Top 5 Interviewing Tips From Successful Startups and Small Businesses

Sourcing candidates from the right channels is the No. 1 challenge for most recruiters worldwide. Interviewing candidates to evaluate their fit for both the role and your organization comes a close second. 

Especially if you are recruiting for a startup or a small organization where each role is crucially linked to business functions and delivery, selecting the right candidate can be the difference between the success and failure of an entire vertical at times. This puts the burden on recruiters to hire for success.

Between sending umpteen reminders to the interviewing panel, finding that one free slot in the middle of the panel’s packed schedule for the interview, chasing the interviewers for feedback, and evaluating the candidate themselves for the right fit, recruiters find the interview stage of the hiring process as grueling as candidates do, to say the least.

To address that top recruiting challenge of getting your sourcing channels right, check out these never-before-seen sourcing techniques for 2021 in Freshteam’s Candidate Sourcing Bible to help you source 10 times faster.

To help you address challenge No. 2, here are the best interviewing tips from successful startups and small businesses:

1. Collaborate With Your Team

This is the most overlooked and the most important tip when hiring for a small team. Get the team invested right from day one, because they’re going to be the ones actually working with the new hire. That’s why Wistia, the video hosting company, makes sure its hiring managers partner with recruiters from the very beginning.

It’s important for the hiring manager to be heavily involved in the process because they will be working closest with the new hire. Since they understand the work to be done, they are the best person to partner with when writing a magnetic job post, setting up the interview process, and screening candidates. A transparent and inclusive partnership enables both the hiring manager and recruiter to make the best possible choices in hiring.

The easiest way to collaborate painlessly is to use an applicant tracking system like Freshteam. When you use an applicant tracking system (ATS), you don’t have to spend so much time forwarding emails and following up on to-dos. 

Find out how a smart ATS reduces up to 80 percent of recruiter workload. Don’t waste precious time that could otherwise be spent on ramping up your hiring strategy.

2. Do Blind Interviews to Preserve Diversity of Experience

Research shows us that unconscious bias is just the brain using shortcuts (like prior experience) to make quick decisions. But those shortcuts don’t always serve us well. For example, even though a candidate might be perfect for a position, you could be unfairly prejudiced against them because of their resemblance to somebody with whom you had an unpleasant experience, like your high-school bully. You might even reject the candidate because of this bias.

What’s the best way to make sure you don’t factor unconscious biases into your hiring decisions? If you’ve got the time, you could give your team some training on how to avoid bias, like Google does, or you could go the way of the reality singing competition The Voice. The Voice isn’t just great entertainment when you have the flu — it also contains some great hiring lessons.

Use a tool like GapJumpers to do blind auditions to make your hiring bias-proof. Blind auditions level the playing field for all applicants and make sure you’re not losing out on diversity.

3. Don’t Interview Like the NFL. Test for the Real World.

The National Football League (NFL) selects its athletes through a combination of tests: physical exams, interviews, intelligence tests, and the usual gamut of physical performance trials. This method might seem fair, but it’s not always an indicator of actual performance on the field. Tom Brady, the inarguable star of the 2017 Super Bowl, was the 199th draft pick after he took the tests in 2000!

In an article for Signal v. Noise entitled “Hiring Tip: Don’t Interview Like the NFL,” Highrise CEO Nathan Kontny compares NFL-style hiring to common interview processes and concludes:

No matter how many screening questions, interviews, sample projects, etc., we do, the best data comes out of actual real-life work situations.”

For Highrise, “Don’t interview like the NFL” means using online chat interviews. Highrise is a remote company, so a lot of high-power discussions happen over chat. These chat-based interviews reflect a real-world experience candidates will have if hired, so Highrise uses them to see how well an applicant can handle the environment before making an offer.
What does “Don’t interview like the NFL” mean to you? Add it to your interviewing process.

If someone doesn’t make the cut, be sure you reject them gracefully. Candidate experience still counts.

4. Try Candidates on for Size, If Possible

In a similar vein, Automattic (the makers of WordPress, WooCommerce, and Simplenote) shed the tried-and-tested job interview approach. Instead, they ask all of their shortlisted candidates to work on a short-term project for 3-8 weeks on a contract basis. Candidates work on real tasks alongside the people they would work with if they were hired. Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, explains how the company zeroed in on this approach in an article for Harvard Business Review, entitled “The CEO of Automattic on Holding ‘Auditions’ to Build a Strong Team”:

“The more we thought about why some hires succeeded and some didn’t, the more we recognized that there is no substitute for working alongside someone in the trenches.”

The goal, Mullenweg explains, is to allow Automattic to quickly and efficiently assess whether this would be a mutually beneficial relationship. The candidates can size up the company while the company evaluates them. This approach might sound painful and complicated, but it has delivered great benefits for Automattic. In the Harvard Business Review article, Mullenweg notes that, of the 101 people Automattic hired in 2013, only two of them didn’t work out. 

So, if you can, put your candidates through a bootcamp-style assessment period.

5. Hire ‘Future Perfect People’

In a Signal v. Noise article, Basecamp CEO and cofounder Jason Fried expounds on the challenges of hiring someone and envisioning their potential:

“There are very few perfect people. Instead, there are a lot of future perfect people. People who have the potential to become the perfect person in the perfect role if just given the right opportunity. Finding future perfect people is more of an art rather than a science.

So, instead of looking for the perfect person, Fried looks to hire future perfect people: people who are in mediocre jobs with mediocre opportunities but who could really shine if given the right opportunities. This is an approach that Girish Mathrubootham, CEO of Freshworks Inc., favors as well:

“There are no bad employees; there are only bad fits for the role. We have to find the role that matches the employee’s talent. Once that is done, you can sit back and watch people take charge of their careers and deliver spectacular results.”

Bonus Hacks for Recruiters

Don’t get left behind with archaic interview practices. Hone your skills and step up your game. While the art of recruiting requires a long time to master, there are a few extra things you can do right now to set yourself up for success as a recruiter: 

  1. Providing a great candidate experience should be your north star, even while you seek the perfect hire for the job opening.
  2. Give feedback to your candidates and get feedback from them to improve your process at every stage, if possible.
  3. Use an applicant tracking system to send out automatic email notifications so the onus of keeping everyone updated shifts from you to your ATS.
  4. Structure your interviews to avoid any subjectivity from the interview panel. Provide interview prep kits and evaluation criteria in advance.
  5. Interview scorecards help capture feedback from all interview panel members in an accurate, structured manner, leaving no room for confusion later. Here’s a screenshot of what Freshteam’s interview scorecard looks like:

If this sounds like a tough list of things to do, let a smart assistant do the heavy lifting for you. Freshteam is a smart applicant tracking system that helps recruiters source, interview, and hire great candidates. It reduces your workload significantly and frees up time that you can spend on improving and future-proofing your interviewing process. Freshteam transforms how recruiters operate by ensuring that interview collaboration and candidate experience are taken care of with ease. Try out Freshteam’s interview management features for free here (no strings attached).

This article by Freshteam is built on the original article that first appeared on the Freshteam blog. regularly features reviews, articles, and press releases from leading businesses. This featured article may include paid promotion or affiliate links. Please make every effort to perform due diligence when selecting products and services for your business or investment needs and compare information from a variety of sources. Use this article for general and informational purposes only.

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