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Someone recently asked me: ‘I’ve got a good number of candidates for my vacancy. How do I make sure I choose the right person?’ Here are some ideas that will help you.

Essentially you need to have a really clear idea about what you want, so that you can target your interviewing questions specifically at assessing candidates’ suitability against these criteria, then make an objective decision around this – along with a healthy dose of common sense and instinct.

Many small businesses have a rough idea in their heads about the type of person they are looking for and then have an unplanned, unfocussed conversation (the interview) and then hire a candidate that they ‘like’ and have a good ‘gut instinct’ about. But they often realise within days or weeks that they hired the wrong person….

Here are some steps that will help:

1. Have a full job specification for the role you are filling What type of experience & knowledge, skills, personality and values are right for the role and your business? What level of ambition are you looking for; how long do you expect someone to stay in the role before they move on? Invest some time now and you will ensure you avoid wasting time interviewing and potentially offering roles to the wrong people.

2. Be clear what your job criteria “look like” What exactly does “first-class customer service” mean to you? How do you know when you see it? What exactly does “a great eye for detail” mean in your business

3. Interview against these criteria By all means ask generic questions that allow you build rapport, and be conversational, but also ensure that you ask specific questions that allow you to assess whether the candidate matches up to your requirements Ask the right questions that will elicit examples and evidence that allow you to test whether the candidate has the traits, skills and experience to meet your criteria What does “first-class customer service” look like to them? Their answer will tell you whether you share the same standards when it comes to the quality of customer service Ask them questions which require them to provide actual examples of when and how they have provided “first-class customer service”

4. Rigorous selection decision Don’t just hire someone because you ‘like’ them and establish a good rapport in the first 5 minutes – this is a common mistake Don’t make a decision on your own. Get a trusted senior colleague to meet them to give you a second opinion Remember, you are hiring the right person for your business and you have a responsibility to the business and your team to do just that

5. Focus on hiring people with the right ‘core’ values By that I mean the right personal values, attitudes and work ethic. You can usually teach skills (e.g. IT or technical skills), but you can never ‘train’ a work ethic or the right attitude into someone. That comes with the person and is usually formed in their early years – both from the way they were brought up and also from their early working life.

For this reason I always look at where people BEGAN their careers to see what type of moulding they got at the start of their working life.

6. Don’t worry about making mistakes Interviewing is a skill. Like any skill, whether it’s cooking a meal or hitting a golf ball, it improves with the experience and wisdom that comes from having lots of goes, messing up, learning and implementing that learning You can’t learn to be a proficient golfer without losing a lot of balls in the rough. And you can’t become a top-rated chef without messing up a meal on occasions So go ahead: do lots of interviews and learn as you go along Find the approach that suits your style and ask the questions that fit your business and the positions you are hiring for Once you find your style and are comfortable in an interview situation, in addition to learning to spot the right people, you will start to attract the right people as you will be at your relaxed and confident best – which will make you an attractive proposition to a potential employee.

Following these steps will require you to spend some extra time at the beginning of the recruitment process, but it’s an investment that will save you a lot of time in wasted interviews and loads of time and money from hiring the wrong people.

Copyright (c) 2007 Mr Sital Ruparelia
Sital Ruparelia works with small businesses that struggle with recruitment and retention issues and helps them implement strategies to Find & Keep The Right People. This is article is an extract from Sital’s successful e-book “Interviewing Made Easy”

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