Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Steps to an Effective Interview

To get the most information out of an interview — and identify the best marketing professional for your team — follow these eight steps:

Prepare in advance. Develop an approach you’ll use with all candidates. Rank job requirements in order of importance, and prepare a list of questions that will enable you to assess applicants’ talent and expertise in these areas. Be sure to include questions designed to gauge interpersonal skills and problem-solving abilities, such as “Can you tell me about an important decision you made and how you arrived at it?” or “Describe a situation in which you had to deal with a professional disagreement or conflict.”

Ask diverse questions. To assess the candidate’s work style and compatibility with your firm’s culture, vary the style of your questions. Ask closed-ended, factual ones (“How many years did you work for Firm A?”); open-ended questions (“Can you describe your major accomplishments?”) and hypothetical, job-related scenarios (“How would you handle a difficult client … ”)

Make a pitch for your firm. The interview works both ways, so be sure to emphasize the positive aspects of your company to prospective hires. Benefits such as employee recognition programs, subsidized training courses and on-site facilities such as a cafeteria or health club can all be strong selling points.

Rephrase questions to obtain complete answers. If an applicant’s response to your question is vague or insufficient, don’t be afraid to ask for the information in a different way. For example, rephrase “Why did you leave your previous position?” to “What types of opportunities are you looking for that your last job did not provide?”
Pay attention. Fight the urge to formulate your next question while the candidate responds to the last one. You need to listen attentively to pick up on bits of information that might otherwise escape you.

Write it down. Memory is unreliable, so take notes in an unobtrusive way during the interview. Don’t transcribe everything the candidate says — jotting down the highlights should be sufficient. Be sure to record your impressions along with the applicant’s responses to questions. If you’re interviewing someone for a design position, ask if they have an extra work sample they can leave behind.
Don’t rush to judgment. Try to avoid forming an opinion too quickly about a candidate. Wait until after the interview to evaluate responses and make interpretations.

End on a positive note. Once you feel you have enough information, end the interview politely. Thank the applicant for his or her time and interest, and briefly mention subsequent steps.