If you’re new to the game of hiring people, this step can be rather challenging. As with everything else, practice it and you can become an expert. Here are some interviewing basics:
1. Give a specific task to perform
The problem is a person who is great at talking, may be able to talk his or her way around you. In other words, they may be able to paint a terrific – but incomplete or inaccurate – picture of themselves, their achievements and abilities. It’s far harder to get around you if you can work out a way to give them a specific task to handle, as part of the interview process.
In hiring developers for Billy’s Billing, we always gave candidates a specific programming task, or a piece of coding to do, right there in the interview. In this way, it took us about 60 seconds to determine whether the person would be able to perform or not.
This works for other jobs as well. For instance, you could ask someone applying for an AdWords job to log in and do a quick analysis of an ongoing AdWords campaign.
2. Get answers right away
After the normal introductions and small talk, make sure to ask direct questions, and get direct answers. Less tangible things like attitude and your gut feelings are very valid and important, but if a person can’t give clear and specific answers to clear and specific questions, well, what is it going to be like working with them in a demanding production environment?
3. Freak people out
It’s always both fun and educational to ask questions to freak people out. Something like, “What’s the hottest new media you’ve seen online?” You could ask about specific online trends and their opinion of them. Or, if you want to be funny (if that’s an important element of your company culture) ask questions like, “How many basketballs would it take to fill this room?”
4. What if you’re in doubt?
If you’re in doubt about a person during the interview, you can ask closed questions such as: “Would you like to define your duties, responsibilities and fields of action at work, or would you rather have a well-defined position?” This should clarify whether the person sitting in front of you is pro-active, or passive.
You could also ask, “Are you interested in learning new things and gaining different skills, or would you prefer to stick with what you already know and do well?” For most any job, especially in a start-up, you want people who are eager to learn.
5. You need to know where to find things
It’s good to establish with a prospective new hire that you do not expect them to know everything – as long as they know where to look for answers and information, and are adept at finding them.