John Chambers, the current CEO of Cisco Systems, said: “A world-class engineer with five peers can out-produce 200 regular engineers”.

What he meant was that when we select the right people, achieving great outcomes becomes easier. And the converse is also true:  select the wrong people and it is exceedingly difficult to achieve much.

Recurring mistakes tend to be made in the interviewing process.  A summary of the major pitfalls are:

  • Lack of clarity on what is needed: we tend to focus too heavily on intelligence, experience and skills, and not have a crystal clear view of what the behaviours are that are essential for success on the job
  • Following an unstructured process: not following a systematic process that leads to a good decision
  • Trying to fill the post too quickly: conforming to organizational pressure to fill the position quickly
  • Relying on intuition: making a selection decision based on gut feeling, i.e. evaluating people on appearance and first impressions
  • The “halo effect”: making the mistake of hiring people in our own image
  • Asking predictable, opinion-based questions: these are questions that tend to be too generic  in nature and do not help uncover the behaviours and attributes required for the job

I recommend a 5-step method that greatly increases the odds of making a good decision.  One of the steps (step 2 of 5) is the Telephone Interview, which many of you are familiar with  – but here are some key tips for you to keep in mind with regards to this step:

  • The goal to assess all short listed candidates, so that you may further reduce your list to the top candidates that you’ll request interviews
  • Telephone interviews enable you to spend less time with unqualified candidates – once you have someone in a face-to-face interview; you pretty much need to spend 45 minutes with the person
  • Another benefit is that it mitigates against gut judgements. A more objective first impression is possible
  • Whilst the focus will be on the “threshold requirements”, i.e. skills and work experience; you will also want to spend a bit of time on personal attributes / behaviours critical to the role, like the “ability to build strong relationships”
  • Plan to stick to approximately 25 minutes
  • Consider asking questions like: “Can you relocate to Calgary? This job pays $60-70,000, is that within your range? Can you travel to Regina 5 days per month?”  It is no use continuing the call if they answer “no” to any of these questions

Nic Tsangarakis, Principal