After the countless interviews I have done over the last twenty years, one of the greatest compliments I’ve received from a hiring manager was, “You bring an energy that makes candidates feel comfortable enough to be themselves.” With every interview opportunity comes the ability to explore a match for a candidate with the position and firm. When candidates are prepared and at ease during an interview, much can be learned about their personalities and potential to fill open positions. As the interviewer, you want to know with confidence that you’ve taken the time to make the whole process positive and done your due diligence when selecting the “right fit,” not just on paper.
The job description for an open position is a very significant piece of the pre-interview process, and if written well, it transitions nicely into the actual interview. Oftentimes, job descriptions get recycled over and over while the job itself has gone through many evolutions. Many factors can impact the scope of a position like change in the size of the team or leadership, new technology, and change in the needs and goals of the company. In the AEC industry, particularly, industry standards and regulations can impact the requirements for certain job titles.
So, in preparation for interviewing for a specific position, the job description must be clearly written to reflect the qualifications expected of top talent. Candidates should then be able to see exactly what is required by the job description in advance and come to the interview able to prove how they match the needs and fit in the overall organizational plan. Interviewers having previously provided what they are looking for in a clear job description will receive candidates that are ready to showcase what they bring to the table and make the interview process flow easily and successfully.
Make a Good First Impression
If candidates are able to come into the office, they should feel not only welcomed but excited about sharing their qualifications with you. Greetings and initial contact in person should be done with polite professionalism such as acknowledging their interview time and offering water or a place to sit and wait for their time slot. The interviewer should come out and walk candidates back to the pre-set-up room and inquire as to any needs they have before the interview begins. For a Zoom or phone call, candidates should still be greeted on time with a positive attitude and made to feel that their time is valuable.
Break the Ice and Establish the Mood
As the interview begins, candidates should be encouraged to relax with some comforting initial conversational questions. Afterwards, they should be reminded to take their time and think through their answers asking for clarity if a question isn’t understood. With most interviews these days being conducted virtually, you want to create an environment that removes the technical barrier and gives the same energy you would if you were in-person. For the interview questions, minimize the predictable, classic, broad questions like “Tell me your strengths and weaknesses,” or “Do you work well with others?”
Remember the goal is to find out who the person is, not just what they think you want to hear. You should ask Behavioral Questions that allow candidates to talk about their past work experiences. Behavioral-based interview questions focus on how they previously handled various work situations such as “Tell me a situation which was challenging and how you handled it?” Especially for highly technical and labor-based industries, like AEC, ensure that the questions are specific to the position and structured to reveal the candidates’ skills, abilities, and thought processes.
Candidates, having reviewed your job description in advance and feeling at ease with the interviewer, should be able to relate to the needs of the open position and provide some good examples of their past experiences. As mentioned before, a well written job description pre-interview should provide top talent the chance to come to the interview prepared for identifying their skills. You should wrap up the interview by allowing the candidates to ask any other questions and give them an overview of the remaining steps in the candidate selection process including the approximate date you have targeted to have the position filled.
Carefully Choose Your Match
When possible, conduct post-interview discussions immediately after the interviews or within a few days so that impressions and thoughts about the candidates are still fresh in the mind. Many companies use a rating system to rank the candidates’ interview performances. Using the ranking system can work in conjunction with post-interview discussions, and it provides measurable data to support the final decision.
After all interviews have been completed, make the selection of your candidate a priority. Efforts to determine who will move to the next step or to choose the final selection should be made within a week to increase the probability that your top choices are still available when you are ready to extend an offer. Every interview that is completed requires a follow-up indicating the status in the selection process or thanking candidates for their time if not chosen.
Keep in mind that those candidates that are not picked for current positions might be good matches for future positions, so it is important to have open communications all the way through to the end. Also, maintaining these connections will ensure good public relations going forward. You never know when a position will open up again so setting the right tone for the entire candidate interview process is a must in order to attract and find the best fit for your firm.