You arrive exactly fifteen minutes ahead of time. You’ve got your best business attire on and your best foot forward as you approach the receptionist’s desk. You briefly halt for a millisecond, take a deep breath, and then announce to the smiling young woman before you that you’re here for your interview. Welcomed, and then instructed to take a seat, she informs you that it will be another fifteen minutes or so. Yup, fifteen more minutes to sweat it out while you do your best to appear calm. Fifteen more minutes to anticipate what questions you’ll be asked, what answers you’ll provide.
Most any small business owner would tell you no longer have to endure the interview process is a great benefit of being their own boss. The thought of never having to face another interview may certainly be a relief – but it is also most usually a myth. The table has been turned, but the small business owner is now sitting at the head of the table. Being “your own boss” most often turns out to mean “being the boss” and, unless a perpetual sole proprietor, this means interviewing applicants.
You may have already conducted numerous interviews, or looking forward (or not) to conducting your first interview. Strangely enough, it is likely you might experience similar feelings about being the interviewer as you did as an interviewee. But you did your homework back then and know preparing for the interview is just as, if not more, important than the interview itself. The same thing is true for the small business owner – preparation is key.
Integral to preparing to conduct an interview is an understanding from the perspective of the employer interview techniques and how to adapt them to the needs of your small business.
There are two main interview techniques:
Situational Interview: What would you do…?
The situational interview technique involves providing hypothetical situations to the applicant. The purpose of this technique is to discover how an interviewee would respond to situations involving some type of conflict or problem.
While the situation you provide is be hypothetical to the applicant, this is also an opportunity to describe real situations that have occurred, or could occur at your business. This is very powerful way to determine whether or not the applicant has the types of skills – whether “hard” (i.e. technical or knowledge-based) or “soft” (i.e. people, analytical, management skills) – necessary for the specific position you are looking to hire.
Behavioral Interview: What did you do…?
While the situational interview technique provides a look into how an applicant might respond in future or imagined situations, the behavioral technique involves garnering information as to how the applicant has responded to real situations that occurred in their past.
Asking an applicant how they behaved in the past is a technique to access how they are likely to respond to a similar situation in the future.
How to Conduct an Interview Specific to the Needs of Your Small Business
While these two techniques are different from each other in that one provides information about future events (situational) and the other past events (behavioral) they are most effective when used in conjunction with each other.
Remember that the goal of the interview is to not only determine whether or not the applicant meets the specific criteria necessary for the position, but also which applicant is the best fit for the position. This means that part of doing your “homework” preparing the interview is to identify and design questions around the specific competencies and skill sets the position demands. This does not eliminate hiring applicants who are fresh graduates or with no direct experience within your particular business type. Questions can include examples of the skills and competencies required demonstrated within the applicant’s personal experience (i.e. at school or as a volunteer) as well as previous work experience.
An effective way a small business owner can approach designing both situational and behavioral questions is to first identify and list the specific competencies and skills the position requires. Again, both hard and soft skills should be included. Once identified, the owner can then devise situational and behavioral questions to be asked at the time of the interview. This method is very helpful as it makes it more difficult for the applicant to provide “canned” responses to “canned” questions.