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Interviewing Candidates

O nce you’ve found your best candidates and you’ve got a pool going, you’re ready to start phone screening and interviewing. Interviewing can seem daunting, and there are so many different ways to do it, depending on what you and your company are looking for. When you get into interviewing, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

Interviewing Candidates

Look for the cream of the crop

If you are phone screening someone and anything in your mind tells you that they might not be a perfect fit, don’t move them on to the next step. Even if your talent pool is slim and you aren’t sure when you are going to get more applicants, starting over and recruiting more applicants is better than hiring someone that isn’t going to be a service to your team. You don’t want to hire someone that will be a good fit, you want to hire someone that’s going to knock it out of the park. Especially on small teams, having one person that isn’t an excellent fit can make a huge impact, both financially and interpersonally. If you have a bad hire that ends up not working out, for example, the loss is quantified to be about 30% of what their first year’s take home compensation would have been.

Understand and define the skills you’re looking for

Most of this work should be done when you are writing up your job description. You should know what types of traits and skills you are keen for someone moving into this role to have. Then, once you have those skills written out and defined, you should share them with your interviewing team, if it’s going to be anyone other than you (and it should be). Your interview questions and the types of interviewing that you do should center around these predefined skills — this will ensure that you ask about all of the things that are imperative for the role before you hire them. Socializing this out to the other people interviewing will give you the chance to communicate about things that you weren’t able to ask in the screening so that they can cover it in the second interview instead.

Ask the right types of questions

While the questions will differ depending on your company, the culture, and what kind of role you are hiring for, there are a few different types of questions that you should be sure to ask during an interview:

  • Hypothetical questions. These are pretty typical for most interviews, but they are usually asking about hypothetical situations pertaining to the role you’re hiring them for. For example, “if you were given the opportunity to lead a support team, what are the first things that you would do to make it the best support team ever?”
  • Self-assessment questions. This is both to see if they are able to admit fault, as well as to see where they think their strengths lay. Something like this might look like: “tell me about a time that you had a disagreement, why it happened, and how it was resolved?”
  • Metaphor questions. For example, “If you were given a set of legos, how would you go about putting them together?” This allows you to see how they deal with open-ended questions, as well as add some coded digging. The lego question above, for example, shows you how they deal with the process of starting a project.
  • Company-based questions. It may be good to ask them some questions about why they are interested in the role at your company specifically and what they like about your company. While that might not be necessary for the role, it’s good to make sure that someone has a little bit of background in your company before you continue interviewing them.
  • Technical knowledge/screening. Even if you are not hiring for a super-technical role, anyone working in support should have some working knowledge on the technical side of things. For example, they should know what HTML or CSS is, at least in concept. Talk with your team and determine the right types of things for you to be screening for, specifically for each individual role that you are interviewing with.

One of the questions that we ask our candidates during the interview is “A potential customer is thinking about switching Chatra from a different live chat tool and asks about a certain feature that we don’t have yet, but the competitor does. How do you reply?”

Their reaction helped us understand their train of thought. Do they just apologize and say that we don’t have this feature or do they offer to save the feature request and notify the customer if it gets implemented? Do they try to offer a workaround using the existing functionality? Or do they try and sell Chatra based on our other advantages?

Depending on their reply, you can see what candidate cares about the most: do they just answer the question, do they go the extra mile for the customer or do they care about making a sale?

Chat with us today to see how our successful hires handle the question!

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A little guidance on hiring remotely

Hiring and interviewing remotely is a totally different beast from interviewing for co-located roles. Primarily because when someone works remotely you are unable to visually supervise them and ensure that they are going to do the work that they need to be doing to succeed. You don’t get the same cues you do when working in an office. For example, if they are looking confused or checking Facebook constantly, you’ll have no idea. Remote employees need to be self-starters, and so it’s important to hire for such. We wrote a book on building a remote company culture, in which were a lot of great tips for hiring remotely. But, for an overarching view, here are a few specific things you can ask:

  • What attracts you to working remotely and how long have you been doing it? Listen carefully to what the person you are interviewing says here because it’s likely very indicative of the type of remote worker they would be on your team.
  • What was the last thing that you taught yourself and why? This question helps you discern how much of a self-starter your potential future employee is. If they can’t think of anything that they’ve taught themselves recently, it’s pretty unlikely that they’re going to be a good fit for a remote role.
  • Tell me about a time you had to work with another team. What was your role and how did it go? Remote employees have to work with most other teams within a company, just like everyone else, but they have the added challenge of having to communicate without always having the benefit of facial expressions or vocal intonations. So, when communication goes awry for them, it goes deeply awry.
  • Tell me about a time where you had an interaction that you thought was resolved, but actually snowballed and became a much bigger issue. How did you resolve it? It is super important to make sure that the person you hire is excellent at communication. In the event that communication goes awry in a remote role, which it can often do in chat or any written, rather than spoken, communication, it’s valuable to be able to understand how to repair the damage and deescalate the situation.
  • If you were given a puzzle (set of legos, or anything else like that), how would you go about putting it together? This is, obviously, a question about problem-solving. Listen to see how the candidate goes about thinking about something they need to solve (or put back together), and then how they actually take action to make it happen.