Moving Past the Checkboxes

September 2022
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Hiring is a complicated, layered process. In order to find the right person for your open position, you have to advertise for the job opportunity, review résumé submissions, organize several rounds of interviews with multiple candidates, share and compare notes with hiring committees, issue assessments, check references, and negotiate offers. 

While all of this exploration is taking place, you have to remain wholly responsive and transparent with your candidates, while presenting your organization and team in a progressive, intriguing light. 

One way to ensure that you’re maximizing invested time from all players — from the interviewer to the applicant to the decision-makers — is to step into an interview armed with a plan on how to really break down a candidate’s professional, strategic experience and apply that to what your team actually needs, in addition to identifying the intangibles. 

Focus on the tangible “must haves” of the role. 

When you sit down to interview a candidate, focus on what the role requires. Don’t waste time with silly questions, like, “What one thing would you want to have on a deserted island?” Instead, drill down into their core skills and qualifications, and ask for examples of their work that relate directly to the requirements.

Know what you want, and if you’re not the hiring manager, but instead a member of the interviewing committee, make sure the needs are described to you in detail. 

The specifics will depend on the role and the level you’re hiring for, but coming to the table with topics to probe further on is always best practice. For instance, have they directly interfaced with the C-suite to offer advice? Do they have current, relevant media relationships? Have they executed a successful crisis response for a client, and if so, how? 

Always make the effort to dig beneath the surface. 

Now, let’s say you’ve identified a person who checks all of the boxes on a job description, but the interview simply hasn’t felt very fluid, or perhaps you have lingering questions about fit with the existing team, with your clients or the workplace culture. 

The nice-to-haves might be, arguably, more important than the checkboxes of a résumé against the job description. In order to enable change and forward momentum in any organization, you have to diversify and expand beyond the boundaries of the familiar. Knowing how to look for and identify intangible assets in a candidate is a powerful tool to have in your interviewer arsenal. 

Once you have sufficiently connected all of the dots from their experience to the top line needs of the role, you can then comfortably explore the unique qualities and other elements of their potential fit. This is the part where you really get to know a person professionally — not just what they can do, but how they do it, what they may need, and a little more about who they are. 

Ask the person how they like to be managed, and what their own management style is like. What are their desires in terms of growth opportunities and ongoing professional development? Are they intellectually curious, willing to learn and ready to get started? Do they possess empathy and self-awareness?

Save time by conversing with purpose and actively listening.

Be prepared for your interview, review all available materials and previous notes, and come into the room knowing what you want to ask and explore. And, when you ask questions, really take a beat and listen to what the applicant is saying to you. This encourages storytelling, and the person is more likely to paint the picture for you in a clear, pertinent way. 

If you approach an interview the right way, you can find out if they’re proactive planners or reactive executors, if they’re skilled delegators or in-the-trenches facilitators, and in the end, this will guide you to an informed decision on whether or not they have what it takes to thrive in your organization. 

It really is less about must-haves versus nice-to-haves, the checkboxes versus the intangibles, and more about finding the balance between the two in order to make the best hiring decisions for your company. 

When you find that balance and execute it fluidly, you will save time and find that you have an edge in attracting, engaging, hiring and retaining a more diverse, talented, and high-performing workforce. 

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