Interview the Person, Not the Position

August 6, 2015

My cousin’s new job has her doing the hiring, and she asked me what kind of advice I had. As she’s good at Google, I imagined she had the standard advice out there, and was just wondering about the particular take I had on the matter. After writing her back, I realized that others might enjoy this perspective – or those applying to Cresca could understand what they’re getting into.

You’re Being Interviewed, Too

Normal interview questions are, well, normal, but what stands out to people is an interview that lets them meet you and the company through the conversation. Candidates, especially the good ones, are interviewing you, too, and you’re selling them on you as much as they’re selling you on them.

Create what feels like a unique interview by having a normal conversation with people. Personally, I want to know what makes a person tick. I want to understand how they think and why. I latch onto things that interest them, and I probe. I try to have a conversation more like we met at someone else’s holiday dinner than like I’m interviewing them. In addition to getting a better sense of the person, this puts them at ease and makes them, in my experience, considerably more honest. They stop talking back in interview mode, and are much more likely to open up. Plus, if they can’t talk like human beings, I find that they don’t fit our culture anyways.

Cultural Fit is the Most Important Element

People can lie about who they are and what they’ve done, but they can’t lie about cultural fit, because every culture at every company is different, so there’s no sense in trying to make something up or lie about yourself. In order to interview for cultural fit, of course, the interviewer must do her homework about the company. As someone in charge of those doing the hiring, you have to make sure those people understand the company culture and represent it well.

At Cresca, we spent a lot of time conducting surveys with people and assessing ourselves to figure out what makes a Crescateer. Those characteristics are different at every company, and what we found for us is that a Crescateer has diverse interests and skills rather than too much hyper-specialization, she is flexible and comfort with change, she is internally motivated with a lot of determination, and she’s quirky (so much so that we made our sixth core value Stay Quirky).

Those are the elements I’m looking for. Most people who are worth hiring can learn skills, or if I’m hiring them for a specific set of skills then their resume, LinkedIn and my basic questions will get at the heart of those. What I want to know is will this person fit in well at Cresca, want to stay here and come here every day genuinely enjoying being here. If she won’t enjoy being here, then she doesn’t belong. None of that is true for every company, but you should know what’s true of yours and consider the kinds of questions that let the interviewee demonstrate that.

Just My Take

There is a lot more advice out there that is sound interview advice. This is what seems to be the most important factor in my process.

Finally, though, remember to treat people like human beings. Anyone who recalls being on the interviewed side of the table knows how stressful that can be, and being kind, following up to let people know where they stand, not dragging the process out forever, offering them water when they come in and not keeping them waiting are all common courtesies.