Sometimes I think I get undue credit for my methods about how to conduct really good job interviews because the truth is, I’ve borrowed the main ideas from the consulting world.
A traditional job interview may be sufficient for getting at a job candidate’s credentials, history, and experience. But it’s not sufficient to help you get at whether this person can help you. In today's rapidly changing business world, the past is less predictive than it used to be. What matters is what a person can do now and how effectively the person can shift gears when necessary. What job applicants can do for you hinges on how well they understand your needs—and it’s not up to you to tell them what those are.
Consider the stark contrast between these two scenarios:
A job applicant walks into the hiring manager’s office, sits down, folds his hands, and waits for the first interview question. The applicant has studied all the best questions (and trick questions) managers ask and has good responses ready. The applicant has also rehearsed several stories about how he has accomplished one thing or another and how he has dealt with a difficult situation because he knows all about “behavioral interviewing.” The applicant is also ready to recount his experience and work history. All he needs is for the employer to ask.
Then we have the consultant who’s looking to land a new client. The consultant shows up for the meeting and does a brief presentation about key issues in the prospect’s industry in today’s market. The consultant outlines three or four challenges that he has surmised—through some research—that the prospect faces and then proposes how his firm’s resources and acumen can be applied to help the soon-to-be client. In closing, the consultant offers some estimates about the cost of the project and how—in dollars—it will pay off for the client. Finally, the consultant engages the prospect in a discussion about the prospect’s business, in order to gather more fodder on which to base even more proposed solutions—because landing the gig is, after all, about demonstrating why working together will pay off.
Who did more work in preparation for their meeting? Which person is talking about your business and which is talking about himself?
When you—the CMO—conduct a job interview, you should structure it so it’s a presentation, not an interrogation. The candidate should do the presenting. The candidate should be as prepared as a consultant who wants your business. The candidate should already know your business—and how to make it better. (See “Doing The Work VS. Doing The Interview.”)
Is that shocking? Not if you cue the candidate in advance, just as you would a consultant who's coming in to do a presentation: "Here's what we need, and we expect you'll be prepared to show us how you're going to do the work."
What work? The work he was smart enough to ask you to describe when you talked on the phone. A candidate gets extra points for asking not just about the work, but also about the problems and challenges you face. As a manager, you get extra points for leading a candidate in this direction when you call him on the phone to avoid wasting time in your upcoming meeting. Don't worry: You're not giving away any advantage. Only good candidates will know what to do with your suggestions.
If you're dubious about this approach, compare the two scenarios again. When a consultant walks in the door to earn your business, he does a presentation to explain what you need, what he can do for you, and how he's going to do it better than anyone else. Then he shows you how his work will pay off. He doesn't hand you a resume and wait for you to figure out what to do with him.
Why should you expect any less from a person you're going to hire full-time with benefits?
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