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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The One Interview Technique that Gets Real Answers

Asking probing questions is the key to eliciting meaningful information from well-prepared applicants. Here's an example of how your probing can reveal the real story.

You: Well, I'm looking for a stellar project manager, so tell me about an important project that you managed.
Applicant: I recently managed the computerization of our entire vendor/purchasing/inventory management program.

(Great. Sounds like a winner—that's just what we need someone for.)

You: How did you do as far as bringing it in on time and on budget?
Applicant: I'm very proud of that. With a year-long project, we were up and running and fully trained two weeks early. The overall budget was $3.5 million and we brought her in at $3.34.

(Is this a qualified candidate or what? Seems great so far. Should we move on to some other topics? Let's probe a little bit.)

You: How many were on the team?
Applicant: 18.

You: Were you the team leader?
Applicant: Yes

(Wow, this candidate's going to be great, but maybe we should probe a little more.)

You: Who selected the software?
Applicant: Oh, the consultant did. She was very sharp.

(Hmmm. The consultant?)

You: How were the team members selected?
Applicant: Well, my boss picked the internal members, and the consultant picked the technical people.

(Maybe this candidate's involvement was not as great as I first thought. Let's probe more.)

You: Who directed the day-to-day activities of the team?
Applicant: Oh, the consultant did that. Very technical project, very technical.

(Wait a minute. What did the applicant do?)

You: So how often did you meet with the team?
Applicant: I attended all the meetings to be sure that everything was going well. I sent out the reminder notices for the meetings and I printed up the agenda after the consultant worked it up.

You can see where this going. This candidate, who initially appeared to be a successful high-level project manager, was in reality a low-level coordinator. The candidate was never lying, but it took considerable probing to bring out a complete picture of his efforts.

Bottom line, especially when it comes to key responsibilities and accomplishments, probe, probe, probe.

Of course, once you've completed the interviewing and selected a candidate, the real fun begins. Starting with sorting out immigration and I-9 requirements. How should you verify eligibility to work? What list of documents are you supposed to use this week for completing out I-9s? Should you keep copies even though you're not required to? And if you do, where should you keep them?

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