June 25, 2018

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Getting Your Managers Interview-Ready
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It's that time again: recruiting season! Time to pull out your recruiting brochures, book your campus visits, and gather your recruiting team. But wait. . . . When was the last time your managers conducted interviews? If they don't interview often, or if it's been a while, you'll need to refresh their skills to ensure they interview effectively--and attract the best candidates.

Selecting your recruiters is an important first step to effective interviewing. My article, "Building a Winning Recruiting Team" (NACE Journal, fall 2002), notes that the most effective employers in the world work hard at getting the right recruiting team "DNA." They actively seek out people in their company who tend to have the following seven characteristics:
  1. Interesting experience
  2. Enthusiasm about the company
  3. A sense of purpose about bringing in and developing new talent
  4. Initiative and accountability
  5. Ability to execute
  6. Desire to keep improving
  7. A love for the game (the recruiting game, that is)
Once your recruiters are selected and organized into teams by school, they'll need some training to prepare them for the job. They might be great at what they do, but interviewing is a distinct skill, and if they don't do it often, you'll need to step in and offer some "TIPS":
  • Tools
  • Information
  • Practice
  • Skill-building
Here are eight steps to prepare your managers for successful on-campus and call-back interviews.

1. Remember the ABCs of interviewing:
  • Review the archetype interview. Make sure that your managers cover all of their bases during the interview. A typical candidate interview consists of five phases:
    1. Breaking the ice and putting the candidate at ease
    2. Asking questions
    3. Probing incomplete answers or problem areas
    4. Allowing the candidate to ask questions
    5. Closing the interview and communicating next steps
  • Find the best candidates. Train your recruiting team members to evaluate candidates in terms of experience, knowledge, skills, abilities, and cultural fit.
  • Clarify your goals. In order for your recruiting team to accomplish the above tasks, you need to be clear on what you're looking for and evaluating in candidates. Clarify your evaluation criteria, core messages, and the overall goal of your recruiting efforts so that interviewers are well prepared.
2. Write compelling job descriptions. When it comes to information about your company, job descriptions are what are most frequently read by candidates. And yet they rarely get the attention they deserve. Ideally, writing job descriptions should be a collaborative effort between HR and the hiring managers. Job descriptions should include:
  • Core components--job title, group name, and location.
  • Company background--mission, descriptions of products or services, highlights of strengths or industry position (how you are unique).
  • Job responsibilities--what the person would actually be doing in the role, including key objectives and with whom they will interact.
  • Requirements or preferences--what you look for in candidates' backgrounds, experience, education, or skills.
3. Clarify candidate evaluation criteria. Typically, candidates are measured on technical skills, knowledge or abilities required to actually do the job, and "soft" skills, such as cultural fit, interpersonal skills, communication skills, teamwork, and leadership potential.

4. Articulate your core messages. Candidates these days have a distaste for spin and PR. To recruit effectively, you need strong core messages free of PR fluff. What are the two or three key messages that you want to convey during the recruiting process to attract the best-fit candidates? Key messages can include what it would be like to work at your company or what makes your company different. These core messages are actively conveyed in the words and actions of interviewers, so make sure your managers know what they are.

5. Develop helpful handouts. Gather a complete set of handouts in a binder for each interviewer, or make them available on your website. Handouts can include:
  • Your recruitment literature
  • Job descriptions
  • A list of all recruiting teams by school and their contact information
  • A master calendar of key dates
  • Descriptions of overall recruiting activities and deliverables
For each school team, include:
  • School research, such as the school's employer or recruiter guide
  • A placement report
  • Website addresses
  • Key names
  • Contact information
  • Alerts to past problems that require sensitivity
  • Important school-specific dates
  • An executive summary of information about the school: school mission, number of students, student club lists, alumni recently hired by your organization, and demographics such as median student age, percentage of international students, average years of experience, and school selectivity data.
6. Prepare interview questions. The best method for evaluating a candidate's potential is the behavioral interview, which is based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future success. If certain behaviors are important to you, such as showing initiative, being a team player, learning quickly, or adapting to change, ask the interviewees to provide past examples of when they actually exhibited the behavior.

Here are some examples of behavioral interview questions:
  • Can you give me an example of a time when you initiated something or took a risk?
  • Can you describe a time when you failed and how you bounced back?
  • Can you tell me about a situation in which you were creative (or strategic, or showed leadership, etc.)?
  • Can you talk to me about a time when you had to deal with change or conflict?
  • Can you give me an example of an event that changed your life?
Encourage your recruiting team to come up with unique supplemental questions, such as:
  • Why did you go back to school for your X degree and why now?
  • What are the most important things you've learned?
  • If I were to ask your former bosses, peers, and any direct reports to describe your strengths and areas for development to me, what would they say?
  • What do you know about us and why would you want to work here?
  • At the end of your life, what would you want the headline on your obituary to read?
For further information on topics related to interviewing, see "Kickstarting Your College and MBA Recruiting Program" and "Ten Steps to an Effective MBA Recruiting Program."

7. Have your recruiters review the resumes in advance. Your interviewers will get the most from their interviews if they have some familiarity and background on the candidates beforehand (rather than having to scan the resume while in the interview). Jot down questions or notes reference. Reviewing resumes in advance also shows the candidates that interviewers care enough to do their homework on them in advance.

8. Plan and host a killer recruiting kick-off. Whether planning a half-day briefing event, several-day forum, or one-hour jam session, an ideal agenda to launch your recruiting season includes:
  • Introductory speech. Plan a motivating kick-off speech by an executive.
  • Participant interaction. Introduce activities to encourage team members to interact with each other and think about their recruiting goals. Have your recruiting team and HR members introduce themselves and share their biggest challenge and best practices for the upcoming year. Other exercises might include having the group devise a team name or slogan identifying the collective recruiting efforts, or playing a game like Recruiting Jeopardy.
  • Explanation of the big picture. Update your team on recruiting specifics such as the estimated total number of hires for each department, roles and responsibilities, how everyone will be working together, targeted schools, trends and themes you anticipate for recruiting, a master calendar of events and activities, and the general plan for callbacks and other steps of the recruiting process.
  • Game-day briefing. Discuss what to expect on the day of the interviews. Offer interviewing advice, including legal and illegal (or PC and non-PC) questions. Walk through job descriptions, candidate evaluation criteria, and core company messages that you prepared earlier.
  • Q & A. Make sure you allow your team members to ask questions and address specific concerns.
  • Team strategy sessions. Allow your recruiters to organize by team to flesh out their action plan and coordinate pre-recruitment events and on-campus interview schedules.
  • Interviewing basic training. Practice and build interviewing skills with role-playing, dramatizations, and input from top-gun interviewers.
    • Role-playing. Have each team designate an interviewer, an interviewee, and a coach. Practice an interview followed by constructive feedback from the coach. Keep rotating the roles until everyone has had a chance to play each role.
    • Dramatization. Enact an example of a great interview. Afterwards, point out with input from the group, how or why it was successful. Next, enact a terrible interview and do the same follow up.
    • Top-gun input. Invite some of your company's best interviewers or a panel of experts such as career counselors from top schools, executive recruiters, or heads of recruiting from peer companies with whom you are collegial. Ask them to share their insights, approaches, and advice on interviewing. Also refer to my WetFeet article, "Ten Executives Discuss What They're Looking for When They Interview Candidates."
After completing these eight steps, your managers should be in great shape for a successful recruiting season. For more in-depth advice on bringing in the most promising candidates, see my book, Hiring the Best and the Brightest . . . A Roadmap to MBA Recruiting, which provides best-in-class examples of exemplary job descriptions and interviewing approaches from effective recruiters such as Bertelsmann, Loreal USA, McKinsey and Co., Goldman Sachs, General Mills, and Yahoo.

Author Bio
Sherrie Gong Taguchi is a leading expert and author on career management, recruiting, and executive coaching. She was VP of Global University Recruiting at Bank of America, Director of Corporate HR for Dole Packaged Foods, and, for the past seven years, Assistant Dean and Director of the Stanford Business School's MBA Career Management Center and Management Communication Program.

Her book for employers, Hiring the Best and the Brightest...A Roadmap to MBA Recruiting, has been lauded by Jerry Porras, author of Built to Last, who says: "It's a handbook, workbook, casebook, reference book, guidebook, and user's manual all audaciously rolled into one. A better description of the right way to find and retain great people does not exist. Whether you're hiring or wanting to get hired, this book is for you."

Her current book, The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Career You Want (And What to Do Once You Have It), McGraw-Hill, is for individuals ranging from recent college graduates through the executive level, who are aspiring to bold, meaningful, dynamic careers over a lifetime.

Both books are available on

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