Help me avoid hiring Patrick Bateman.
November 2, 2012 9:53 AM   Subscribe

HR filter: What are some good questions to ask a job candidate during a final interview before extending an offer?

We are a small firm with no formal HR department. I have been tasked with hiring a person who will serve as something akin to my deputy. It is a highly focused, skilled position, which will also involve a substantial level of training. We have gone through the first round of interviews with about 10 people, and have identified one candidate who is clearly head and shoulders above the rest in terms of overall fit, attitude, logical career progression, is seemingly very mature and in our salary range.

During the first interview we focused on the candidates' motivation, enthusiasm, commitment to holding a long-term position, personality compatibility, intellectual rigor and curiosity. In order to even get to the first interview, the candidate's resume had to pass through a fairly difficult screen in terms of work experience and qualifications, which less than 1% of total applicants did.

I'm hoping someone better versed in HR best practices or the bosses out there can help me come up with a structure and approach for the 2nd (and likely final) interview. How should it differ from the first?

You can assume we will be performing standard due diligence practices such as checking references and some type of background check before extending a formal offer. I'd just like to get some ideas on how to make this interview feel like I have crossed off the appropriate boxes and not overlooked any questions that may identify red flags. After all, it's my butt on the line if this person doesn't work out. Thanks!
posted by the foreground to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you feel like you've covered his background and history in full, then I would forward in the 2nd interview. Ask a lot of "how would you handle this" type of questions to get a feel for his decision making abilities.
posted by COD at 10:11 AM on November 2, 2012

Unless they're desperate for a job, I'd weigh heavily the likelihood they're interviewing you too and not overdo the grilling at this point. You've validated essential requirements and you never know who's going to flake out for personal reasons. I'd suggest aiming at a sort of dialogue to be sure you share the same point of view about the work, showing enough of your attitude about the work that if they don't see a fit in working with you then perhaps you'll observe it or perhaps they'll opt out of the job, saving you both some trouble.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:39 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

You've already taken care of the technical stuff. 2nd/last interview should be purely culture fit, which can involve situational questions like COD suggests. You don't have to have an endless decision process, and smart companies will have well-defined steps like "initial screen, skills/technical screen, in-person interview, offer" type structure.
posted by rhizome at 11:42 AM on November 2, 2012

And really, is your butt really on the line? Why couldn't you fire them if it doesn't work out and hire someone else? Totally normal.
posted by rhizome at 11:43 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why do you feel you need a second interview. What do you want to know from your candidate that (s)he didn't answer on the first go round.

If you want to have this person in again, ask them to meet other people in the department. Allow the person to ask the other employees questions. After meeting with the other employees, sit with the candidate and go into the job in more detail.

If everything is still kosher, hire him or her!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:46 AM on November 2, 2012

Identify a few core competencies that are the most important skills and develop behavioural questions around those areas. The best way to predict how someone will be in a future job situation is to ask them about past one.

So if communication is one area you identify as something like "Describe a past experience where you had to communicate a difficult concept to someone and how you resolved it."

Four or five questions like this will probably take 30-45 minutes and that leaves time for your candidate to ask any of his or her questions.

Why do you feel you need a second interview. What do you want to know from your candidate that (s)he didn't answer on the first go round.

This too. If there's anything you think you missed, this is the last time to ask.

And finally, you're butt isn't really on the line. Sometimes fit issues don't appear until someone is on the job. Its the reason all jobs should have probationary periods. Be thoughtful and do your best
posted by GilvearSt at 12:55 PM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Boss here.

For what it is worth, ask the "Candidate":

- Why did you apply for [[this job]]?
- What contributions do you see yourself making in the next year?

You say ten people have interviewed this person already. Yet you're doing an AskMeFi on what else you should grill them on. Why are you reticent? What about this person is making you second guess whatever you have already done and heard?

What specifically is that whatever? What is the individual opinion? Ten people + you have interviewed this person. Are you counting your opinion with the other ten?

Never hire on a bare majority. Unless you solely use outside interviewers, the 4/10 or the 5/11 will remember why they didn't want to hire this person.

Identify what the problem is, and why you are seeking outside counsel. No one here knows what has been said. But, the fact you are asking outsiders -- people who won't be working with the candidate -- that's a red flag.

"This person won't take the offer of ??$$" is not a valid worry.

"This person will piss off x, y, and probably z, and may screw up how we do A" is a valid worry.

And, of course, when in doubt there is no doubt.
posted by graftole at 5:32 PM on November 2, 2012

I misread the question. Ten people did not interview the candidate. There were ten candidates. Adjust ratios accordingly.

The rest still stands, minus the ratios. What is making you reach out for this? If it is a case of "no-one-else is any good", take their name and look for a month more, at least.

Never be pressured to hire someone. Hiring a bad fit to make numbers never, ever ends well. Ever.
posted by graftole at 5:47 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

And I would not suggest you ask "how would you handle" questions-rather, ask "how did you handle" or "give an example of a time when". I am always impressed with a candidate, like the most recent woman I hired, who volunteers an example of a time where they didn't do something well, and then brings up what they'd do differently next time.
posted by purenitrous at 8:16 PM on November 2, 2012

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