Depending on your role and circumstances in your organisation, you might find yourself in that tricky situation of having to interview people for more senior positions. You might find this intimidating or just plain awkward. But you would, of course, like to be effective and be able to get the right talent. What I found out being asked to do many interviews like this is that, as with any challenge at work, navigating through this tricky situation only requires a shift in mindset and a bit of planning.
Know the role
Make sure you understand the role and its deliverables. Job descriptions for every imaginable role are available online; you must have used them yourself if you were asked to prepare a job description document of some sort. Make sure that you understand the required qualifications and their relevance to how the person will function in the company. With this you will be able to prepare a list of questions that can help you assess the candidate’s hard skills.
Know your company
Knowing your company well gives two benefits: you will be able to sell your brand better and you can ask situational interview questions that actually matter.
Seasoned professionals would have stronger preferences than their younger counterparts and would ask more questions about your company. You should be ready to answer them. Remember that a two-way assessment is actually happening. They are also trying to find out if your company is the right fit for them. The last thing you would like to happen is find a strong candidate who lost interest in your company because you gave lousy answers to their questions or appeared clueless of what your company does. Yes, this happens. While there can be questions you cannot and should not answer, you should still appear knowledgeable of what you’re doing.
If you are hiring for a specific role to address a challenge, make sure that you understand that challenge. Situational interview questions are very effective if you actually present a relevant situation. This tends to be the exciting part for both interviewer and interviewee because this where you get really close to the actual day-to-day activities for the role and where you can see if the candidate can actually walk the talk.
It’s not about you
Young interviewers often get intimidated because they compare their own skills and knowledge with the candidate’s. It is not a competition; you are aiming for collaboration. Remember, you are not interviewing your replacement or a colleague. While your knowledge of your own role will come handy, it is less about what you know and more about what the company needs. Sure, the candidate knows a framework, a platform, or a technique that you are not familiar with. Even if you are of the same level as the candidate, there’s a chance that he or she would still know something that you don’t. What you do know is what your company needs. If they can explain how they are going to address the challenges you presented with what they know, then that’s a positive. If they can’t, what you heard was probably just buzz word.
Being a young manager, it’s not uncommon for me to get condescending looks from candidates who have been in the industry twice as long. If you are in the candidates’ shoes you will likely wonder as well why a company would send a kid to assess you. But this does happen and as always, preparation is key. -aB