Interviewing Tips for Startups – Part 3

By Saurabh Deshpande|30th May 2013
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This post is part 3 of a 3 part article on interviewing tips for startup. The earlier parts are available here - Part 1; Part 2

In part 1 of this article, I shared 3 key tips for conducting interviews. In part 2, I delved deeper into the specific nuances of the Behavioural Event Interview (BEI) and how to conduct one. In this concluding part, I am sharing some additional guidelines and suggestions for improving the effectiveness of the interview process:

Don’t write off people in the first 5 minutes

Very often, we mentally reject the candidate very early on in the interview. Carrying on after that becomes tedious; interviewers either abruptly end the session or tend to switch off. I would warn against this. The candidate may just be having a bad day or is taking some time to get comfortable. It’s also possible that in continuing the interview, you find that the candidate could be a good fit for another role. If nothing else, remember that the candidate has taken time out to come and meet you; extend some courtesy.

Make it fun

Yes, hiring is serious business. That doesn’t mean that the interview has to be boring. People open up more when they are comfortable and it is when guards are down that you could learn a lot more about the candidate. Some people also get nervous at interviews and you may miss a good employee who just didn’t interview well under pressure. And of course, it needs to be fun for you too – don’t we already have enough tedious tasks on our plate! According to Mitch Joel (President of Twist Image), “Don’t conduct an interview, have a conversation.”

Take your time

An interview should ideally not be for more than 30-40 minutes. That said, don’t let a time limit constrain your ability to fully assess the candidate. It is important for you to be suitably convinced about your assessment. If you must close the interview before you are fully convinced about the assessment, make notes about areas to probe further. If there is another round, share these notes with the next interviewer. Alternately, you could schedule a subsequent telephone call with the candidate.

It’s your chance to pitch

Remember that it’s not just you who is assessing the candidate but it’s also the candidate assessing you and your company. Your entire recruitment effort comes to naught if the selected candidate rejects your offer. So use the interviews to also reinforce the image of your company and do a soft sell.

Try out something different

Experienced candidates often know what questions to expect and can come with some canned answers. I recently came across 2 interesting interview tricks to beat this. One is to go quiet for a few seconds after the candidate has answered a question. The moment of silence is likely to coax out more information from the candidate. After the canned words are done, you are likely to hear something genuine come out. The other is to ask something completely random or whacky. This is apparently a common practice at Microsoft; a long time favourite is “Why are manhole covers round?” These kind of questions tell you about the candidate’s creativity, ability to not get rattled and in general, deal with ambiguity.

Don’t drag the process

I know some highly respected companies that conduct 8-10 rounds of interviews and are actually very proud of it! I personally feel that 2-3 rounds are ideal and anything more than 4, overkill. If the interviewers have done justice to the interview, there is nothing that 10 rounds will tell you that 3 rounds won’t. Too many rounds make the process lengthy and tedious for your company and the candidate as well. Moreover, the perception of the job gets built up so high that the selected candidate will invariably be in for disappointment after joining. Try to schedule all the rounds on the same day so that the candidate doesn’t have to come multiple times.

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