5 Hiring Process Tips They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School

hiring process tips

You may have an expensive education from a prestigious business school like Harvard Business School.  Or, you may have started your business with no formal schooling.  However, I can almost guarantee that you didn’t learn the tips and tactics that really matter when conducting a hiring interview. Here are 5 hiring process tips that I learned in my 20+ years as a business coach.

Whether you’re hiring a part-timer for your quick-serve restaurant or interviewing a senior executive, these are tactics that work.  Use them to dramatically increase your interviewing effectiveness:

  1. Let them do the talking
  2. Get curious and STOP
  3. Push for areas of weakness
  4. Never criticize
  5. Don’t let a candidate ramble on

Hiring Process Tip 1: Let them do the talking

When interviewing, you will be tempted to do most or all of the talking.  You would like to sell the candidate on all of the exciting initiatives you have going on.  You want them to think well of you.

You would also like to establish common ground.  When the candidate mentions that they grew up in Florida, you immediately want to say, “Hey!  I attended university in Florida!”

These impulses aren’t wrong or evil.  But they are ineffective.  Remember that, whenever you’re talking, the candidate isn’t.  Whenever the candidate isn’t talking, you aren’t learning anything about them.  And the whole point of conducting a job interview is to find out more about the candidate, not to become friends with the candidate, or have them be impressed with you or the company.  That can come later.

The old sales saw is never truer than in a job interview:

“Telling is not selling”

Make sure you’re asking, not telling and talking.  The more you ask, the more relevant data you’ll discover about the candidate.

Hiring Process Tip 2: Get curious and STOP

A good interviewer is a curious person.  They want to know more about the candidate and their past work history.  That often means that the interviewer wants to talk about things the candidate doesn’t necessarily want to discuss.

When the candidate looks at their shoes or doesn’t want to meet your eye, or gives vague or incomplete answers, STOP!  Ask for more detail about the situation.  Get their take on it so that you understand.  You can even rephrase their statement so that you’re absolutely sure you ‘got it.’

“So do I hear you saying that you were NOT fired from your past job?  Do I have that right?”

Hiring Process Tip 3: Push for areas of weakness

Candidates have read online that they’re never supposed to talk about areas of weakness.  Plus, they don’t like thinking about areas of weakness.  Or perhaps they are unaware that they even have them.  That’s a problem, and the great interviewer always wants to discover what these areas are.  In order to do that, you may have to ask more than once and in a variety of different ways.  Here are my favorites:

  • What are specific jobs you aren’t good at and don’t want to do more of?
  • When you go home at the end of the day and you feel wiped out, what were you doing that day?
  • What ‘areas for improvement’ came up in past performance reviews?
  • Make a list of ‘areas of strength’ and ‘areas of weakness’

And always remind them that you’re not trying to discover if they have weaknesses because everyone does; you’re trying to discover if they have self-awareness.  That usually gets them talking if nothing else works.

Hiring Process Tip 4: Never criticize

When a candidate is saying things that you disagree with, that’s a good thing!  It means that you’re learning something new about them.  So don’t shut down this window into their reality by criticizing them.  Instead, praise them and thank them for their uncommon honesty.  Remind them that very few candidates are willing to say what they really think or believe.

The point of the interview is to find out as much about the candidate’s past, as history tends to repeat itself.  The best indicator of future performance is past performance.

Hiring Process Tip 5: Don’t let a candidate ramble on

I always begin my interviews by telling the candidate that I will be interrupted to keep the interview on track.  If I don’t interrupt, the candidate will start talking about things that are irrelevant to the job and not related to what I want to find out.

So I begin by saying something like this:

“We have just a short time to do this interview, so I’m going to keep you on track by interrupting at times.  I’m doing it because I want you to be able to get your best, most relevant stuff out.  I want you to have the best interview possible.”

And that is the truth.

Do you have a solid hiring process? If not, no worries, take our course on “How to Hire ‘A’ Players” today!

In summary:

The master hiring tactics they didn’t teach you at Harvard Business School are:

  1. Let them do the talking
  2. Get curious and STOP
  3. Push for areas of weakness
  4. Never criticize
  5. Don’t let a candidate ramble on

Additional resources

Thanks for reading this article on what Master hiring tactics they didn’t teach you at Harvard Business School.  Below are additional resources from Professional Leadership Institute, the global provider of online human resources and leadership tools:

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