Hiring is a lot like sales: They’re both sheer numbers games. However, if you approach the process strategically, you can play the game smart.
For the last four years, I’ve been the leader of talent acquisition at an advertising tech company, which has grown to nearly 150 employees after beginning with a just roster of under 100 when I first started.
The current hiring landscape reflects a rising employee turnover rate. Therefore, it’s crucial to hire candidates that will grow with your company and stick around for the long haul. Here, I outline several interview tips to help hiring managers think outside the box and really get to know candidates.
Forget the résumé
Hiring managers across the board tend to put too much emphasis on résumés during the interview process. Remember, the interview is your chance to get to know who the candidate really is, beyond the content of their résumé. Stay away from the “résumé quiz,” where you make the candidate read every bullet point aloud. I like to start my interviews with a simple, no-frills, “tell me about yourself.” It sets a friendly, casual tone that makes it easier to establish a genuine connection. If the candidate still sticks to their résumé, I’ll ask, “What would I not know about you from only looking at your résumé?”
Don’t worry about sticking perfectly to the script
It’s common knowledge that structured interviews lead to unbiased, more consistent results. However, you have to be careful that your company does not come off as robotic or overly rigid—so don’t fret if you don’t get through every planned question. Let the interview become a conversation and pepper in the preset questions that are most relevant to what you’re talking about. If you’re too focused on ticking every question off your list, you won’t actually learn about the candidate.
Make sure your candidate is passionate about the field
Since I work at an advertising company, my favorite question to ask candidates is, “what is the brand that you admire the most?” Their answer shows me that they are genuinely interested in the advertising world, no matter what brand they choose (my personal answer is Nike). Especially when it comes to entry-level candidates without much experience, it’s much easier to gauge their interest in an industry than in a specific position. If your industry is finance, ask about a candidate’s most recent stock they bought. If your industry is architecture, ask a candidate’s favorite monument. Candidates should feel passionate about the industry in which they’re applying for a job. Don’t forget to follow up with a simple, “why?”
Don’t veto candidates off the bat
I’m a firm believer that you should hire for ambition and intelligence rather than based on past experience. Every company is different–and no matter what hard skill you have coming in, it’ll be a learning experience at a new company. Focus on finding candidates that are teachable and ready to learn, and look for signs that someone has a strong work ethic and positive attitude.
Consider a person’s long-term potential
It’s easy to get caught up in the specific role a candidate is applying for. It makes sense; it was on the job posting and it’s why the person is here. But when I interview candidates, I don’t focus on short term career goals. Instead, I steer the conversation toward long-term career trajectories.
For example, when a recent college graduate applies for a coordinator role, I spend a lot of time in the interview talking about long-term opportunities at the company—1, 2, and even 3 years in the future. Ask probing questions about the skills the candidate would like to learn, or areas where they’d like to focus once they master the role they are applying for.
Remember that every hire is an investment–one that you hope lasts for many years; It’s incumbent on you to get them excited not just about tomorrow but about the next few years at the company. (Note: This does not mean you should ask my least favorite interview question, the dreaded “where do you see yourself in five years?” I’ve been working for eight years and I’ve never had a concrete five-year plan. )
Provide different down-the-line career paths, and let the candidate tell you which ones they’re interested in.
Hiring candidates that stick around and become top contributors for years is crucial to maintaining any growing company. A company hoping to foster long-time staff tenures should put time into having genuine conversations during their interview process, including how they grow and develop when they come on-board to your company.
Julie Kim is the senior director of talent acquisition at the advertising and technology company, Jun Group.