Interviews Are Worthless. Here’s How to Hire Smarter.
Tried and true hiring strategies, from finance professor, investor and entrepreneur Angela W. Lee
One of the hardest tasks as a founder is to hire an awesome team. Early stage employees have to wear a ton of different hats, they have to fit into the company culture that is still being developed, all while working long hours for potentially little pay. Getting the hiring decisions right are pivotal to a startup’s success.
I often get asked “what’s a great interview question to ask?” Or “how do I create the right interview process to hire the perfect ___?” — I think the answer is to think outside of the interview box. Meaning, instead of asking the world’s most insightful interview questions, have the person do some actual work for you. Or craft the interview so it’s less about the person telling you about their work, but rather showing you their work. For those of you already doing this I realize it might sound incredibly obvious, but given the questions I get, I know not everyone is doing this!
Before I hire any intern or employee, I conduct one quick 30 minute interview. I then have them:
- Work on a small project as a test run and give them feedback to incorporate.
- Have them respond to a couple of real emails I have received to test their communication skills. I try to pick emails that are ambiguous or difficult and require thoughtful responses.
In this way, we’ve tested a bunch of things:
- They see how I give direction
- I see the work output they create and how they interpret my direction
- They experience me giving feedback
- I see how they react to and incorporate my feedback
- I get a sense of how they would represent the company
I find this infinitely more effective than multiple rounds of interviews. I learn way more about them than if I were to simply ask them a series of questions about their work.
In addition, people forget that interviews are a two way street. They are not just for the employer to learn about the candidate, they are also about the candidate learning whether they would enjoy working with the company. And I think the traditional interview format is really imbalanced. By giving the candidate a test project, they get a sense of what it would be like to work with you without putting them in the awkward position of asking things like “no really, are you a micro manager?”
Lastly, trust your gut. If you have a doubt, find a way to test that doubt early on. Do reference checks and listen to the tone even more than the words being said. Ask anyone who has had to fire an employee. It’s much easier to not hire someone than to have to let them go later.
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