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Why You Need to Invest More Time in Your Interview Process

By Stefan Benndorf, Managing Director, AppLift


“Thoughtful talent acquisition strategies can reduce hiring-process timelines, improve the ability to recognize top talent, and increase employee satisfaction. It is about identifying the traits that matter to you, and learning how to recognize them in an interview process.”

Business owners know attracting and retaining the right talent is key to success. What varies is their approach to doing so.

When you are in startup mode, recruitment can feel like a chore. Finding time to source and scour resumes, call candidates to ask the same preliminary questions, and schedule and conduct the actual interviews is daunting. At 70 percent of small businesses, HR is handled as a side job by the owner or by another employee with other responsibilities, according to a study by ADP.

Entrepreneurs need to change their mindset. Hiring is not a chore or a side job — it is the foundation of their business. Their growth depends on successful recruitment, and successful recruitment begins with the interview process. If you can identify what you need in an employee and how to find it during an interview process, it will save you time in the long run. It should help you reduce turnover and hire more productive and effective workers who require less hand-holding.

For those of us in the technology space, a talent acquisition strategy is as important as the tech solution we offer. This industry moves so quickly — to grow, or even just keep up, you have to think and act fast. That takes the right type of talent.

Consider Google’s notoriously systematic and time-consuming interview process, in which it goes to great lengths to ensure it makes decisions based on fact, not misleading first impressions. Google wants to hire people who think a certain way, and it has invested substantial resources in doing so.

Let’s not forget that Netflix’s incredible success is in part credited to its company culture. Since its release in 2009, “Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility,” has been viewed almost 17 million times on SlideShare. The deck breaks down its core values, but also, the behaviors and skills it expects from its employees, which include innovation, courage, and judgement.

Netflix values performance above hard work. Patty McCord, one of the creators of the Netflix culture deck, said that documenting their expectations changed the interview process. Instead of asking general questions about a candidate’s life, she and her colleagues could instead focus on understanding how a candidate does productive work.

A thoughtful interview process isn’t reserved for huge businesses. If anything, it is even more important for emerging companies, since they may not have the brand name to rely on.

Thoughtful talent acquisition strategies can reduce hiring-process timelines, improve the ability to recognize top talent, and increase employee satisfaction. It is about identifying the traits that matter to you, and learning how to recognize them in an interview process.

For example, if you are a lean business poised for fast growth, one of the most crucial traits to focus on is proactiveness, a person’s ability to anticipate challenges, recognize opportunities, and take appropriate action without waiting to be told what to do. Many entrepreneurs don’t have time to manage everything from the top down, so they need self-starters who take ownership of their job.

To screen for this trait, try asking interview questions like these:

1. Tell us about a past achievement you are proud of.

2. Tell us about a time you had an idea for changing a certain process. What happened?

3. Tell us about the biggest work challenge you ever faced.

4. Tell us about a time you were bored at work. What did you do to change that?

Listen to the type of language candidates use. Are they showing initiative? Do they take ownership of their actions, or do they blame others for problems? They should also have questions for you, since proactive people are curious, big-picture thinkers.

It’s important to test for technical skills to ensure someone is qualified for the job, but often it is just as important, if not more important, to find people who embody your culture and identify with your core values.

Another interesting example of a company who recognizes the importance of hiring the right people is Intermarkets. In the last two years, no one has voluntarily left Intermarkets. That speaks volumes of its company culture, but also of its ability to recognize a good hire. The team spends a lot of time with candidates screening for fit, often four to six weeks. Candidates meet with different team members from different departments, and everyone has to buy in to their ability to integrate well, since company culture and collaboration is so important to the business.

Intermarkets also encourages its employees to refer qualified candidates, since who better than them to understand what the company needs? Because it hires the right people, it makes it easier to promote from within. Last year, the majority of Intermarkets’ positions were filled internally.

As an entrepreneur, if you can make better hiring decisions, you’ll improve retention and help your business grow. The key is to define what you need in an effective employee, then devise a strategy for identifying those traits via a thorough interview process. Look to your most effective hirers for inspiration. Are there commonalities? What traits do they possess that cannot be taught? The interview process is your chance to screen for things that are not easily learned or changed, like proactiveness or company fit, and to find the type of people who can help you grow your business.

About Stefan

Stefan Benndorf is COO & Managing Director at AppLift, making sure that business operations run smoothly. He previously co-founded appiris (which was acquired by AppLift).
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