How to interview strategically: building simpatico teams

The concept of interviewing goes against human nature. No one enjoys being judged but an interview is just that. You literally place yourself in front of another person and wait for their judgement. Sometimes, it’s even harder being the one tasked with making the hire. But it’s a necessary process for most businesses, so the interview is here to stay for now.

The problem with the traditional interview process is it’s generally not designed for you and the applicant to get to know each other as people. It’s designed to gather enough data to judge whether the applicant will be good at specific tasks. This makes interviewing individuals difficult when your end goal is to create team synergy.

The most effective teams are built on trust and communication. The members of your team need to trust each other and understand how everyone communicates. And, realistically, the only way for that to happen is over time. So, how do you know if the people you’re interviewing are going to be the right culture fit?

Be the interviewer

The founding member of any team sets the foundation of culture, so don’t hand recruitment off to someone else.

It starts with you to build a tight-knit group where everyone enjoys working together. So make sure you understand what you’re like to work with and know the type of people who will enjoy working with you. Remember you’re building relationships, not simply hiring talent. If the person you hire doesn’t enjoy working with you, it doesn’t matter how talented they are. They won’t be performing to their full potential because they won’t be inspired. So, put some thought into the culture you want to achieve. Then it’ll be easier for you to identify the personalities (not just the skill sets) that are perfect for your team.

In larger organisations, HR people are dedicated to recruiting but they may not have much to do with the teams they’re recruiting. If that’s the case, as a recruiter, you should really get some of the team members involved to help you understand what it means to be a part of the team. You might be able to more effectively pinpoint the personality type that’ll work well to enhance productivity and enrich the culture.

Leave your ego at the door

It’s sometimes easier said than done. They say if you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people. That’s all well and good. But when it comes to building a successful team, the people you surround yourself with need to actually want you to succeed.

Don’t go for the hire that’s good at telling you what you want to hear. You don’t need ego-strokers in your team, they’re not good for business and they’re not good for your own grip on reality. Your ego needs to understand that you’re here to build a team. Your team should make you, and everyone around you, be better and not just feel better.

Your ego may also occasionally feel threatened. Perhaps you’re building a small team within a larger organisation and you feel that recruiting people “better” than you could threaten your position as team leader. Definitely don’t recruit based on fear. You’re setting yourself up for failure before you’ve even begun. Always hire people that are better than you. That’s the whole point. You can only do so much, so it’s important to identify your weaknesses and welcome people that offset those weaknesses. Your strategic, unbiased recruiting won’t go unnoticed when your team is performing better than others.

Let your guard down

When interviewing, you have a very limited amount of time to determine if the applicant is the right person for the job. So, you really should enable them to do the heavy lifting for you. Letting your guard down might seem a little forward initially but it’s the fastest way to determine how the applicant responds to the real you. Be upfront about your own shortcomings, the holes that need to be filled in the team, and put the onus back on them to determine whether they’re the right person for the job. What you’re trying to do is get a snapshot of what the relationship looks like once the honeymoon period is over.

Create a Democracy

If possible, turn your current team into a brains-trust. Having multiple interviewers in the room might be daunting for the candidate at first. But if you’ve been building a culture of trust and openness, everyone in your team should be on the same page. The candidate should feel (relatively) comfortable and welcomed. This is beneficial for everyone involved. You’re simulating what the team looks like with the new candidate in play.

As the employer, you’ll also get to see how everyone interacts and identify any issues or personality clashes. For the candidate, they get to meet the team, which will help them decide if this is the right family for them. And for the current members, they’ll influence the future state of the group as a whole. It also helps everyone understand exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate, which may prompt them to do some recruiting for you.

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