Useful Hints & Tips for Employers
How to Spot a Good Candidate at Interview
Interviewing candidates is the most important part of the selection process. This is where you as the employer get to meet your potential employee, assess their skills and experience against the criteria of the role and determine their potential for the company.
Interviewing can also be a time-consuming and energy-draining procedure that, if not prepared for sufficiently, can easily allow for the best-quality candidates to slip through the net.
To avoid this, it is important to be aware of the attributes typical of top-quality candidates so you can spot talent immediately and make the best possible decision for your business.
Attributes of a top-quality candidate
Smart presentation: quality candidates will be presentable, smartly dressed and well groomed.
Confident body language: ideally, a quality candidate will stand to shake your hand, remember your name and look you in the eye when addressing you. They will speak confidently and fluently when answering questions and will appear calm.
However, if the candidate is not behaving this way or showing signs of nervousness this is not a call to rule them out. Consider how important 'people skills' and 'acting calm under pressure' are to the role, and whether the candidate's behaviour in the interview meets the expectations for the role.
Sound knowledge of your company: superior candidates will have done their research on your company and on the position. They will know where your organisation stands in the industry, its business goals and how they – if placed in the role – would contribute to achieving them.
Relevant skills and experience: this you will already know from their CV, but now is the time to ask them to elaborate on just how relevant their skills and experience are to the role. A good candidate will not only tell you how well their qualities are matched to the position, but will be able to provide examples and evidence of results achieved that demonstrate their successes and suitability.
Emphasise their fit for the job: some candidates will stress how well the position fits with their career goals and their life – which is great for them, but that's not your main concern. A good candidate will talk about how they fit the role, what they will bring to the organisation and what results they can achieve for you.
Doesn't speak negatively of past or present employers: quality candidates will turn negative experiences with past employers into positive ones by speaking about them in terms of what they learned and how they will apply this knowledge in the future.
Answers questions: valuable candidates will answer your questions directly and concisely.
Positive references: checking your candidate's references is the icing on the cake of your interview process. Ideally the referee has worked one or two levels above the candidate, and will give a positive report. Be wary if referees refrain from commenting as this may indicate negative performance.
Responds well to challenging questions: the ideal candidate will handle tough questions without hesitation. Below are some sample challenging questions designed to elicit answers that will help you separate the intermediate candidates from the stand-outs
Q: What qualities could you improve on?
A: Poor candidates will claim that they are perfectionists or, at the other extreme, confess to negative work habits like a messy desk or being moody in the mornings. Good candidates will recognise areas or skills that are in the process of improvement, and will outline how they are currently building on these skills.
Q: Tell me about a time you were in a stressful situation; how did you deal with it?
A: Poor candidates may deny they get stressed at all, or confess that they call in sick if they experience stress; whereas quality candidates will outline how they systematically overcame the stressful event by delegating work, speaking with their manager or taking other measures to ensure they met their team's budget / schedule.
Q: Why should we pick you over someone else with your skills and experience?
A: Good candidates will not be self-effacing and will draw attention to the strengths that set them apart from others.
Q: Tell me of a time you had a conflict of interest with a colleague; how did you deal with it?
A: The best candidates will briefly outline a situation of conflict and show how they initially tried to resolve it professionally with the colleague, and how if their attempts were unsuccessful they approached management, and continued thereon to strive to maintain communication and positive working relationships with their team members.
Q: Do you have any questions for us?
A: Good candidates will have two or three questions that derive from the interview's discussions. They will not sound scripted, and will indicate a genuine interest in the company and the position.