POST WRITTEN BY: Matt Doyle
Careful interviews are important for any position. However, they’re most important when you’re dealing with positions that require rare or high-level skills. Here, the wrong choice is not only an inconvenience — it’s dangerous to your business’ stability.
Specialized workers often work with expensive systems, resources and materials that can be ruined by an inexperienced hand. Even if an inexperienced worker is careful, their limitations can break your deadlines and limit what’s possible for your clients.
Developing a better interview process has been a valuable journey for my business. As a custom home builder serving affluent clients, I must deliver exceptional carpentry, plumbing, glasswork and wiring for the latest “smart home” features. The process that I’ve developed is used every year to hire permanent staff and contractors for specialized tasks.
It starts with building listings that bring out only the most confident candidates.
1. Build listings that fully communicate your needs.
The path to hiring a worker with special skills is long and intense. It’s important to keep your costs low by limiting the research and interview portions to only the candidates who are worth the investment.
That starts with you and your first listing. Create the most complete listing you can. Make sure that it includes all of the following:
- Required experience
- Required certifications (named and listed)
- Source of certifications (schools, programs, etc.)
- Required history with certain types of projects (request a lot of details)
- Submitted images or links to completed projects (if applicable)
Unfortunately, you can expect a lot of people to skip over the details and apply regardless of qualifications. Take the time to go through every response and create a list that only includes the candidates who provided all the information requested.
A small list is key because the research step for these candidates needs to be as intensive as possible.
2. Take the research step very seriously.
Most business owners will admit that they have not done everything they could to verify a prospective employee’s work history. Sometimes, the need to fill a position on time is too urgent to wait for a call back from past employers — especially if the candidate seems like a real catch.
However, this is not a risk that can be taken with specialized employees. The more urgent the need is, the more it matters that you do as much research as possible. Follow up every reference and past employer. Call during whatever hours you need to in order to make it happen. Request details on what type of projects were handled and how much expertise was required.
These types of questions can be the most useful tool in an interview. It’s important that you don’t become swayed by qualifications alone.
3. Don’t be swayed by qualifications alone.
Certifications, years of experience and prestigious projects are an important indicator of expertise. However, these factors won’t help you catch problems like poor interpersonal skills, burnout and career restlessness. Don’t let amazing qualifications stop you from considering all of the factors that go into the job.
As a manager or chief of operations, you may not be fully qualified to understand all the specific knowledge that goes into a specialized position. That’s why it’s important to invite who the specialist will be working with closely into the interview process.
4. Bring an in-house expert to assist with the questions.
Rely on existing expertise within your organization to help you make the interview as complete as possible. If you have a lower manager (or, even better, another expert) who will be working with the specialist, invite them to participate in the interview.
Have them prepare a series of questions that they will ask the candidate. Make sure these are questions that can help you determine the candidate’s true level of expertise. These questions should be as valuable as possible. One way to optimize them is to make sure that they are based on real scenarios that have affected your business in the past.
5. Use real scenarios from your business to test their knowledge.
You should know if a specialized employee has the same instincts you’ve needed in the past. Test them by giving them problem-solving scenarios from your past projects. Challenge them with a problem you’ve faced and then see if they can arrive at the same (or a more valuable) solution than the one you managed.
Getting it right the first time is about your bottom line.
Following each of the previous five steps might seem like a lot of work. Beefy listings will cut down on the number of responders. Calling past employers is time-consuming and awkward. Bringing in high-level staff to the interview cuts down on the time they can spend on the important work they’re doing for you.
The costs have an expense, that’s true. However, all of these steps are about your bottom line. Choosing the wrong candidate and needing to start over will take up far more time than all of them put together.