Interviewing Tips from a Top Recruiter
As a talent management and acquisition expert, Robin Rayburn has helped connect job seekers to employers for more than a decade. She has worked with organizations such as McCoy-Rockford, Interviewing.com, Texas Medical Center, Altathera Pharmaceuticals, Advantage xPO, and PeopleScout. She also does speciality consulting for various businesses, from startups to the Fortune 500 companies, and her work has been featured on sites such as Interviewing.com, Forbes.com, WGN Chicago, & Parade Magazine online. Rayburn was also a featured speaker at the 2015 NACE/CARS Expo & Conference in Detroit this year. Here, she discusses her top hiring tips for the mechanical repair industry.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF INTERVIEWING TECHNICIANS AND MORE TECHNICAL POSITIONS?
What I see people struggle with is not being properly prepared. It’s the biggest part. Knowing exactly what they’re looking for and having the correct job description for the job they’re looking for, and if it actually fits their needs. Sometimes you’re just back filling a position and you keep the same job description when the needs have actually changed. In the actual interview, you need to really understand where they’re coming from. If you’re interviewing someone fresh out of school, they might not have much experience interviewing, so they might need a little help and coaching.
You also need an understanding of what technical skills are required because sometimes owners don’t really know the true expectations of the job. They’re more managerial and they’ve been separated from the actual work for quite some time. It’s getting reacquainted with those skill sets or bringing someone else in for the interview.
Overall, take that time prior to the interview, whether it’s five minutes, 20 minutes—whatever time you need prior to meeting the candidate to make sure you’re familiar with that background. All too often, we’re too busy, we just need to hire someone. But you need to treat them like an investment. And you start that investment prior to the person joining the company. It starts at the interview level.
As far as getting the job description in line, scan that job description and align it to your company. Don’t just look at the general requirements that everyone else has out there and not look at your own core competencies. What do you want everyone in your company to bring to the table? Is it that customer service is number one? Look for something different that your shop offers that no one else does and make sure you’re hiring employees that bring those values to the table.
HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY TECHNICAL SKILLS IN AN INTERVIEW?
One of my favorite tricks is that I ask them to explain a certain process as if they’re talking to a 5-year-old. If they can explain it well, I know that they have that understanding of the process and can break it down in laymen terms. If they struggle with it, they probably don’t have the basic understanding they need. A person who can break down and explain a highly technical process is going to be able to better communicate and work with teams or clients outside their department.
As far as other technical skills, I always recommend assessments. They’re always great but I try to leave those for the end of the interview process when there’s only a couple of candidates left.
Of course, you can always hire for attitude over skill, too, but you have to think about your business and the short-term and long-term goals. We often have the short-term goal of wanting someone with the right skills to come in but if you can take that time to evaluate what the longer-term goals are, then you can justify hiring someone with less skill. But if you’re not willing to make that investment, then there’s no point. And you should be realistic with yourself. No matter what, they should have a baseline level of skill.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST QUESTIONS TO ASK IN AN INTERVIEW?
One of them is “give me an example of a project that you had to apply your expertise in/with X.”
It’s always great to ask for examples when addressing skillsets. Part of the goal in asking the question is to get a greater sense if they understand the applications of the skills or expertise you are looking for in how they communicate.
Another question is, “What formal training have you completed for X? Can you provide additional examples of how you have identified and used opportunities outside of your formal training to develop skills related to X?” There are those people who learn something and store it away, and those that learn, apply, grow, and repeat the cycle to continue to develop. Which is the right fit for the position you’re filling? Don’t just settle for knowing what courses they took.
Also, delve in a little deeper to see if your candidate is constantly trying to improve their skills. Are they aware of relevant current and future trends? Do they seek out new processes or technologies? Do they continue to leverage or build upon their skills for new applications? Don’t be afraid to ask how they developed their knowledge around a particular area or what actions they take to stay current with new standards or to maintain their level of proficiency.
When it comes to their past work experience, questions like, “Tell me more about the experience you mentioned while X. What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment related to that experience?” Were they able to learn something that they applied later in their work? Did they go above and beyond in creating new or simplified standards, products, services, or methods of operations for the organization? This can sometimes allow you to identify if they see the bigger picture in how their work applies to the goals of an organization. It can give you an understanding if the applicant is the type who buries their head and just does what is asked or if they seek to improve processes or find new methods to apply their skills.
Finally, ask, “What have you done to gain a better understanding of your previous company’s business strategies including competencies, capabilities, products and services? What have you learned from these opportunities or how have you applied this knowledge?”
This is another big picture question. If candidates take the time to understand how they fit into the larger strategy of the organization, they’re most likely going to be able to better apply their skill sets in a more proactive manner to help achieve mutual goals.
ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS SHOP OWNERS SHOULD STAY AWAY FROM?
I tell people to stay away from the old interview questions, like, “Where does a candidate see themselves in five years?” Because you’re basically asking a candidate to lie. The way business is changing, people aren’t at companies for 10, 20 years anymore. Instead, ask them things like, “How do you want to grow your career? In what ways can the challenges here help you to achieve your goals?” If you can understand how your candidates want to grow, you can figure out if they have a future in your business.