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If Your Hiring Manager Isn’t Exactly an Interviewing Ninja, Try This

Katherine Moody
on September 28, 2017

In my previous blog, we discussed that hiring managers often need a lot of assistance from their recruiters in defining the responsibilities and requirements for a position.

They truly can get lost, and sharing our perspective and knowledge by asking the right questions gets them (and us) to the finish line of a successful hire faster.

Now let’s talk about another challenge—the elephant in the room—about where our hiring managers often need our assistance.  You know what I’m talking about: Long interview processes that include an army of interviewers, generic feedback for all candidates and ultimately, analysis paralysis.

While the hiring manager is wallowing in their indecision, great candidates are no longer available and your time to hire is getting longer. If you see this over and over from a hiring manager, it is time for an interview intervention (a gentle one, of course).

It’s my experience that hiring managers don’t want to be TOLD how to hire (see my previous blog on how to handle this). Moreover, they genuinely believe they are conducting good interviews and being good stewards of the business.

Since we won’t make any headway by hitting this issue head on, one way to start the interview question conversation is during the launch meeting. One question I almost always ask is “What 2-3 questions would you like me to ask the candidates so you know we’ve got someone you should interview?”

If your hiring manager doesn’t have these questions, you can suggest several that you think are important based on what you’ve learned about the position. Word them appropriately, using behavioral interviewing concepts and explain the reasons you would ask the question the way you did.  By listening to you, they’ll learn—eventually.

Now for the part most people overlook--good interviewing requires two skills: creating appropriate questions and assessing the answers.

Ask your hiring manage what constitutes a great answer to the questions you’re going to ask.  By doing this, you’ll get insight into how your hiring manager hears the candidates’ answers. If they can articulate a complete, substantive response, we can move on.

If they seem to be happy with an incomplete or vague response, you get to do some gentle coaching. At this point I would say something like, “Would it also be important for the candidate to say…?”

In a recent engagement, I participated in a launch meeting where we determined the candidate needed to have managed a billing system rewrite project using AMDOC. (You don’t even need to know what AMDOC is when you ask the question the right way.)

The hiring manager wanted to ask simply, “Are you familiar with AMDOC?”

This example reveals the hiring manager is probably asking restrictive questions that lead the candidate to some standard non-helpful response that won’t provide any insight into the candidate’s actual experience.  As a result, it is going to be difficult to make a good hiring decision based on the answers he would be getting.

I suggested we ask “Would you tell me about a time you led a billing system project using AMDOC? What did you do, who else was involved, what did you do when problems arose, and what were the results?”

Additional benefit: When the hiring manager discusses what would be a good answer, you may learn something new to help you identify the perfect candidate.

Recognize you probably cannot turn your hiring manager into an interviewing ninja in just one conversation. So be on the lookout for every “gentle coaching” opportunity, to further educate your hiring managers. They’ll start to see you as the expert and you’ll enjoy your job more, while closing searches faster. You’ll love the results!


To hear more from Katherine and how to be The Consultative Recruiter, watch her on-demand Webinar.

About Katherine


Katherine Moody is the author of The Consultative Recruiter and How to Do Small Talk Fearlessly. For the past 27 years, she has been helping companies find great talent and job seekers to find their ideal roles. In addition to managing large virtual recruiting teams, she has worked with companies such as The Cheesecake Factory, The Walt Disney Company, St. Joseph Healthcare, P.F. Changs, Fox Entertainment, and Yahoo.

She has an MBA from the University of Southern California and an Executive MBA from the Peter Drucker Management Center of Claremont University

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