Whether you're trying to find a new expert to bring onto your team or need to locate the perfect business partner, the interview process can be nerve-wracking. But Christina Hall, SVP and Chief People Officer at LinkedIn, has narrowed down what to look for from candidates during your interview process.
4 must-haves to look for
1. A strong start. The old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression rings true, according to Hall. But candidates who want to create that great first impression need to do more than just look the part.
"[Candidates should] begin with a handshake, clear introduction of [themselves] and end with a sincere expression of [their] interest in the company. For me, the first moment of eye contact, the smile and handshake, that's what often stays with me. If you introduce yourself well, then you'll have a more receptive audience."
2. In-depth preparation. Preparation for an interview should be multi-pronged. At the most basic level, interviewees should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the company and what they do. They should take this information and show how they can insert their specific education, experience and skills to contribute directly to their goals.
But because so many people can throw strong talent into the ring, make sure your candidates are looking beyond tasks and productivity into culture, too, including your mission, vision and values. Fit is imperative, so good candidates will
- study the role/company beforehand,
- find what makes the business tick,
- prove that they'll gel with others on the team, and
- show that they're aligned with the attitudes and behaviors that are present.
This includes preparing thoughtful questions that are customized for your job or business.
"Meshing with a company's culture and team is key for employee happiness and morale [...]," says Hall. "[Candidates should] show that [they're] well-versed in the company's culture by
- highlighting why the company culture excites [them],
- why it's a fit for [their] personal and professional goals, and
- how [they] envision contributing to the atmosphere."
Lastly, Hall advises, potential hires should see what is happening in the bigger picture for the market or field and how the company ties to it. They should get the scoop on trends within your industry and stay on top of company news. They also should demonstrate their industry insight by drawing from a recent trend they noticed, and they should ask you what you think. Getting you to share your perspective can inspire a great conversation.
3. Showing off soft skills. "Highly-adaptable and transferable soft skills can often trump specific job experience. In fact, our research shows that more than half of leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills. Certain soft skills like intellectual curiosity, grit, and adaptability may help compensate for the more traditional experience employers are seeking in candidates.
[Candidates can demonstrate] soft skill strengths by always having an anecdote about how [they've] exemplified in-demand skills. For example, how are [they] adaptable and collaborative in a work environment?"
4. Asking questions. "Making a good first impression in an interview is important. But leaving a positive, lasting impression is just as significant. The best way [a candidate can make themselves memorable] well past the conversation is to ask questions at the end--something many applicants don't do. Asking questions really shows that [they] have been paying attention during the interview and that [they] are eager to learn more about the company."
What candidates and employers both can do to improve their situation
Hall says that the above tips can help candidates showcase their strengths, dynamic and nimble thinking, and the fact they've invested time and energy into preparing for the conversation. All that makes a difference in the impression a candidate give and how well they stand out from the pack.
But if you're a candidate and your job hunting still isn't producing results, it's time to evaluate the process.
"Take a closer look at your current situation and ask yourself what truly drives you, and where you want to be. This type of regular check-in can help you identify what you're looking for and establish goals to get there."
And networking isn't just wishful thinking. Hall says that, based on LinkedIn research, more than 70 percent of professionals get hired at companies where they have a connection. So don't underestimate the power of asking around and having others introduce or put in a word for you.
But hiring is a two-way street, and employers can do their part, too.
"[...It's] important to extend grace and show compassion to ensure [candidates] don't lose their confidence for future opportunities and still have a positive candidate experience with you and your company," Hall says.
Clear communication makes a difference, as well. Hall points out that certain words in job descriptions have the power to discourage various demographics from applying, so you have to review the language you use carefully. Aim for the same clarity when you talk to your hiring managers. If you do this well, you'll be able to refine your search and hire candidates that truly fit the bill.