Question: I am at a point where I dread facing the big pile of resumes on my desk every morning.
I hate to ask the same kinds of questions, and I'm tired of answers that don't impress me. I have no shortage of candidates. But I can't seem to find the right one who we feel comfortable with.
Nick’s Advice: What would you do if someone called you on the phone and said, “I've long been interested in your company, and I've studied where you've been and where you're going. If you're interested in discussing it, I'd like to explain to you how I'd use my skills in ABC to help you accomplish XYZ so you can get about 10 percent to 15 percent more out of this position.”
When I ask managers this question, the typical response is, "I'd love to have just one job candidate make my eyes open wide like that!"
In "Hire For Profit," we touched on ways to interview candidates who can actually deliver what you need. Now let’s talk about how to interview only the best candidates by coaching them in advance. Yes, that's right: Coach candidates. If you want the very best candidates to have the best chance at getting a job on your team, then give them a leg up. Before you invite a candidate in for a face-to-face interview, here's what you first need to do with the person during a phone call.
1. Focus on the work: Pretend you are hiring a temporary marketer for six months, and you need to tell him exactly what you actually need him to do. Lay out the specifics of the work and the desired outcomes on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Give the candidate a clear picture of what's expected. If you can't explain what you need, then the candidate can't demonstrate the ability to do it. So focus on the work.
2. Give the candidate something to do: Describe the two or three challenges and problems posed by the work. Smart candidates need hurdles. You need to define what these are. For example, "We need to launch our next campaign in 15 percent less time, but we can't raise the cost more than about 5 percent." Or, "We need to get more useful insights out of our social metrics."
Bear in mind, you're not asking the candidate to solve a problem or answer your questions now— and you’re not asking him to do free work. You're providing information to help him prepare a presentation for your meeting.
3. Make your interview an open-book test: Suggest that the candidate talk with two or three other people on your team or in your company, before the interview, for insight when preparing his interview presentation:
"Our interview is next Friday. If you'll call me by Tuesday to let me know how far you've gotten, I'll give you their names and introduce you. They'll be glad to talk with you. If you need a little more time, just say so."
Your goal isn't to test the marketer’s ability to jump up and dance on the spur of the moment (like in a traditional interview). It's to find out whether he can prepare an intelligent plan of attack on the work you need done by talking with other team members—like in the actual job.
4. Stand and deliver: Finally, tell the candidate that in the interview you'd like him to do a 20-minute presentation explaining his understanding of the job, how he's going to do it, and how his approach will be profitable.
"I don't expect you to give me a very detailed answer because you don't know our operation well. But I'd like you to take a defensible stab at coming up with an idea of how this would pay off for us. We work as a team here. Approach our interview this way, and we'll all learn a lot from one another."
With this approach, you will save lots of time, and you will have only a few interviews for each job. After all, who wants or needs lots of interviews or candidates? Only the most motivated and interested marketers will agree to do the prep work—or show up.
For more about how to recruit such candidates, read "Ferocious Recruiting."