Attracting and retaining talent is a constant challenge. I work in San Francisco, where the unemployment rate is below both the national and state averages, giving qualified candidates tremendous choice and agency in determining their next career move. In such a competitive climate, it can be tempting to make an offer before someone else steals the candidate away.
But in the hiring process, each side needs to come to the table with honesty, self-awareness, and patience in order to avoid bad decisions, which can have long-term consequences and be difficult to undo. Here’s how you can avoid such an outcome:
Set realistic expectations
Hiring begins with the job description itself, which needs to reflect the position’s real requirements and responsibilities. Too many companies go forth in search of a left-handed, purple unicorn: that elusive individual who possesses mastery in a broad range of skills and can single-handedly do the job of many people.
Unfortunately, unicorns don’t exist. Companies that think they’ve hired one stand to be disappointed, and candidates who represent themselves as such are either on the fast track to burnout or are overselling themselves. Your job listings need to be realistic in order to attract real candidates and give your interviewers tangible evaluation criteria.
Pick and prepare your panel
You need to choose the right interviewers, determine who’s asking what, and prepare them in the art and science of effective interviewing. We have candidates meet their potential teammates, as well as stakeholders in other departments and at least one member of our executive team.
Beyond basic guidance on what kinds of questions to ask, we train employees in overcoming bias and caution them not to form preconceptions based on a candidate’s resume or educational credentials. We can’t stop employees from Googling someone prior to their office visit, but we can alert them to how doing so might generate unfair or inaccurate assumptions.
Probe for answers
During the interview itself, we dig for specifics to see how candidates have contributed in past roles and how they describe their interactions with colleagues. In addition to reviewing work samples, we also assign exercises and have candidates present to a group for their second-round visit to our office. This helps us get a sense of how candidates approach problems, think about strategy, and drive results.
Be sure to tell your interviewers to listen more and talk less. When you jump in to add a comment, it can lead the candidate to tell you what they think you want to hear.
Don’t rely on gut decisions
When it comes to giving feedback on an applicant, urge your interviewers to be specific and direct about why the person is or isn’t suited for the role. It’s important not to interpret easy, free-flowing conversation or good chemistry as a signal that someone is right for the job.