Hiring managers share their tips & tricks for spotting the perfect candidate

Job interview with three people and smiling young woman

There’s no magic bullet for hiring the perfect new team member. Hiring managers face a constant struggle to find the right person and often find themselves faced with the reality of having hired the wrong person. But you do your best.

Although there is probably no single one trick that will make all the difference, I polled hiring managers, asking them to share their tips and tricks for spotting the perfect candidate during the hiring process, specifying that it could be a job interview question, a test they give applicants, something they put in the job description, or something else. Whatever works. Here is what I thought was the best advice they offered.

“Use a specific skill demo.

    • Some examples: For admin candidates, give them a short unformatted paragraph and ask them to make it ready to send. For management candidates, ask them to prepare and deliver a 10-minute presentation on a specific topic, such as strategy for the next year or their leadership philosophy. For customer service, call them on the phone with a situation regarding their interview or some other issue and see how they react – do they come up with a solution, ask more questions, or get all cranky?

For any position that involves writing or the need to communicate well we provide a 4-6 question questionnaire that needs to be completed and returned within 24 hours. The answers are helpful but more so: did they complete in time and follow the instructions to send to two people? Most candidates do not, they just return to the person who sent it to them, missing the detail in the instructions at the top. Can they form a thought on paper? Do they correct their typos?” – Nancy Bleeke, founder and President, Sales Pro Insider, Inc.
“Sometimes it is helpful to have final-round candidates prepare a chalk-talk: The candidate should develop a ten- to fifteen-minute presentation regarding an accomplishment he or she wishes to highlight from his or her career. It should be organized into three sections comprising the problem definition, action taken, and results. The format is the choice of the candidate (PowerPoint, flip chart, white board, etc.). The candidate should assume the audience is a group of peers and upper-level decision-making managers. The presentation takes place in a conference room setting. The candidate establishes the agenda and controls the pace of the meeting.

Many times a candidate has looked good one-on-one but failed miserably during the chalk talk. It is also fair to assess whether the candidate paid attention to the challenges of the job and presented a summary of an accomplishment that would be helpful to the business.” – William L. Mince, COO of LiveLeaf Inc., Author, Up from the Crowd: Lessons to Help Managers Become Effective Leaders
“I put two instructions in my advertisements that give me a good idea of who can follow instructions and pay attention to detail. I ask them to apply from my website and take a 10 minute grammar test. My ad states that if this process is not followed they will not be interviewed. This weeds out about 85% of applicants and I don’t have to spend as much time pouring through resumes as I used to.” – Emily LaRusch, founder, Back Office Betties
“Among other practices, we conduct an unscheduled phone interview. After we have screened resumes and cover letters for those who appear to have the required skills and be a good cultural fit, we call these qualified candidates for a quick, unanticipated phone interview that typically lasts 5-10 minutes. This has proven to be a great way to get a sense of an applicant’s level of familiarity and passion for our industry and products. When we conduct these phone interviews we look out for candidates that we can have a genuine conversation with and could see working with. Our phone interview helps to gauge how relaxed the applicant is, an indication of their level of preparedness. We ask questions such as ‘Why do you want to be part of the Toronto Vaporizer Team ?’ and ‘What do you know about us as a company?’” – Holly Bennet, Human Resources, TorontoVaporizer.ca
“One of my favourite interview questions is: What’s the one thing you are most proud of? Asking a candidate what they are most proud of is a way of finding out what drives them – their underlying motivation. This is a great indicator of their overall attitude. When I ask a question like this, I often start with an example by prefacing the question with what I am most proud of: chess. I was a national chess champion when I was younger and from that, it is easy to extract the fact that I am a calculated, strategic thinker and motivated to perform well in competitive, big-picture roles. When you ask a question like this, the response will show if the candidate has motivation towards one domain that is transferable to other tasks, thus showing their overall attitude towards life and work in general. So, for example, when hiring for sales, I hope that a candidate will answer in a way that shows they are motivated in competitive situations and that their attitude exudes tenacity, charisma and confidence.” Nima Noori, CEO and founder, TorontoVaporizer.ca
“We sometimes give candidates creative challenges to understand how they think. One question we’ve asked is ‘How long it would take a cannonball dropped off a ship over the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean to reach the ocean floor?’ We created this particular question, but it is representative of a larger class of questions — where you have to make assumptions, call on tangential knowledge, and reason out viable answers. This class of incomplete-information questions has come to be known as a Fermi question, made famous by the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. Fermi, for instance, once asked of his students at the University of Chicago to guess how many piano tuners there are in Chicago.” – Bryan Mattimore, Co-founder, The Growth Engine Company, Author, Idea Stormers, How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs

That last type of question, by the way, is also known as a “Google style” question and is famous for being asked in interviews with the tech giant, though the company has apparently backed off this style of query recently.

Hopefully you will find something useful here. Good luck.



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