Guerilla Interviewing: How to REALLY Hire the Best and the Brightest

20 Dec

In this first Episode of a multi-part series, I’m here to humbly share my own guerilla interviewing tactics with you and share what I know about conducting effective interviews that yield outstanding hiring decisions! And since my editor told me 600 words or less (yeah right!), everything I know will certainly not be covered in this article, but more to come, so be sure to sign up for our RSS feed to follow my posts.   Your new and improved guerilla interviewing tactics are sure to make you look really, really good to your superiors and clients/hiring managers because you’re going to be bringing in A+ talent; not to mention you’ll be making your company look really, really pro to your potential candidates because it will be obvious that you’re only after the best.

Episode One: Great Hiring is in the Planning

In the words of Michael Weston, a burned ex-spy character on my new fave TV show, 90% of any operation’s success is in the planning.   Michael and his team orchestrate big, bad-guy takedowns and their preparation consists of making bombs and booby traps and researching cover identities.  Their strategy rarely goes according to the plan they made, yet they always end up with a successful end result due to their tedious front-end planning.  The concept that success is a result of effective planning holds true for pretty much anything –a holiday party you’re hosting, a European vacation you and the fam are taking next summer, a big presentation you’re delivering to a huge audience next week, the arrival of a baby into your family, you get the picture.  By investing more quality time in planning and preparing for the job interviews that we conduct, pretty much anything can be thrown our way during the process and chances are the result will still be on point and successful, even when things don’t go as planned – just like Michael and his team. Most failed projects are the result of poor planning from the get-go, so prep is a corner we cannot afford to cut.  Most interviewers do though, which is unfortunate because this stage has the most sway on the quality of the final result.

We’ve all had the feeling of “buyer’s remorse” at some point in our lives, right?  The last time I felt it was four Christmases ago after spending a full day in a Toyota dealership.  I arrived in the morning with both family vehicles in tow, and I left around midnight having traded both of them in for two new cars.  As I drove home in one of the new cars, I was enjoying the smooth feel of the tires on the road and the super-tight steering; I was soaking in the clean, new car smell, basking in the lovely ambience created by the soft, romantic, orange glow of the candlelight-esque dash lights while the sounds of holiday music pumped through the JBL car stereo upgrade.  It wasn’t until about 4 AM that I sprung awake with hundreds of regretful thoughts swimming around my head.  I still shudder as I think about it.  Have you ever felt buyer’s remorse after making a hiring decision?  I’m going out on a limb and guessing that you have – in fact, I’m visualizing you right now as you sarcastically chuckle under your breath, exhale a knowing, reminiscent sigh, and shake your head from side to side.  Maybe not chuckle so much if the person still works for you, but you get my drift. By investing more time planning and preparing for our selection process we will not only eliminate buyer’s remorse, but we’ll boost the entire bench of talent in our organization.  Bottom line, the burden is on us – the buyers – to inform ourselves, ferret out the very best product and make the wisest purchase. “How do I do this,” you ask?  First, you commit to doing a better job preparing.

Four Steps to Better Interview Prep:

  1. Schedule time with the hiring manager. Even if you think you already know everything about this job and what the HM wants, you’ll be surprised at what comes forward in this meeting.  Get on the hiring manager’s calendar for an hour, let them do most of the talking and ask them tons of questions.  You’ll thank me, I promise.  Here are just a few (of the many, many) questions I ask before I even post a position opening:
    • What does success look like in this role?  Who are other successful people in this role and what makes them successful?  Who has not been successful in this role and why?
    • In 6 or 12 months, what will this person have specifically accomplished in order for them to be considered an outstanding player?
    • What is the “sell” of this position?, i.e. Why would this candidate leave their perfectly fine job elsewhere to join our company in this role?
    • Talk turkey.  Test the upper limits/max budget for the compensation package so you know what you’re really dealing with.  This will save you time talking to folks who will never take the job and will be useful to know when you find an expensive candidate who might take the job, but you must know the upper limits.  (Don’t discuss upper limits with the candidate.)
    • Do a lot of validation and pushing back during this meeting to ensure you have the right information; you’ll be prepared with the right knowledge, and it’ll keep the process tight and much more objective.
  2. Know the top three (in rank order) “things” the new hire MUST have.   This will be the foundation of your interview with the candidates and your candidate presentation meetings with your hiring manager.  You may be saying, “I know this already – they’re called KSA’s and they are already on the JD.”  Not.  JD’s are usually politically correct and generic and most times one of the top “things” is not on a JD – it may be a soft skill such as the ability to politically navigate through complex, bureaucratic red tape.  Or it may be an “it” factor, such as charisma.  Seriously.  Find out what they are so you can find out if your candidate has “it.”
  3. Develop a core list of about 10 interview questions.  You must specifically design these to uncover in the candidates what you know you’re looking for from steps 2 & 3 above.   Move off the list as needed to probe, validate, etc. but plan to ask each candidate the same 5 questions at a minimum so you can objectively evaluate the candidates against one another.
  4. Schedule time with yourself to prepare before each interview.  If you don’t schedule it, you won’t do it.  This won’t take more than 10 minutes if you’ve done steps 1-3.  Read the candidate’s resume in detail, and note the red flags and missing information, i.e. job stability, gaps in employment, why are they applying for something at a lower level or lateral move from their current post, why have they been unemployed for 8 months, etc. to finalize your list from step 3.  Clean up your desk a little, close the windows on your PC, take some deep breaths and commit yourself to giving your full attention to this interview.  If it’s an in-person interview, make sure you look sharp.  Indeed, the best candidates are just as discerning as you will be!

Interview preparation is just one piece of the whole selection pie, and it’s a huge piece.  Get this right and you’ll be well on your way to upgrading your talent, not to mention your internal processes and your own reputation as a guerilla interviewer.    I’ll cover the interview in a future article.  For now, work on your preparation, and please let me know how it goes!

  • What best practices do you use for interview preparation?
  • Anyone dare to share a time when the lack of interview prep cost dearly?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Interview Best Practices - Assess Motivation | Employer Solutions Blog - January 26, 2011

    [...] episode, we discussed planning for great hiring.  In this episode, we’ll begin to sink our teeth into the meat of conducting interviews aimed at [...]

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