It’s been a while since I’ve been on the “receiving end” of a traditional interview, but I still find myself part of the hiring team on interviews, and still have painful memories of dotcom jobs and the resulting cascade of grossly unqualified resumes we received every week.
I’ve experienced cover letters with misspellings, cover letters that are obviously and embarrassingly form letters (‘like Dear __hiring manager___“), missing cover letters, resumes with typos or formatting glitches, pointers to online work where the URLs don’t work, and much, much worse.
But they’re not the most annoying part of the process. The most frustrating, time-wasting part of hiring is one-on-one interviewing. You can easily waste 20-30 minutes per candidate, even by phone, and an aggressive culling can still produce a dozen or more apparently qualified candidates.
That’s why when my colleague and friend Brad Fallon shared with me how he qualifies his candidates prior to any direct communication, I was sufficiently impressed that I asked if I could blog about it!
In a nutshell, Brad asks all potential candidates to fill in a series of essay questions before he’ll talk with them directly. Most of them are basic interview questions like “why did you leave your last job?”, but the set of questions are smart and thoughtful, and the entire technique is terrific.
Here’s a sampling of some of his more interesting questions:
- Think of the boss that was the most challenging to deal with. Why was it challenging and how did you handle it? What would he or she say about you?
- Are you a detail person or a big picture person? How do you think this natural tendency affects your potential?
- What motivates you to work at your highest level of productivity at work? In short, how should you be managed?
- Do you tend to think about work at home or on weekends or do you just shut it out of your mind and try not to worry about things when you’re not “on the clock.”
- We can only hire one person for this critical role. Why are you the best candidate for this position?
Candidates are pointed to a Web page that includes all of the questions along with a fax number (not an email address or regular mailing address) as a secondary “hoop” to jump through.
Another colleague of mine, Randy Cassingham, has a more complex hoop: his job listings include a Web page address that has no further contact information. If the candidate can’t figure out that they need to click through to the main Web site, then click to a contact page to actually respond to the listing, they’re not going to be the right person for the job.
Google has gotten some press for its puzzles that are aimed at potential candidates, but frankly, I first encountered tough hiring practices when I worked at HP’s R&D Labs, where interviews were with a dozen people and lasted a day. Somewhere during that day you were given problems to solve (or to talk through a solution path), and the majority of candidates did not survive the experience.
With the rise of online recruiting systems and one-button “apply for job” capabilities, I can only imagine the difficulty of culling out the very best resumes from the flood that arise each time a job is listed in Yahoo Jobs, Monster, or any other employment engine.
There are new challenges and new solutions. What’s your approach to managing, controlling and taming the hiring process for your company?