Hiring in a Hurry: Smart Interview Tips That Save Time

Follow these 5 tips to weed through applicants quickly when you’re in urgent need of help

Hiring in a Hurry: Smart Interview Tips That Save Time

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Every year we are faced with the task of finding new staff for our busy season. Maybe it is seasonal workers like drivers, weekend staff or yard employees. Maybe your business relies heavily on summer interns to deal with the excess calls. Or in a worst-case scenario, a key employee quit on you right before the start of your busy stretch. Either way, you need to find someone to do the job and you need to find him or her fast.

Of course, this is not a great position to be in. Desperation is when I will literally hire any person to fill a seat and do a job, even if they might not be qualified to do it. But in a small business, sometimes you need to cut corners because answering the phone and keeping the customer happy is the most important thing.

When you are down to the wire like this, it is really important to interview smart so that you don’t waste time. These five steps are my path to successful hiring:

  1. Start with a phone interview. Depending on the job, the way a candidate answers the phone can be really important. Over the phone, I describe the job and our company to see if they are even interested. This initial phone call saves me from wasting time scheduling an interview that neither of us are interested in.
  2. Get your questions together. If you are newer to interviewing, head right to the internet. There are hundreds of articles on interview questions. I recently read an interesting article from Inc. magazine on questions that test to see how motivated a candidate is. My favorite question from that article was: “When you had extra time available at your last job, describe ways you found to make your job more efficient.” I also liked: “Describe the work environment or culture in which you are most productive and happy.” You want to ask questions that require the candidate to think through them. If they give you generic answers like “I am a hard worker” or “I work well with others,” that doesn’t show a lot of thought. Either they are uninterested or don’t have enough experience, so they probably aren’t a good fit for the job.
  3. Read through their résumé carefully before the interview. Make notes of things that interest you, like skills key to the job or previous work experience that is notable. For example, if you are hiring for customer service, look for call center experience. If they can answer the phones at a cable company, they can definitely handle what your customers throw at them. Also make notes about things you didn’t like. You will want to make sure you talk through all of these items when face to face. Résumé red flags include a lot of jobs over a short period of time or a large period with no job activity. There are always exceptions to these rules, but they still make me a little nervous about certain candidates. 
  4. Take note of their appearance when the interview takes place. Did they make themselves presentable? Do they seem alert and interested in the job? Did they show up on time? The last one may sound ridiculous, but I recently had a person show up 45 minutes late to an interview. If they are late to the interview, they are going to be late to work. Phone coverage in our office is crucial and tardy employees mean more work for everyone else.
  5. When you have interviewed a handful of candidates, put together a list of pros and cons for each one. Then you can compare and decide who is the best fit. In some cases, the person I interviewed was wrong for the job in question but I had other openings they were a good fit for.

In the long run, don’t sweat the details. There is no perfect interview and no matter what questions you ask, the person you choose may still not work out. But over time, the process gets easier and you get better at it. 

About the author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.


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