Planning Effective Interviews

Planning Effective Interviews

Hiring new employees is a big decision. There are anxious moments when you realize you’re responsible for another person’s financial well-being, and that any hiring decisions affect your well-being and that of your company.

There are benefits too, and they’re huge. When a person signs on, they’re saying “no” to other opportunities and saying “yes” to helping to make your dream a reality. That’s a big show of faith.

Additionally, when you’ve got another person, another mind, dedicated to your vision, things start to move forward quickly. Very quickly.

This article is the first in a two-part series about hiring. First, I’ll share how-to’s and tips for conducting a traditional, in-person interview. Then, we’ll dive into hiring a remote worker. Both articles will guide you through anxious moments and suggest exactly how to begin the rewarding process of hiring the perfect fit.

Start Preparing Way Before An Interview

First and foremost, make the commitment to invest the time that recruitment, interviewing, and hiring demands. When you’re a one or two-person shop, it can seem like any time spent away from the product or service you’re nurturing is poorly spent. However, rushing into the process leads to bad hires, which is terribly expensive.

To really invest the time wisely, follow the three steps outlined below.

1. Set aside an hour at the start and end of the day

Make an appointment with yourself as you would with any important contact or associate. Maintain this appointment until you’ve completely wrapped your head around your hiring process.

2. Define your company’s core values

Your company’s core values tell prospective employees a lot about the job. Consider Apple. Words that come to mind are probably innovation, cool, “think different” and passion for design.

In a speech to Apple employees, Steve Jobs once said, “What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their job done… Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core… It’s core values… is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”

With your values clearly defined, it’s easier to convey them to a candidate.

3. Design an on-boarding process

There’s a tendency to ride the momentum and excitement of bringing someone new on board by handing them a bunch of work with a hearty, “Go!” However, properly bringing a new person on board builds a foundation for a great relationship.

Since many employees often work long hours—and considering they probably weren’t there for the inception and early days of the business—they really need to feel like a part of the team. Here are a few effective strategies:

    1. Have them meet the team via email prior to their start date. Or do so in person. This can be informal and even include fun ice-breakers. I once worked at a startup that held a weekly “board game night,” and as a new hire, I found it a welcoming, low-pressure way to meet everyone.
    2. Create a brief orientation day, including sessions on company policies, but also topics like company culture, company history, intent and strategies.
    3. Prepare a proper workstation with a laptop and other required tools. A mug or T-shirt with a logo is another way to say, “Welcome, you’re part of the team.”

There’s the typical HR stuff to complete, of course, but going a step or two beyond is worth the effort.

Designing The Perfect Interview Process

With those preliminary steps taken care of, it’s time to begin recruiting and interviewing. Thinking about this stage well before you start looking at applications gives candidates an equal chance and helps you weigh priorities before wasting people’s time.

Screening applications

When the applications start to come in, look for the following:

  1. People with startup/small business experience. True, a small business is not a startup, but someone who has worked at one is comfortable in small teams and having a lot of responsibility.
  2. Look for side projects, even if they aren’t related to what your product or service is. People who take projects on or create them for themselves are generally eager to try new things, dedicated, and not afraid to work hard.
  3. If you’re hiring for a web startup, hire people who understand the internet inside and out. Developers, coders, and designers should have a vibrant social media presence or portfolio. Twitter can give you a good idea of a person, even if it means scrolling through 100 tweets.

Once you’ve identified the best candidates, it’s time to begin the interview process.

Give candidates an initial test

First, have applicants demonstrate their skills or abilities. Many applicants know how to answer common interview questions or drop buzzwords.

Cut through all of that and have them complete a task similar to what they’d face at work. For example, if you’re hiring a salesperson or marketing pro, have them sell you something. In an interview for a sales position, my manager ended the interview by handing me a cup of tea with the instructions, “Sell me on this cup of tea. You have five minutes.”

Additionally, pay attention to who completes the task and who goes the extra mile with it. The former is good, but the latter should move directly to your short list.

Conduct the initial interview

At last, you’ve identified some candidates and you’re ready to begin the in-person interviews. Once they’ve arrived, there are some topics to address right away.

First, look for people who are real and clear. This can be a bit hard to define, but be wary of people who use cliche phrases and terms. Instead, go for the person who speaks their mind. You need people who are smart and driven, of course, but also not afraid to disagree with you.

Share your vision for the company and the likely long hours they’ll be putting in. This who don’t balk make the cut and should move on to the next steps.

Have them interview with everyone

You’ve got a small company, so let the short-list interviewees sit with everyone on the team. Particularly in startups and small companies, team members work long hours, very closely together. Therefore, it’s crucial that people get along.

That one minor personality conflict will be amplified a hundredfold when you’re all working in close quarters six months down the road. Don’t overlook it. Go for the people who can honestly explain what they like and dislike. Those are the people who care and will tell you the truth when they claim to believe in the core values you defined earlier.

Don’t forget to check references

Skills, experience, and enthusiasm are worthless in a person with a poor work ethic. Anyone who struggles to provide solid, believable references should be nixed.

Hire as soon as it makes sense

When you feel it’s time to grow and it makes sense financially, make the hire. Adding another person to the team takes whole projects and routines off your busy to-do list. The added brainpower and sheer work hours are a real lift to everyone.

Adding to your team is daunting, but when approached carefully, thoughtfully and with the right preparation, is very likely to be successful. Be sure to step back from the resume and engage your candidates, share the work culture, seek examples of their work and ensure they’ll fit in well with the team.


Let Authentic Jobs help you make that great hire.