Marygrove Blog

Human Resource Management: Conducting a Purposeful Interview

Posted by John Smith on Wed, May 09, 2012 @ 03:44 PM

Interview image resized 600

Eric Herrenkohl describes a recurring conversation that he has with all of his clients: “Where do I find great employees? Sure, I know that we should interview more and be willing to train extensively. But how do I find great people in the first place?” His book How to Hire A-Players was written so that he’d never have to answer this question again.

  • How do you build an A-player team?
    According to Herrenkohl, employers need to “stop trying to turn poor performers into top performers” and hire the right people from the beginning. That way, he explains, you can “invest the same leadership and coaching time with them that you used to spend trying to fix your poor performers.”

His realizations about how “unscientific” the hiring process was in most companies…

  • “So, what did you think about that guy?”

Herrenkohl describes his experience as a financial recruiter. As the president of his own consulting firm, it was his responsibility to place CFOs, Controllers, and other financial personnel for some very prestigious companies. Many of these clients were very busy, so often they would come directly from a meeting, glance at a candidate’s resume on the way to the interview and then either over-talk, or ask candidates all of the wrong questions because they were not fully prepared to conduct the interview. After that, they’d ask a colleague the “perennial” question: “So, what did you think about that guy?” It might seem obvious, but this, Herrenkohl suggests, is a common and classic misstep.

 Here are 5 of Eric Herrenkohl’s best tips and sound bites:

  • “Determine an A-Player Profile.”

Know your ideal candidate from the start. An obvious point, right? Perhaps, but many companies lack clarity when it comes to profiling the ideal candidate. When this happens, the hiring team is more likely to have conflicting visions of what the new hire should look like, and thus, they will be slow to agree upon and actively pursue the right people. What’s Herrenkol’s remedy?

The Interview Scorecard.
He suggests putting together what he calls an “interview scorecard.” The scorecard should create a profile for the ideal candidate. The criteria are, of course, relative to the company’s need: they could range from competencies like “Proven Leader” and “Proven Quality Control Abilities” to “Strong Sense of Urgency” and “Excellent Personal Customer Service Abilities.” Cohesion and consensus from the beginning are, for Herrenkohl, absolutely essential.

  • “Interview candidates, don’t educate them.”

Herrenkohl describes a sales director irked by the fact that her boss always seemed more impressed with candidates than she was. Here’s the reason: First she would interview the candidate; then the other sales managers would each conduct an interview. Finally, the candidate would interview with her boss and then the senior vice president who, for some reason, always seemed to be wooed by the interviewee. So what happened? Another classic misstep: What was happening was that the interviewers were spending too much time talking about the company instead of “digging into people’s past sales accomplishments.” By the end of the day, the interviewee had honed “their own personal sales pitches” and told her boss everything he wanted to hear.

  • “Ask the right questions.”

Always avoid closed-ended questions. Consider the difference between the open question, “Tell me about a time when you had to lead your team in a new direction,” and this closed question: “Do you consider yourself to be a leader?” Unlike the open question, notice how the closed question lets the interviewee completely off the hook.  One-word answers reveal little to nothing about the candidate, so stop asking them.

  • “Always ask follow-up questions”
    Now that you’ve stopped asking closed questions, you’re done, right? Absolutely not. Even when interviewers ask open-ended questions, they will often receive charming, well-rehearsed answers. Good interviewers won’t be complacent with the first response. Instead, they will probe for more information by asking at least one more follow-up question.

  • “Always interview in well-matched teams"

It is important for interviewers to pair up with partner who has the same objective, but approaches issues in a different way. For example, if one interviewer is rapport builder, and perhaps more impulsive and prone to making quick decisions, he or she should be paired with a more analytical partner—that is, someone who has the ability to focus on facts instead of personality. Herrenkohl argues that “In a team interview, not only do you get to listen to the candidate’s responses to your partner’s questions, you can ask correlated questions that probe for the candidate’s real accomplishments.” 

Are you interested in enhancing your knowledge in the fields of business, organization behavior, and human resources? Do you want to become a human resources expert—a leader capable of transforming a business, government, or not-for-profit organization? If so, learn more about Marygrove College’s Master of Arts degree in Human Resource Management (HRM) program!

You should also know that as of March 26, Marygrove College has reduced tuition rates for the Human Resource Masters Program by 19 percent! The decision was made in an effort to address students’ concerns across the U.S. about the rising cost of higher education. This is one step—amongst a few others—that the college is taking to ensure that a Marygrove education is an achievable, financially-sustainable investment.

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Topics: Elearning, Online Graduate, Human Resource Management

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