In my senior year at Clemson University I sent out my resumes to every employer in the Career Center database that had anything to do with machine design. I knew that I wanted to design machines. I scheduled an interview with a company. The interview had two parts, the standard ‘tell me about a time…” questions (Behavioral Interview Questions) and a practical test where I was given some problems and asked to work them out. The interview went very well. This is not my opinion, the interviewer told me so. He told me that I did very well, I had solved the problems with more ease and completeness than anyone he had seen in a long time, including the other engineer from Clemson that they were going to bring in for a second onsite interview. At this point I was feeling good about my chance for a second interview, which is why I was so shocked when he continued and said I would not be getting a second interview and wished me luck. I asked why and he said that my GPA was too low, and the other guy had a 4.0.
I did not have the best grades in college. I was a B/C student with a 2.8. Luckily for students like me companies like Google are starting to realize that GPA does not indicate success in a job. I was entering the job market a little too early for this trend to help me out. I did end up getting a job in design and have loved it and believe myself to be successful. I have had a long tenure with a large company and been given increasing responsibility through the years, so I assume others think I am good at what I do as well. This interview was my first exposure to the problem of hiring. I knew I was going to be good because I understood the fundamentals of engineering, I had a passion for machine design, and I am hard working. But how does a company see that?
I have spent most of my career at one company. It is large, has a lot of resources and I think it is a great place to work. The problem is it does not have much name recognition in the general population. With the subset of students that want a career in Oil & Gas the top talent gravitates to the companies that have their logos above gas stations. My second exposure to the problem of hiring was how do I identify the people that are going to be great but are passed over by the top names because of interviewing practices, like the one described above.
For the rest of this article I am going to lay out my strategy for talent identification during an interview process. During the years that I have implemented this strategy, I have not had a single miss on the person I hired. I will explain my process from an engineering perspective, but I believe that this method can be used for any position and produce great results. First you need to extend your interview time frame. Finding the right person takes time and is worth it. The only thing worse than having an opening is filling that opening with the wrong person.
I believe the proper formula for an interview consists of hospitality, behavioral interview questions, and skills assessment. You can mix the ratios to fit the type of job you are filling. While this interview formula will evolve over time, it is important that it stays the same for each batch of interviewees. The questions should be presented in exactly the same way each time. After the position is filled, go back and evaluate what went well and what can be improved. Remember to ask for feedback from the person you hired, they typically have valuable insight.