Essential IT Recruitment Interview Preparation
Blog 3 of 12
Interview preparation is by far the most important step in developing a comprehensive and highly effective interview experience and demands a worthy investment of your time.
There are lots of sayings and cliches in business related to preparation for a job interview, and for good reason. Often, interviews take place with little or no planning causing threats to recruiting success along the way. Most of the common recruitment headaches can be easily avoided with a series of pre-emptive strikes before you even pick up a CV.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln
Armed with a strong job description and an engaged, aligned, and organised group of stakeholders, you can map out the interview process with a design aimed at recruiting success. This means creating a robust system capable of consistently exposing red flags, revealing development areas and strengths, setting expectations, meeting timescales and much more.
Let us get started…
1: Create a Process Checklist
If consistency and structure yield comparable results then the number one item on the process planning list is, ironically, a list. A recruitment project checklist can help you feel in control, every step of the way.
- Have I got an unanimously agreed and robust Job Description?
- Am I clear on what is truly essential and what is desirable?
- Do I know the company vision, mission and strategy?
- Do I know how to pitch the company as both a business and an employer?
- Do I know how to communicate the job opportunity?
- Do I know the full package on offer including hard and soft benefits?
- Do I have the full list of interview questions and a scorecard?
- Do all stakeholders understand their roles in the process?
- Have I had my questions cleared by HR? (legal compliance)
- Have I read the candidate CVs?
- Have I prepared for candidate questions?
- Have I organised a recruitment process schedule?
2: Interview Structure
Most companies have the standard “1st, 2nd, Offer” interview process model which works well provided it’s well thought out. Some companies add to the process with assessment days, testing, and additional interview stages. All these extra elements have value and, when used appropriately, can really help to secure the right person. However often, companies settle upon a blanket approach which can have adverse effects on the chances of success, especially when speed is important.
Last year, Totaljobs and Jobsite, surveyed over 550 technology professionals across the UK to gain insight into key IT skill shortages. According to the report, 70% of employers anticipate serious shortages in 2021, with almost a quarter (24%) expecting it to greatly impact their recruitment. Two-thirds (36%) of technology hiring managers believe the recruitment process takes too long, with more than a quarter (27%) facing competition for candidates who receive multiple job offers.
So, while a theoretically an ‘Ideal’ interview process may look great on paper, does its effectiveness translate in its real-world application? The process must be fit for purpose to remain competitive, which means employing more flexibility when needed.
Langley James strongly recommends having at least 2 official recruitment processes available to managers to appropriately match to the scale of the job and the unavoidably competitive demand for talent. That way, managers can act faster if needed and HR remain satisfied that authorised processes are being followed.
3: Interview Communication
Interviewers have 3 key communication responsibilities: To assess, inform and sell. While the assessing will come from your planned questions, the informing and selling communication aspects require some thought and strategy.
The best approach we believe is to prepare for your ideal audience, as you would in sales or marketing pitch, instead in this case it will be your first-choice candidate. This candidate is likely to be considering several jobs and so, you will need to promote your company’s attributes and employee benefits to engage their interest and secure them.
So, what do you need to communicate?
- The Company Direction- The high-level company vision, mission, and values. This element is important as it helps the candidate understand the fundamentals behind the company’s direction, ethics, and the entire workforce’s professional motivation. It could have a real impact on a candidate and will impact on their decision to take the role.
Pro Tip: Ask the CEO, MD or other high-ranking colleague for the company vision and mission to gain an accurate, first-hand explanation.
- The Situation- Form a concise explanation describing the department’s need and reasons for the vacancy arising. This call-to-action statement designed is to encourage the candidate into thinking of themselves as the solution. The candidate almost becomes the hero, flying in to save the day. What problem do they need to overcome to succeed?
- The Opportunity -By far the most powerful element of your communication strategy, describing the opportunity is far more than the spec. This is your chance to present the best features of the company as a business and employer, its services and products, the job, and the package on offer. Try to convert these points into benefits so the candidate can clearly understand what is in it for them and get excited about working with you whilst they are in the interview.
Pro Tip: Ask the person responsible for selling your company’s services for the pitch they give to prospective customers. It is likely to be high impact, concise and engaging.
- Yourself- This statement is intended to give you credibility in the eyes of the candidate. We would recommend simply summarising your experience in couple of sentences, what your job purpose is, and why you are motivated to achieve. This is a chance to tie up the company mission with your own and encourage conversation with the candidate, hopefully with them agreeing and contributing.
- The Next Steps-At the end of every interview, you will need to end with a positive statement outlining the next part of the process. This is your chance to manage the candidate’s expectations, set timescales and make clear your intentions. If you are interested, make sure you tell them. Often interviewers can act like they are playing poker and deliberately conceal their interest. This approach is confusing for the candidate and in a competitive talent market, can result in lost recruitment opportunities. Forget the games. If you like a candidate, try to build rapport by being clear and encourage positive conversion. Tell them about the next stage, what to expect and make clear what the next stakeholder will be looking for. Hopefully, they will reciprocate and offer some evidence of their interest.
4: Process Timescales
Considering the recruitment process timescales is an important and often overlooked part of the interview preparation stage. While sometimes luck can provide the ideal candidate early on, most recruitment processes take quite a bit of time. Planning for this is essential to ensure everyone’s expectations are realistic. There are several things to be aware of:
- Candidate attraction period
- CV assessment
- Setting up interviews
- Conducting interviews
- Interview assessment
- Interview Feedback & Decision Communication
- Setting up 2nd interviews
- Conducting 2nd interviews
- 2nd interview assessment
- Interview Feedback & Decision Communication
- Additional stages/tasks/tests
- Additional Feedback & Decision Communication
- Offer presentation & negotiation.
- Contract & paperwork submission & return
- Candidate resignation
- Candidates notice period.
- Candidates start date.
For a stress-free experience, diarise each stage to ensure candidates and stakeholders are handled in line with the expectations you have set.
5: Candidate Question Readiness
Standard interview protocol dictates that candidates will, 99% of the time, ask questions at the end of the interview to demonstrate their interest. Be ready for them by preparing some answers to the most common questions:
- “Where do you see the company in 5 years?”
- “What are the next steps of the interview process? (hopefully, you’ll have pre-empted this!)”
- “Why did you join the company?”
However, the most important question to be ready for is, do you have any reservations about my application? This great question puts you on the spot for a decision which, you might not be willing to give an answer to just yet. Resist the temptation to be overly complimentary as this can raise and warp expectations causing further disappointment later should you turn them down. Give them honest feedback and, where possible, highlight areas of interest and concern without being too brutal. This will give you both a chance to discuss and explore those points, which will help you with your decision. It is up to you if you want to decide there and then. You would be surprised how well this is received during an interview, but few are brave enough to do it!
In conclusion, good preparation pays huge dividends. Most of it will need preparing just once, with the occasion update, which you can apply to every recruitment process you conduct. Take the time to identify what can be predicted and plan for it. Getting it right could mean that your credibility will soar internally and externally while, at the same time, ensuring you stand the best possible chance of recruiting success.