What Am I Supposed to Ask You? Four Ways to Improve Your Hiring Process

By Amin Akbarpour

I've spent the past several months on the job hunt. Starting out, I was excited. I love interviewing. It kind of reminds me of dating (I’ve yet to figure out if that’s a good thing.) Plus, I had just been working for Jazz, a hiring platform. Over the past year I had done nothing but communicate with HR managers and recruiters and learn about their processes.  I thought, “I’ve got this.” 

At Jazz, when I would talk with clients they shared their biggest challenges – engaging hiring managers, implementing effective sourcing tools, and getting more resources (code for being under-staffed and under-funded). After going through the recruiting process myself, I think that another challenge recruiters and HR managers should consider is the candidate experience.  Here are four issues I ran into that that could use real improvement:

Unprepared Interviewers

Do you know how many interviews I walked into with an interviewer who didn't even know what the position I applied for does? In some cases, they didn't even know what position I applied for! I had interviewers admit their lack of experience interviewing, confess they didn’t know what they were supposed to talk to me about, and just turn the conversation over to me and ask if I had any questions for them. This wasn’t just isolated to CXO types. This included individuals who would be my peers or would report to me.

Interviewers who show up unprepared are missing out on the opportunity to help uncover new facets of your candidates. They also make your company look disorganized and unprofessional. Take the time to coach your colleagues on how to prepare for and conduct an interview. This is especially key if you have less experienced people playing a role in the interview process.

No Clear Plan

Some people do walk into the interview knowing that they want to have the candidate lead the interview. If that’s part of a bigger plan, it’s completely fair and fine. When it’s planned out these people generally set the scene and let you know who they are, what they do, and how they see this conversation playing out.  When there is obviously no plan and the majority of the interviewers take this approach, the result is bad information and frustrated candidates. I mean, who really enjoys answering the exact same questions from three consecutive people? 

Get your interview team together and develop a game plan. Build a set of questions and have all of your interviewers ask different ones.  It’s okay to have one person who has the candidate lead the interview – that will test how well they perform under pressure.  Once you have everyone on the same page, it'll make for a far better candidate experience. It'll also be a far more efficient way of truly qualifying candidates and finding the right one.

Playing “The Game”

If I'm going to be spending 10+ hours a day working with someone then it's important that I can be myself and that they see if I’m the kind of person they want to call a colleague. Transparency is healthy and should be seen as essential to having an effective conversation. I've had interviews where one interviewer plays some sort of good cop role and the next person goes the complete opposite and puts on the bad cop hat. I've had folks try to create a false sense of camaraderie in hopes of getting me to be overly comfortable.

When you’re interviewing candidates for customer success roles, you need to make sure you have a candidate that can stay professional and properly represent your organization. I think a far better way of achieving this is by incorporating a mock call or presentation into the interview process. This approach provides a realistic situation that allows you to test a candidate under pressure, but doesn’t risk making the candidate question your motives or whether they even like the people who work for your organization.  Plus, you get to see their level of detail when it comes to prepping for a client!

Not Closing The Loop

I think we may have over-emphasized being politically correct and well mannered in interviews. I started my career in sales and as a result I try to close all my interviews. I ask a combination of questions like, “Do you have any reservations about my fit for this role?” and “What do the other candidates in your pipeline bring to the table that separates them from me?” These questions give me a better feel for the interview process and where I stand. Outside of a couple of senior leaders I interviewed with, I have never received any feedback when asking these questions.

It’s frustrating for candidates not to know where they stand, especially while they are in the middle of a taxing job search. There’s nothing wrong with fearless feedback and it will generally be well received by the candidate. If a particular job doesn’t work out, direct information provides insight into what you were looking for and why it wasn't meant to be. That saves everyone time, and leaves candidates with a positive impression of your company.

At the core of these four issues is the fact tech organizations tend to scale and grow rapidly, and they're more likely to have less experienced people in the trenches. Those less experienced people are often included in the interview process, sometimes for the first time in their career. The good news is this is an opportunity to do some coaching. Hopefully, experiences like mine can help bring candidate experience to the forefront and start a conversation around improving the interview process.

Team Talent, what do you think? 

The Success League is a consulting firm that helps executives who want to build Customer Success teams that are focused on the metrics that lead to retention and revenue.

Amin Akbarpour - Amin is a customer success coach and architect.  With relationship-building at the core of his practice, he molds teams by instilling the necessary principles to transform them into trusted advisors.  Understanding what's needed for organizational change, he translates theory and ideology into practice and habit.  After the aforementioned job hunt he accepted a position as an Account Manager for Persado.  Originally from Southern California, Amin is a University of San Francisco alum who is grateful to still be able to call San Francisco his home.