Effective interviewing is only the start


Dramatically Improve Your Interviewing Process 07-28-2011

By Doug Fleener, President and Managing Partner, Dynamic Experiences Group

July 28, 2011

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of Dynamic Experiences Group.

The other day, I noticed that a manager was interviewing a job applicant on a bench in front of her store in a local mall. Since I’m never one to miss the chance to watch and learn, I decided to hang out and see what I could take away from the interview.

I can sum up the entire interview in one word. Boring! The interviewer was boring. The applicant was boring. I think they were boring each other. At the end of the interview, the only thing the manager learned was what was already on the application, and all the applicant said was the same stock answers everyone says in an interview, including the all important, “I’m a people person.” My day was complete.

Interviewing and candidate selection is just too important to not do extremely well. A great hire can have an almost immediate positive impact on the store, and a bad hire can lead to 60, 90, or more days of pure hell.

Here are ways to dramatically improve the interviewing and hiring process:

  1. Spend part of the interview working together on the floor. Instead of asking the applicant to tell you about her customer service and selling skills, have her show you with real customers. Sure, she won’t have a lot of product knowledge. Sure, she’ll be nervous. But I’ll tell you what — you’ll quickly separate the winners from the fakers. At the very least, do some selling scenario role-playing with a candidate.
  2.  Have him observe the staff and share his insights with you. You’ll be surprised how many people who say they’re good at sales and service can’t define it even when they see it.
  3. Require the applicant to interview you. You can learn a lot about a person by the questions he/she asks. Is he interested in the challenges and opportunities, or how the lunch breaks work? Is she interested in hearing why you’re a great company to work for, or is she already thinking about vacations?
  4. Have the applicant spend time with non-management team members. If he/she is good, we want to do everything we can to get our offer accepted. One of the best ways to do that is to have the candidate bond with one or two of your best non-management employees. It’s one thing for you to say how wonderful your store/company is, but it’s another when that message comes from a potential colleague.

Discussion questions:  Of the interview techniques mentioned in the article, which will likely provide the most value on average to the interview process? Do you have any unconventional interview techniques that you would add?

My post:

The ideas Doug shared are all good and are easily imbedded in a strong talent acquisition strategy.  The real conversation here should be around the creation of that strategy.  Without a comprehensive strategic approach to talent acquisition, any one touchpoint can only be marginally effective.  Keys to an effective talent acquisition strategy include, but are not limited to:

  1. A clear understanding of what talents are necessary for success – not just generally, but in your unique culture.  This is accomplished by a careful study of the best staff – not just the top sellers, but those who readily create real and human relationships with your top clients.
  2. Determining what is needed to “fit” into your unique culture, including the specific individuals on the team the new staff will be joining.
  3. Developing a structured interview which asks questions that enable the candidate to articulate their strengths in the talents you are looking for (or not)
  4. Training interviewers how to use the structured interview plus “fit” questions.  Here is where the suggestion to spend time on the floor & interview with non-management comes in.  There is no better way to judge fit than to observe the individual in the environment and with their potential peers.
  5. Finally, determining where people who fit your talent profile “live” so that your marketing efforts for candidates can be most effective.  Where they “live” includes social media sites, physical locations (zip codes), types of current employers (for direct recruitment) and more.

This is just the beginning.  A comprehensive talent strategy won’t stop here.  It will include the methods of onboarding, leader engagement, development programs, structured touchpoints for follow up with the staff to ask how they are doing and how you are doing in meeting their expectations, and annual engagement surveys to judge your progress in creating an attractive and retentive employment environment.  Look to the Ritz Carlton and the Container Store as benchmark organizations for this effort.

I have laid out a much more robust and demanding approach vs. the simplicity of an improved interview.  Anything less cannot deliver what you are truly after:  an improved selection process, leading to a more effective workforce, leading to more satisfied customers and a healthier business – creating a virtuous cycle of successful talent management.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist


What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  Dramatically Improve Your Interviewing Process


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3 Responses to Effective interviewing is only the start

  1. Doug Fleener says:

    Thanks for sharing and expanding upon my article Mike. I would just add that the article was originally written for my clients which assumed they had a successful acquisition strategy.

    I agree 100% that successfully staffing an organization requires more that just what I laid out here. This was to challenge people to get out of the office and move the interviewing process out onto the floor, but as you point out it doesn’t matter if it isn’t part of a smart acquisition approach.

    Thanks again.

    Doug Fleener

  2. Mike Osorio says:

    Hi Doug,

    It is a an excellent subject and one which most employers fail to commit to fully, particularly in the retail space. I added my points because I thought the other commentary stayed at the surface of the issue vs. a robust discussion about the challenges of developing a comprehensive acquisition culture. Thank you for trying to engage the panel in an important topic and for your follow up note.

    Best regards,

  3. Doug Fleener says:

    Great point. It is interesting how many people try to deliver a service/experience strategy with the wrong people. It truly starts with the talent doesn’t it?

    Thank you for continuing to share your knowledge and experience with retailers around the world.

    Best regards.


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