you need to make a solid decision. Create questions that support your competency list.

Here are three examples of how you might structure your interview.

  1. Teamwork: “Tell me of a time when you worked on a project in a team environment; discuss what was great about that experience and what was the most difficult.” This question will give you information about their past experiences in a team environment, what they liked, what they didn’t like and how their situations compare to the team dynamics within your own company. Asking follow-up questions to find out what position they held within the team and whether they volunteered as a team leader will also give you considerable insight into their leadership ability and initiative.
  2. Meeting Deadlines: “In your past positions, how did you prioritize your day and what were your deadlines like, if any,” or “Tell me of a time when your missed a really important deadline and why.” Asking about prior responsibilities and mistakes will give you an idea of just what kind of deadlines they are accustomed to meeting. Did they schedule their own day or did someone dictate what they worked on? Listen closely to the reason why they may have missed a deadline. Do they make excuses or own up to a mistake?
  3. Interpersonal Skills: “Did you ever have a conflict with a boss or co-worker, and how was it resolved?

Listen closely to their perspective of the situation. Do they accept any responsibility? What was the outcome? Did they compromise to come to a win-win solution? Did they listen to the other person’s point of view? From their answer, how would you estimate their conflict resolution skills?

In addition to behavioral questions such as those above, you will, of course, ask questions to verify that they have the experience, education and technical skills right for the position.

Building Your Team

Once you have your list of technical and behavioral questions, form your interview panel. Select the appropriate people within your organization to be part of this process. Each company has its own system; create one that works best for your company.

Apples to Apples

Each person on the panel should be assigned a list of questions, and each candidate should be asked those same questions. Most use a simple scoring system from 1 to 5 to score each candidate’s answers. Once the first round of interviews are complete, the interview panel convenes to compare notes and scores for each candidate, deciding on the candidates that fared best through the process. You will continue this method with additional questioning to narrow your search to your final candidates, and, ultimately, the one you hire.

This type of interview process will allow your company to have a logical, methodical system to select the best candidate for your open positions. Keep in mind that even “the best laid plans of mice and men” sometimes do fail, but statistics have shown that behavioral interviews are 55 percent effective in determining the success of a candidate – versus only 10 percent with a standard interview.

Good luck and happy recruiting!

“Dear Kathleen” is a monthly Human Resources advice column written by Kathleen Weiss, SPHR, Human Resources Manager for SWK Technologies, Inc.

SWK’s HR Advisor services provide cost-effective human resources solutions to small businesses. If you want more information on how to change your current vacation and sick policy to a PTO policy, or have an outdated employee handbook that needs to be revised, please contact Kathleen Weiss, SPHR, at 973-758-6122, e-mail hrdept@swktech.com or visit www.swktech.com.

Disclaimer: Information provided is not intended to be and should not be considered legal advice. As always, please consult your attorney regarding your company’s legal matters.

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