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Interview Tips for Hiring In Demand Skills

Interview Tips for Hiring In Demand Skills

By: Dona DeZube

Successfully recruiting in demand, highly-skilled professionals can test even the most experienced human resources professional. Qualified candidates for in demand jobs know the balance of power is in their favor.

However, you can shift the scales with the right hiring strategies, interview questions and follow-up tactics. Here are five ways that will enable you to have the upper hand during the interview process.

1) Be More of a Matchmaker than Recruiter
People with in demand skills know they don’t have to take just any position. What’s the best way to win them over to your firm? Start with interview questions that draw out what’s important to them, rather than focusing on your company’s agenda.

“Change your mind set to that of a sophisticated salesperson who first asks questions about the customer’s needs,” says Doug Hardy, author of Monster Careers: Interviewing. “Ask what particular work situations are exciting and engaging to your candidate. For example, a candidate might be in an organization where her best work is slowed or stymied by bureaucratic process. Can you convince her that your organization moves faster, with less red tape?”

Someone who’s highly ambitious and skilled will look for a career path that puts his talents to use in a way that makes a difference, says Barry Drexler of Drexler Coaching, a New York City-based interview coach who estimates interviewing 15,000 people during his 30-year career.

Asking interview questions that highlight your organization’s professional development offerings, career paths and culture will help convert those candidates to employees. Here are some examples:

• I see you have the Top Gun certification and attend the Society of In-Demand Engineers conference every year. Are there other certifications you’d like to earn? Follow up with specific information about how your firm supports employee development.

• You’re a project team member in your current position. Are you looking to move up to project manager? This question is a natural lead-in to a discussion about the potential for advancement.

• Direct questions like, How much autonomy do you have at your current organization? or indirect interview questions such as, What do you not like about your current job? create an opening to discuss subtle psychological selling points such as autonomy, effectiveness and appreciation, Hardy says.

• Interview questions such as, What do you value in work and what do you value in life? will help you assess if the candidate will be a fit with your organizational culture. Aligning the seeker’s values with their employee experience will protect the exit door.

2) Take a Team Approach to Job Interviews
A highly-technical, in-demand job interview is not the time to fly solo, particularly when hiring for IT skills.

Instead, you can improve your interviews by forming a recruiting team that includes:

  • A company advocate 
  • A technical expert 
  • A company peer

Each person plays a specific role in the interview process:

Company Advocate: The company advocate’s role isn’t to ask questions. “Their role is to talk about how great it is working here and how great your manager is,” Drexler says. “They are your cheerleader whose goal is to get the person fired up about working for you.”

Technical Expert: The technical expert can discuss the day-to-day work and ask the candidate for their viewpoint on a technical problem (this shows that your firm values the job candidate’s opinion). “Technical people tend to trust people at their own level and set of skills more than they trust recruiters or HR professionals,” Hardy says.

The technical expert should also ask some tough questions that challenge the job seeker, says Paul Peterson, national talent resource manager for the Toronto office of accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP.

“You want people who want to be challenged and like to solve problems,” he explains. When answered well, tough questions give the job seeker a sense of accomplishment and a sense that he’ll be stretched in the job.

Company Peer: The peer’s function in the job interview process is to help the candidate be comfortable with the team and co-workers. Be sure to prep the peer about the candidate’s goals; they can also speak to the office environment and chat about how the job aligns with the candidate’s interests.

At the end of the day, circle back with the candidate to ask job interview questions that give you a sense of whether the job you’re offering is a good fit, such as: What have you seen so far that’s caught your interest? What are your concerns?

If it looks like the candidate is not going to be happy, resist the urge to hire him just because the position is hard to fill. Highly-skilled employees who are unhappy at work find it very easy to move to another firm.

3) Stay in Touch Post-Interview
While you’re putting the job offer together, don’t let a week go by without making contact, Drexler says. “There’s always a reason to call,” he says. Ask if they want to come in and meet more colleagues, or let them know you called their references and that you’re waiting to hear back from them.

4) Act Fast
In-demand job seekers often get snapped up quickly, so don't let your own perfectionism slow things down -- keep the hiring process moving. Make a job offer -- even if it’s just a verbal offer -- as soon as possible.

5) Circle Back Again
When you recruit for in-demand positions, you’re always going to lose out on a few job candidates. Continue to recruit covertly by inviting candidates to company events such chili cook-offs, pool tournaments or hackathons.

The next time you have an open position, you can call to ask how they liked the chili cook-off and invite them in to talk about an upcoming project.

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