We’re growing fast at Efficient Frontier Europe, so we have a number of vacancies at the moment that we need to fill. I can’t say I particularly enjoy recruiting but getting it right is one of the most important things for any business. Here’s what I think is important for candidates and employers.
- Bring a copy of your own CV. I’ve lost count of the number of interviewees who have to crane their necks to look at my copy when I ask them a simple question such as, “Talk me through your work history.” If you have a copy you’ll look professional and organised. Bring spare copies in case your interviewers don’t have enough to go round.
- Be prepared to talk about everything you write on your CV. If you can’t remember much about that holiday job or the work you did for the Salvation Army web site, then I wonder whether you really did it at all.
- This is especially true for recent graduates. I like to ask them about their final year project or thesis. I do this because I want to hear how you describe a complex topic to a layman, but make it informative and interesting. We have to do this in search marketing all the time. Telling me you can’t remember the conclusion or that your lab partner did most of the work is not what I want to hear.
- Don’t point out your own faults! It’s my job to find these out, not yours. You won’t win any points by helping me out.
- Be prepared and do your research about the role, the company and the industry. Bring your notes and have them in front of you. The interview is not a test of your memory.
- Have lots and lots of questions, and I don’t mean “how much” and “what are the hours”. I’m looking for people who have a natural curiosity and are enthusiastic about the opportunity. I once asked a candidate whether he had any questions. He opened his folder and pulled out five pages of handwritten intelligent notes. He got the job.
“It is curious that, despite the many published papers showing that in personnel selection the interview is useless, firms continue to employ it.” p.207, Irrationality, Stuart Sutherland (my italics)
No matter how good you think your recruiting instincts are, they are a poor method of selecting staff. Although I’ve not found a complete substitute for the interview, I try to make it as objective as possible by formally testing the skills that a successful candidate should have. The great thing about tests is that they are decisive: at the end, you know whether the candidate has the skills or not. If you’re concerned that testing seems to be a cold way of selecting employees, remember that though testing doesn’t help you to ‘know’ a candidate, neither does an interview.