When it comes to the hiring process, small company managers are used to carrying the bulk of the load. While our counterparts within the Fortune 1000 have access to things like on site recruiters, online assessments and multi-departmental search teams, small company managers rarely have the time or the patience to endure an interview process of more than two rounds. But at the same time, inserting the wrong employee into a small company environment can be devastating to both the culture and the bottom line. Balancing these two things—a lack of hiring infrastructure and the need for a quality hire—is as much an art as it is a science.
With the rapidly changing priorities, mix of personality types and lack of structure that almost always comes with working in a small company environment, successfully surviving one requires a mix of political savvy, street smarts and straight out survival skills. Standard interview questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “What is your biggest weakness?” might protect you from an eventual lawsuit, but they will rarely uncover the best candidate for your open position.
And with small companies, simply asking interview questions—even really good ones—is a much smaller piece of the puzzle than actually getting an answer. Accepting a response of “I like all of them” to the question “Which parts of this job would you dislike the most?” will result in no useful information. The point here is straightforward: when leading an interview process at a small company, you MUST do two things:
Ask Good Questions – avoid the temptation, even with lower-level hires, to take the lazy way out and rely on the same list of questions every job seeker in America is prepping for. How? Go to the local bookstore, grab the least expensive interview prep guide you can find, and declare all of the questions in it ‘off-limits’ for your process. For a very well thought-out (and free) list, check out Alex Rudloff’s blog for a list of Common Interview Questions.
Get Complete Answers– too many of us accept answers that border on “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” or answers repeated verbatim from the interview guide mentioned above. If you feel a candidate is not showing his or her true self in an interview, force it out. And if you can’t, move on to the next candidate.
Although I can’t assist you with getting complete answers (it takes a great deal of practice) I can definitely help you ask better questions during the interview process. A few days ago I wrote and posted the seventh free .PDF resource on my “Free Downloads” section, this one titled Sample Interview Questions for Small Company Hiring Managers. Within the tool I have left some space for note taking after each question, so feel free to print this document and use it during your interviews as-is. Also note this tool does NOT include all of the questions a hiring manager will want to ask during an interview. Questions relating to the candidate’s industry-specific experience, knowledge of the product line and educational background must be included as well.
And finally, if you would like to improve this tool by sharing some of your favorite small company interview questions, please reply to this post. If I use them in the next release of the document, I will give you full credit for your submission.
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