Leading printing executives into the future
The All Important Interview
By Jerry Scher
Published: October 8, 2012
In the 2nd article in this series (August 28 - Identifying and Selecting the Right Sales People –
Objectively!) we described the three critical components required to successfully select the best
talent - define and determine Eligibility, assess Suitability and the all-important Interview. While
we recognize the weaknesses related to the lack of clarity when defining eligibility and the
deficiencies in objectively assessing appropriate suitability characteristics and competencies, the
absence of professional interviewing competence is the most troubling. It is rare, when
questioned, that an executive, middle manager or supervisor will admit that they are skilled in
conducting interviews. Too frequently, fairly common rules are broken when interviews are
conducted and the ultimate cost is extremely high.
"When you're talking you only learn what you already know."
The aim of an interview is to engage candidates in a two-way dialogue so that you can further
determine if the candidate is right for the job and if the job is right for the candidate. If the
eligibility and suitability assessments have been conducted effectively in advance, than the
interviewer should have meaningful insights into the candidate's potential. Too frequently
interviewers spend the bulk of their time describing their company, the job and what they are
looking for in an employee. While it is important to provide information to candidates and you
want them to ask questions about the job, your primary purpose should be to learn and confirm
everything you need to know to make a good hiring decision.
In most cases when considering viable candidates you will conduct multiple interviews; unless
they are eliminated from consideration early on. Frequently an initial interview will be conducted
by phone or video and while you'll have some eligibility information from a resume, you most
likely won't have suitability information to consider. Your goal should be to screen candidates at
this stage and either eliminate them or move them to the next step. Make sure you document
what you learn as well as what questions you asked and how they responded.
If you are responsible for conducting interviews you absolutely must prepare for the task. Begin
by studying the job and its' requirements. Review the job description, discuss the position with
others that have first-hand knowledge of the position and make sure you know what/who you are
looking for. Your research should include the eligibility requirements as well as suitability
requirements that are necessary to predict desired success. Depending upon the level of the
position, in addition to reviewing the candidates resume, you should do additional research with
Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Today, technology provides a window into a candidate's past
and this information can prove to be most helpful.
Create a structured approach to the questions you will ask and prepare them in writing and in an
appropriate, yet flexible order. Be prepared to ask multiple follow up questions to drill down or
peel back the onion so that you gain accurate insights into the quality of the candidate.
"If you are responsible for conducting interviews you absolutely must prepare for the task."
As candidates move to the second level interview I strongly recommend a team approach. A
panel of interviewers should be gathered and each interviewer should be assigned a specific area
to focus on (i.e. past work experience, educational experience, special training, behavioral
competencies and work preferences). While each interviewer engages the candidate the other
team members should be careful observers, taking notes. As each section of the interview is
complete, the observers should ask follow up questions. At the conclusion of each interview, the
team should discuss their thoughts and suggestions.
A skilled interviewer must possess an array of skills. They must be able to formulate and ask
great questions – and have the ability to mix them up. They have to be active listeners and be
able to ask great clarifying questions. One's ability to analyze information and connect the dots
between what the candidate has done in the past, their education and how they can advance the
strategies and activities of the company is crucial.
During the interview your focus should not only be on the candidates background but also on
determining the depth of understanding the candidate has of your industry, your business and
what they can do to advance your strategies. If you are interviewing for a sales position, learn as
much as you can about their sales and business development philosophy and how they have
executed a selling strategy in the past. They should be able to describe how they built their
business and what activities they engaged in that were successful.
"A skilled interviewer must possess an array of skills."
In addition to confirming what you learned about the candidate during your research/preparation
you should be asking behavioral questions – questions that focus on the candidate describing
how they solved a problem or addressed a challenge in the past. Carefully drill down to
determine if they know exactly what they did and what worked and what didn't. It's not
uncommon for candidates to take credit for an accomplishment that they may have assisted with
but were not the primary contributor. So make sure you ask what role they played in the process.
Situational questions where you describe a realistic situation and ask how they would deal with it
should be asked. In cases, where appropriate, you can even assign a project in advance and see
how they research, prepare and present their strategy. Remember, you are attempting to predict
what kind of employee a candidate will be and you have to be creative in designing ways to
Make no mistake, the more professional your interviewing competence is, the more professional
your company will appear to candidates. And now a day, the competition for the best talent
requires that you get your game on.
As you can see the interview component of the attracting, recruiting and hiring process requires a
skilled professional. This is not an area to skimp on. Make sure you train your interview team so
that you not only attract the best talent but you are able to hire them as well.
If you would like more information about assessing eligibility, suitability and learning more
about conducting professional interviews, please contact Jerry Scher at
email@example.com or 404-931-9291.
You can also get information about the Harrison Assessment at
Stay tuned to this continual series – as we focus on how to design and implement an effective
Jerry Scher has been engaged in the graphic communication industry for over 35 years, Jerry's
primary goal - make those around him more successful.