When we saw Inc. Magazine’s article on 7 Fatal Interview Mistakes we all let out a collective “Huzzah!”
And not because we just returned from the Renaissance Faire.
We believe it’s an essential read for folks who don’t interview people for a living, like we do. And especially relevant for hiring managers who utilize freelancers to deliver great creative work - on time and under budget, when time and budget are both at risk.
(Okay, we’ll cut that out now.)
Knowing how to interview is an art, not a science. A candidate tells a savvy interviewer volumes by his or her facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and a million other infinitesimal things (like whether or not that candidate was rude to the receptionist). And knowing what to look for - and what NOT to overanalyze - is especially important when you’re interviewing a freelancer, when you’re most often under pressure to hire fast and the many times the ONLY person who will interview them.
But don’t freak out, you don’t have to be an expert to run a successful interview. In fact, you can pick up a heck of a lot of good interview tips just from reading the article and do a pretty bang up job.
Here’s Inc. Magazine’s seven main points of what NOT to do (which we spiced up a bit with freelancers in mind):
- “Is that a facial tic?” Appreciate that interviews make people nervous, even for short-term freelance roles - and especially if you need this person to save the day. Even when you’re moving fast to hit a deadline, it’s worth taking time to put your candidate at ease so s/he can put a best foot forward in the interview.
- “I just need a yes or no answer, so I can check off this box.” Prepare to go off your pre-written script for deeper answers and trust your instincts. Picture this person doing the job among your team, and if the answer s/he is providing would make your art director cringe, then it’s often best to move on to the next candidate.
- “Don’t tell anyone, but we’re going to go public.” Sell your company to the candidate, but keep expectations realistic. Telling a freelance candidate that a job “might go perm” frequently sounds like “this job could be yours forever!” Many freelancers actually LIKE the freelance lifestyle and aren’t interested in a perm job. You could lose your best candidate by exploring possibilities that may never materialize.
- “And in this auditorium are the rest of the interviewers.” If you absolutely must have a freelancer meet the entire team, do your best to limit the number of people they meet at once. Even four 15-minute interviews can feel better than an hour in front of an inquisition panel. And if you have to interview as a group, make sure the candidate knows in advance. Pop quiz group interviews are no fun.
- “My career here started in the mailroom...” Listen 90%, talk 10%. Though it’s important to lay out the project details for a freelancer to see if s/he can do the job, make sure you give your candidate a chance to ask lots of questions and explain prior similar projects where s/he has been successful. You’ll both learn a lot more this way!
- “You’ll do.” Always look for excellence. In a ‘hair on fire’ situation (which is often the one that brings on the need for a freelancer), you can’t afford to settle for someone you think might be able to do the job. Make sure you know exactly what you need and that the candidate you select can do it.
- “Don’t worry, Gladys likes being yelled at.” Find out how candidates treated your receptionist and other staff members. Don’t think that just because a freelancer isn’t a permanent fixture that s/he can’t do damage. And don’t settle for skills alone. It’s critical in an under pressure situation to you have someone with the people skills to help the whole team achieve your goal, so don’t overlook rude behavior - to anyone.
Staffing agencies are a great way to limit your risk when interviewing for freelance candidates, since talent agents interview all day long and have hundreds, if not thousands of points of comparison. Ask your agent to help develop key questions, prepare your team, and set expectations with candidates.
And though you’re going to make hiring mistakes (we all do), always do your best to prepare yourself and your team for interviews. A little planning goes a long way.