Interviewing Tips for First Time Managers


Interviewing Tips for First Time Managers

As a new manager, you’re experiencing all kinds of firsts. You’re giving direction and feedback to employees for the first time.  You’re setting goals for your entire department.  And somewhere along the way, you’re sure to get another first:  two weeks’ notice from one of your team members.   And with that one event, you will be launched into the world of The Hiring Manager.

If the idea of making the first hiring decision of your life makes you nervous, that’s probably a good thing.  It means you recognize the importance of the decision you’ll be making.  You’re not only introducing a fresh face to your own department.  You’re bringing new blood into the entire organization.  The quality of that hire will be seen as a reflection of your competence as a manager.

So what can you do to make this decision the first of many great hiring decisions?  Get started by follow these steps.

Listen to your recruiter.

Even if every other manager in your company doesn’t work with your HR department or hire an outside recruiter, do not try to copy their approach.  Not yet anyway.  As a first time hiring manager, you need the expertise of a professional recruiter.  Your internal HR recruiter has access to the corporate and legal standards you must follow.  And if something goes south during the process or after you’ve extended an offer, you’ll be happy to have them in your corner.  If you don’t have a corporate HR function in your organization, strongly consider hiring an executive recruiter.  I’m a headhunter with SkyWater Search Partners  in Minnesota.  And contrary to popular belief, we don’t just work with Fortune 100 companies.   Often, I partner with up-and-coming managers in smaller organizations.  When they work with me, they know they have access to my network of top tier candidates.  And the have the benefit of my experience with the entire hiring process, from initial job posting to final negotiations of the offer and start date.

Write your job posting like you’d write a winning ad.

Your job posting must clearly articulate the skills and experience you need.  But among those technically qualified candidates, you need to find the person who will thrive within your corporate culture.  To draft your sales language, begin by making lists.  Why did you join this company?  Why have you stayed?  What made you want to manage this team?  What do you love the most about your company?   Now get your hands on your employer’s “value statements,” such as vision documents, values, goals and mission statements.  Look for where your values sync up with those of your employer.  Wherever you find overlap is where you should focus the lead paragraph of your job posting.  The more you can weave these value statements throughout the posting, the stronger it will be.

Screen Candidates for Mandatory Skills and Experience

The stronger your job posting, the bigger the wave of resumes and applications you should expect to come your way.  That’s a good thing.  It’s also daunting.  It will be much easier after you’ve culled out all unqualified candidates.  Keep in mind that, at this stage, you’re really not expected to read every resume word-for-word.  Instead, skim them.  Well-written resumes will make sure that the necessities you’re seeking are easy to find in a quick scan.  And after all, you are looking for someone who makes your work easier, not more difficult.  Qualified candidates who write an easy-to-use resume deserve the extra points they get.

Read finalist resumes thoroughly.  Then read them again.

Before inviting anyone in for an interview, be sure you revisit their resume and go through it with a fine tooth comb.  Does everything add up?  Do they still strike you as a contender?  What’s missing?  What do you want to better understand?  What do you know about their previous employers?  Are their corporate cultures similar to yours?  If not, where would this candidate be the best fit?  Make careful notes about each applicant’s specifics.  During your interview, make sure you get answers to your questions.

Prepare written questions.

During the interview, you need to gain an understanding of a candidate’s skills, both technical and interpersonal.  How competently can they do the job?  How well can they work within your team?  How do they resolve problems?  What motivates them at work?  What do they value most in a job?  What are their career goals?  As you ask these questions, make note of how each applicant answers you.  Are they able to provide specific examples of prior work successes?  Are they enthusiastic as they describe previous work relationship?  Are they able to provide details of the steps they followed when they faced a challenge?  Are they capable of admitting when they’ve made a mistake and able to explain how they corrected it?  Your questions should be open-ended.  This allows the candidate to expand on the how’s and why’s.  It also gives you a window onto

Review your questions with your recruiter.

There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, your recruiter has experience.  They’ll be able to give you great insights into how to tweak a few of your questions to get fruitful responses.  Second, and more importantly, they will help you ensure that you don’t ask any questions that are illegal.

As the new boss, you’re now responsible for rebuilding a new team and guiding them toward success.  Follow these simple steps with every hiring decision and you will be well on your way.

Kurt Rakos

Kurt Rakos