Tips to Consider Prior to Conducting an Interview

Most people aren’t that practiced in interviewing candidates. Or worse, they’ve conducted countless interviews and not learned what really should/shouldn’t be asked. The results, unsurprisingly, can be disappointing. This is true for the candidate and the person holding the interview. Often hiring managers will say a lot of things to candidates they shouldn’t say and forget to ask/discuss what needs attention. Mostly it’s because they just don’t know how to approach their meetings. With this in mind, I’d like to share the following.

  1. One of the primary goals of an interview is to get a sense of how a candidate communicates. Bearing in mind that candidates are often nervous initially, it’s helpful if conclusions about a person aren’t decided within the first minutes. Patience can be rewarded.
  2. When interviewing several candidates for a role, it’s helpful to ask the majority, if not all of the same questions, to all of the candidates. Some examples of questions that might be worth asking legal/compliance people are: A) Tell me about how you dissected a complex regulatory matter so that you could navigate it comfortably. B) Can you give me some examples of the challenges you’ve dealt with in terms of educating senior management and/or investors? C) Why do you think you’re suited to the field of compliance? D) How do you approach prioritizing? E) Give me an example of how you dealt with a new compliance issue. F) Tell me about some fire drills you’ve addressed. G) What do you anticipate would be the biggest challenge in the role you’re interviewing for? H) Knowing what you do about our firm and the role, how do you think you could make the biggest impact?
  3. When interviewing, it’s best to avoid a) saying anything negative about other employees at the firm, b) revealing sensitive/confidential matters, c) mentioning anything that the firm, or a client, has dealt with that is confidential d) making generalizations about how everyone who works at the firm is very happy there, e) speaking about the other candidates because, among other reasons, the candidates may know one another, and f) suggesting anything about the experience of colleagues at the firm.
  4. Hiring managers often find at the end of an interview that they want to say something like, “We want to have you back.” Please, don’t say it. The way to conclude an interview is to say, “We’ll follow up with the recruiter.” If there’s no recruiter consider, “We’ll follow up, probably in the next ten days.” When you treat candidates with respect, and communicate with them, they have a more positive experience. Even if you don’t hire them, they deserve to be treated with respect. And then, when those who weren’t hired tell others about their experience, while they may be disappointed, they will, at least, not convey that they were treated poorly. This is important. It’s a reflection on the hiring firm. Remember the industry is small.
  5. If a candidate talks about something and you want to learn more, ask more questions. That’s fine. However, if a candidate, especially someone in legal/compliance, says that they can’t reveal more because the matter is sensitive, that’s a legitimate point. And it isn’t necessarily a poor reflection on the candidate. Indeed it can demonstrate that the candidate is highly professional and respects their role and responsibilities.
  6. If you find that you and the candidate have a common friend or your relatives know one another or something of this sort, it’s a good idea to assure them that you won’t be reaching out to that person subsequent to the meeting. Interviewing is a sensitive topic. And please, don’t reach out.
  7. If other colleagues are going to talk with a candidate, it’s very helpful not to speak with the colleagues about the candidate prior to their meetings. Why? Because, even the tiniest bit of interaction/discussion almost inevitably influences how the other colleague approaches the interview. It’s best that there be no exchange at all between colleagues until all interviews have been completed.
  8. Sometimes in interviews if there really is a lot of discussion, a candidate may not have any further questions to ask at the end of an interview. It doesn’t necessarily suggest that the candidate isn’t curious about the role/firm.
  9. There is a difference between liking a candidate as a person and thinking a candidate could effectively do a job. Whoever is hired should be both likable and effective.
  10. Sometimes candidates realize they’ve not answered a question successfully, perhaps because they’ve forgotten some relevant examples or because they just couldn’t understand the question. If they make an attempt to revisit the question, it’s OK to allow them.
  11. Part of why someone is hired, is because of their network and access to other professionals with whom they share ideas. This is common. When interviewing, it’s reasonable to ask not only who a candidate contacts but why they feel one person vs. another is helpful. That can give the hiring manager a good sense of what the candidate looks for from others. Specifically, what kind of criteria a candidate relies on when evaluating other professionals.
  12. Recently a hiring manager spent two hours interviewing a candidate. That was probably too long. Similarly it’s not great to spend 15 minutes and finish the meeting, unless there is an urgent situation.
  13. In a first interview, it’s acceptable to ask a candidate their current compensation, if the law allows. Introducing compensation at that point, however, probably isn’t necessary, if the recruiter has provided the figures. It’s far more important to determine if the candidate is a potential good fit. This is especially true in the first meeting. But don’t have a candidate participate in countless interviews without learning their compensation expectations (and/or actual compensation, if the law permits).
  14. A candidate once arrived late (approximately ten minutes) for an interview. His reason: his mother had had a heart attack in the middle of the night and he had been with her at the hospital. That’s an acceptable reason for being tardy and, hopefully, the hiring manager didn’t penalize the candidate when evaluating him. In general, candidates should be punctual but sometimes, the reason they’re late is legitimate. (Note that the recruiter wasn’t notified that the candidate was behind schedule until after the appointed starting time.) Thus, it can be worthwhile not to be too quick to judge a candidate.
  15. Candidates for a compliance/legal role need to articulate when something is amiss; there are occasions when an objective opinion is needed. They should have enough strength of character to share their thoughts, even if what they may need to say isn’t upbeat.