12 Aug 2013

Save Time, Get Great People by using a deselection process and a group interview

I remembered reading an article many years ago, about a company whose interview process started with the first contact and then every step until the final interview contributed towards the final decision. What impressed me the most at the time, was the fact that interactions outside of the actual interview session had a significant impact in choosing the right candidate. For example, how the applicant submitted their resume, how they behaved with the person scheduling the interview, etc…Recently I needed to hire a new Personal Assistant. Since my time was the issue, I couldn't wait weeks to find the right person, and I also couldn't spend hours interviewing potential candidates. I chose to conduct a “deselection” interview process, that would take 2 weeks (or less) and consume at most 5 hours of my time. The key to such a process, was to define the actual process up-front. In my case, I chose a four step process…Step 1 – post an ad requesting candidates to send their resume, answer a couple of quick questions and provide two references to be all emailed using a standard subject line "PA – FirstName LastName"Step 2 – reply only to candidates who precisely followed the instructions from the previous step, ask them using a template email reply to visit my website and provide their LinkedIn or Facebook profileStep 3 – reply only to candidates who provided their choice of online presence and asked them using a template email reply to answer two questions over the phoneStep 4 – invite only 5-7 candidates to a final group interview, based on their voice message and finally review their input from all the previous stepsHere are the numbers, 84 applicants, 53 followed the initial instructions, 20 provided their online profile, 12 left a voice message, 7 were invited to the group interview, 2 showed up and 1 was hired. The total duration of the interview process was 10 days and the amount of my time spent was 6.5 hours.Now let's look at what happened…Step 1 – It was very tough to not look at every resume. In fact, I started to open the resumes from applicants who did not follow the instructions. I quickly stopped because it made no sense to waste my time, since I was not  even looking at the resumes from the applicants who did follow the instructions. The key was to only look closely at the candidates who completed the entire process. If they didn’t complete the process, then they didn’t get considered for the position.Step 2 – This step turned out to be very interesting, My goal was to make sure that anyone applying for this role, knew something about creating an online presence and therefore should have created an online profile. I assumed that everyone applying for a job would have a LinkedIn profile; and if they didn't then they would create one. I actually never thought that anyone would share their Facebook profile. Well this turned out to be a very critical step, many chose to abandon the process, very few had a LinkedIn page and a couple were offended to even be asked to provide a Facebook page. Remember that the entire idea was to deselect, so this was actually a good outcome.Step 3 – I really loved this step. It took me 5 minutes to record a voicemail with two questions. I didn't have to play ping pong by email, or try to call each candidate to find a good time for a phone interview. Instead the candidates that chose to call simply left a message. Since it was recorded, I was able to review objectively each message. It surprised me that most candidate did not call first to listen to the questions and then call back. Some candidates failed this step because they couldn't answer the first question. This was so interesting, because the first rule when interviewing is to learn about the employer. Keep in mind that I made sure to provide a link about my company in the previous step, and told them that there would be a question about the company. The second question was about themselves.Step 4 – When I told friends about this recruiting process, most assumed that a group interview was many people interviewing each candidate; that is actually the definition of a panel interview. The group interview is to invite all the final candidates at the same time, and conduct a single interview session that includes all candidates in the same room, answering the same questions in front of their competition. When only two candidates showed up, I was very disappointed, until the session started… They were very friendly to each other and both absolutely more than qualified for the position. I made sure to start with a short presentation about the company and then asked them six questions. They took turns answering each questions and although some healthy competition started to show at the end, it became very clear who was the ideal person for the job.This experience was very insightful. It was not only very efficient, but it also made the selection of the ideal candidate very easy. I was very familiar with this recruiting process, because it's one of the strategies that we often use with clients to help them save time and build great teams. In my case, I was looking for someone who could follow instructions, knew how to use the internet and could leave a great message to a client. This is why I chose these four steps in my process. When working with clients, we tailor this process to deselect candidates based on their specific criteria.Just in case you were wondering, I am very happy with the new Personal Assistant. She is not only great for the role, but she can help clients implement their own recruiting process. There are many more learning outcomes from using such a recruiting process, but I will reply to your comments to answer your specific questions. If you prefer speak with me directly, then simply contact me.Would you consider implementing this type of recruiting process for specific positions?Does it make sense to spend more time only with the candidates who truly meet your criteria?Should you spend more time up-front profiling the ideal candidate and creating your process, OR instead spend hours interviewing as many candidates as possible until you just need to make a decision? 

Dimitri Ponomareff

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