I Have to Ask: Finding the Right Candidate

Posted on July 31, 2019


In this series, a guest columnist responds to a question from ELGL co-founder Kent Wyatt. This week, Michelle Crandall, Assistant City Manager, City of Dublin, Ohio, writes about the job recruitment process.

So what is the magic recipe for hiring the right candidates?  While my success rate isn’t 100%, I’ve learned a few key ingredients that have served me well in recruiting and hiring the right people.  Here is a brief synopsis:

Recruitment and Screening.  Before the arduous undertaking of the interviews is the hard work of recruitment and screening.

Recruitment – This one is all about reach and marketing.  

  • Do your homework and work closely with HR to ensure the position is advertised in the right places.  If a job posting doesn’t have much exposure or is posted in the wrong sites, you may miss out on candidates that would have been stellar.  Job ad placement is also key to ensuring a diverse candidate pool. Think about conventional and innovative ways to reach different groups you want to have represented as applicants.  
  • Speaking of the job posting, it should be accurate as to what the position entails but also interesting.  Recently I’ve seen some creative and fun recruitment ads and videos that clearly convey the job requirements but also give an inside look at the culture of the organization. 
  • Steal people.  If you know of someone that is awesome and you want them to be on your team, go get them!  All is fair in love and local government hiring. 
  • Look internally.  The best person for the job is often right in front of you. 

Screening – Mix it up and put in the time to get it right!

  • This is another chance to achieve a diversity in the interview pool and find the best candidates.  Again work with HR to ensure you see a large number of the resumes. Many of the HR software systems now allow you to filter out those that don’t meet the “minimum” requirements.  Be open to candidates that on paper do not appear as though they meet the minimum requirements but otherwise seem to be a good fit for the position. For example if you are looking for a court clerk but the key skills you need are attention to detail and customer service, do you need someone that has previously been a court clerk for 5 years (or at all) or someone that has been in roles that would require those key skills.  I have long believed that you hire for behavior and values. You can teach the skills. That doesn’t apply in all jobs, but many.  
  • Place more resumes in the “A” stack than you were originally planning to interview.  Interviewing is time consuming, but seeing more candidates in a first round of selection could result in someone telling a more complete story in person than was captured on paper.  If the standard is five candidates in first round, push for 7-10. It’s a couple days of your life your will never have back but a good investment knowing that the person you ultimately pick is one you will have to spend months and years working beside.
  • Do this in a timely fashion and schedule interviews within a couple weeks after the advertising period closes.  Candidates might not wait around, especially the good ones. If they do wait and it’s been a long wait, they might already have a negative impression of your organization.  

Interviews – Finally!  I thought we’d never get to this step.

  • Provide an environment where candidates feel comfortable.  Everyone is nervous about interviewing so part of your responsibility is to get them past this and into a more relaxed frame of mind.  It will allow you to better gauge their “fit” for the position. Set the stage for the interview by letting them know ahead of time how the interview(s) will be structured.  If it is a group interview, let them know who will be in the interviews and anything else they should plan for, such as a tour or an assessment exercise. Don’t jump right into questions at the start of an interview.  Talk first about the job and the organization. Give them a bit of time to settle in and settle down. Welcome them into your office as you would a guest into your home.  
  • Ask questions about previous experience that relates to the job, but even more importantly ask questions that get at values and behavior.  You will hopefully have several people that are able to perform the basic duties of the job and you do need to figure that out – it’s important.  But then you need to determine if they have values that align with your organization and behaviors that will help them to succeed in the position.  Use behavioral-based questions to get at both of these. If you have a core value of “teamwork” ask candidates to tell you about a time that they struggled working as a member of a team.  If you have a supervisory core competency of “motivating others” ask them about specific ways they have created a climate where people are able to do their best work.    
  • If you aren’t sure after a first and second round of interviews who your top candidate is or you have a hesitation about a preferred candidate, schedule more time with him/her/them to delve deeper.  Maybe get out of the office and take the candidate(s) to lunch or for coffee. Ask follow-up questions that either alleviate or confirm your hesitation. In the end, listen to your gut and follow it! 

Sell Your Organization – They are interviewing you too.

  • Every step of the way, tell the story of your organization’s mission, people and culture.  Tell the story of what you love about it. Have others employees share their stories as well.  The best candidates are likely to be looking at multiple positions and maybe multiple offers. Help them to forget about the other offers.

There it is.  A quick list but hopefully one you will find some good advice within and be able to test out as you hire your next great employee!

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