"In my experience as a senior executive in the competitive and fast-paced sporting goods industry, I have seen my share of good leaders.


Measure Twice, Hire Once: Interview Techniques to ‘Size Up’ Your Candidates


Imagine an executive 24 hours before an important job interview. They might be stressed and anxious or exhilarated under pressure and trying to commit important facts and details to memory.

I bet that individual you’re imagining is the job applicant. Am I right?

As much pressure as job interviews put on candidates, they’re also high-pressure experience for the people on the other side of the table – the interviewers.

That’s because the hiring process strongly reflects management’s ability to guide their company forward.

A manager’s ability to evaluate talent and fit in a relatively short time frame is critical to making the right hire. In my experience, getting away from conventional interview settings goes a long way towards making accurate judgements, especially if the candidate may represent the company in the future, such as in a management or client-facing position.

First Impressions And Beyond

We all know that first impressions matter, but when interviewing for a management position this statement holds especially true. Management-level employees often represent your company as well as themselves; as such, it is imperative that you hold candidates to a high “first impression” standard. Imagine that instead of meeting you for the first time, this individual is meeting some of your key stakeholders or personnel.

I recommend that executives go beyond chitchat and the handshake test, and test out their potential management hire in a less formal but nonetheless important setting – a restaurant table. Interviewing a candidate over a business lunch can be a telling experience. Generally at the table what you see is what you get; you can test table manners, respectfulness, and etiquette in a lower key environment. It makes sense: if the role you are looking to fill would necessitate this kind of environment, test the prospect out in a similar setting.

Remember, anything that is less than impressive to you will be plainly obvious to others down the road, so a candidate’s manners and respect should be beyond reproach.

Avoiding Hasty Decisions

The worst thing anyone can do is rush through the interview process or force a fit; always ensure that not only are the right attitudes and aptitudes present in the candidate, but also, a good fit within your corporate culture. Fitting in from the get go is the first step towards a successful integration into the management team.

A company’s long-term success hinges most of all on the cohesion between the individual players that make up the team. Because fit is so important at the management level, I recommend always conducting two or more interviews where a candidate will speak separately to multiple interviewers.

This divided process has two significant benefits in establishing fit.

  1. It allows more people to gather those important first impressions and compare notes.
  2. The candidate needs to interact more than one person, on several occasions, allowing the team to vet their consistency.

Ultimately, the hiring process can be intense for all parties involved. As an interviewer, you should be ready to anticipate how each potential hire might represent your business to others and how they will integrate into your corporate culture. Listen carefully to the impressions of others and stand firm on your own; by only moving forward with candidates who impress all interviewers, you reduce the risk of making the wrong hire.

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Julie Nimmons

Julie Nimmons

Julie uses her 30 years’ experience to help CEOs, executives and business owners in her Vistage Group find success in their businesses and personal lives. With positive leadership, a firm sense of prioritization and the commitment to lifelong learning, Julie’s creates a constructive workspace for Group members where honesty, innovation and cooperation can flourish.