Perhaps, no CEO or human resources head, will disagree that hiring people is the most difficult task. It is not possible, bearing some exceptions to discover what an ‘individual’ represents, in a matter of an hour’s interview, alongside, the most likely, misguiding curriculum vitae. The CV and the interviewee are at their best during the interview. It requires skill, tact and maturity to walk through the maze of any given personality. Most times the way out of the maze may remain undiscovered, while in few cases, you are out of it, in a few initial minutes of the interview. This is gut-based. But all gut-based decisions are not always good. They do back-fire. The interviewee will mask every single negative thing about himself; but you as an interviewer cannot afford to lose the apron strings of decency and grace, in discovering the candidate. The contest is tough for both the interviewer and the interviewee!
Each organisation wishes to bring on board the best available talent, at possibly the lowest cost to the organisation. Skill and experience, with reference to specific subject matter, will fetch the candidate a better compensation.
Curriculum vitae are essentially documents that even the writer to whom it belongs, a day later wonders, whose profile is it? CVs are an exercise in superlatives, while the obvious is revealed; the vital remains concealed. Hence the critical importance of the interview!
Interviewing the candidate for say anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour requires an equal amount of preparation for the interviewer. Just as no interviewees must make into the conference room, unprepared, so also the interviewer should not. To aid and assist in preparing the “interview panel”, the presence of JD (job description) is an absolute necessity. It is through the requirements of the JD, the panel will be able to frame, the pertinent questions that need to be asked.
The job description document must enunciate in exactitude, what the requirement of the assignment will be. These have to be specific. If goal-oriented, it is still better. It is in the interest of the organisation to upfront inform the candidate, the minimum KPI’s (key performance indicators) for the job, at hand. The JD must include, the minimum qualification required; the minimum number of years of experience and must carry the name of the supervisor, to whom the position will be required to report. If it is a newly created position, it must state so. In a case of replacement, it is best to have a brief profile of the last occupant of the position.
A fundamental issue is who should be the author of the JD, the line manager or the HR division? In my view and experience, it must invariably be the line manager; preferably the immediate supervisor to the open position and later inputs from HR can be had and added to the list of essentials to the assignment / job.
The JD thus prepared must be evaluated by both the HR head and the interview panel, to check skill-set matching, compatibility of personality to the work environment etc. Skills, aptitude, attitude, competencies, are not synonymous! A clear distinction between them in the minds of the interviewers is a necessity.
Skills are abilities to achieve successfully that which requires specific knowledge; eg the in-charge of letter of credit – establishment must know the inside-outs of publication ICC-600 or for that matter, the company secretary’s skill would require him to be fully conversant with company laws and SECP (Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan) requirements, etc. Competence relates to characteristics like being visionary, having foresight, effectiveness, efficiency factors, directional etc. Attribute, is normally that trait, which nature bestows upon an individual – a pleasant and pleasing disposition is a blessing, it cannot be a “put-on act”, neither can it be cloned, imitated or copied. Blushing is inherent to a person – in joy or embarrassment, no individual can “decide to blush” – it just happens naturally. Interviewers must be adept at picking up vibes that keep emitting like signals from the interviewee’s eye movements, gesticulations, posture etc.
The questions for the interview must be well-prepared in conjunction with JD requirements. These must be straight forward, specific, with no clutter of confusion. It is best to avoid closed ended questions that will evoke a response of just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. And these responses do not lead to any meaningful dialogue.
While interviewing, it must be kept in mind that the objective is to discover and get to know the candidate; I have witnessed with delight and amusement, while being the part of several panels, where the “interviewer” starts to narrate “own experiences” – a complete run-down of their own career is heaped upon the poor candidate, whose only role is to nod, smile and express “appreciation”, mostly non-verbal! Avoid conducting “reverse interviews”.
The task is to get the candidate to speak the most. He must face open-ended questions, allowing for an elaborate and detailed answer. In interviewing for senior positions, you can afford to beat around the bush, a little longer, to discover if there are any tell-tale signs, of a different behaviour that may emerge at the work station. The best foot is put forward; so the demeanour of the interviewee, is no guarantee of future display to the contrary.
If hiring isn’t difficult enough, the hiring of a relative, close and distant; the off-spring of a friend or an acquaintance or the “sifarshi”, is possibly the toughest. I am personally averse to hiring of ‘relatives’ especially blood relationships. The perils of such induction are plenty.
My reaction to such requests is simple, “… This is not the only institution in the market place, go try elsewhere”. In organisations that I worked for, there was a senior executive, who had 23 direct blood relatives working for the institution – the organisation was mocked, as institution of children and cousins! The hiring of an executive’s son-in-law is the icing on the cake of difficulties in hiring. Soon upon induction he assumes the royal title of “son-in-law of the institution”. And then he goes amok. Always insincerely or sincerely, recommend to your boss not to hire, his / her relatives… And never the son-in-law, for he deserves a better institution!
Hire safe. All of us make mistakes in hiring, but do not make the mistakes by choosing to exercise “exception”.
The writer is a freelance columnist