5 Interviewing Tips to Hire Exceptional Talent

//5 Interviewing Tips to Hire Exceptional Talent


Hiring Exceptional Talent is a skill and as with any skill it must be practiced and honed to become highly effective.  Preparation is key.  Before conducting your first interview, you need to do your homework.  Here are several very important steps which need to be taken into account before you schedule the first interview:

  1. Define the Success Criteria for the Role 

To hire an exceptional candidate, you have to define what exceptional is in your mind.  You need to take the time to write down this criteria.  Don’t just ‘think’ about it – this needs to be clearly defined:

  • What will an exceptional candidate need to achieve in their first 90 days?
  • What are the hard skills they need to get off to a good start?
  • Which of those skills are absolutely critical?
  • Which can be honed or learned within that 90 day period?

Imagine if you hired the perfect person, and a year from now you’re about to enthusiastically issue them a check for the maximum bonus they could earn:

  • What will they have accomplished for you?
  • How will your organization run better?
  • What revenues will they have generated?
  • What new processes will they have created?
  • What load will they have taken off of your shoulders?

From these accomplishments, find the common threat between them and narrow it down a list of 3 to 5 key success factors or attributes this person needs to have or achieve to be considered an exceptional hire.

Most hiring managers never take the time to define this step and allow interviews to wander all over the place.  Defining this criteria up front will provide you with a strong interview foundation which will lead to better hires.

  1. Create Questions around your Success Criteria

Look back at your success factors.  What questions do you need to ask to uncover if a candidate can achieve those?   Write down these questions.  What experiences does a candidate need to have to prove they can do it again?

Questions like “Give me an example of how you ….” instead of “Do you have this skill?” are much more effective in understanding a candidates’ breath of experience.  Questions like:

  • Tell me how you were able to exceed that quota.
  • Why did you decided to use that technology?
  • What processes did you put in place or automate to make you more effective?
  • What method did you use to come up with that ROI?

Interviews should be conversational but knowing these criteria and questions up front will allow you to intertwine them throughout the interview.

  1. Analyze the Resume

Too often, hiring managers, wait until the candidate sits down before they even start looking at the resume.  Again, interview prep is critical to getting this right.  Would you walk into a new client prospect without being prepared?  Hiring an employee can have the same revenue effect.   The wrong hire could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The right hire can make you hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Spend the 15 minutes prior to an interview to review and highlight areas which you need more information such as:

  • Are there employment gaps?   If so, ask about them. It may help uncover if this person is a job hopper or if he or she has a difficult personality that results in terminations.
  • If they have a short term job, ask if you could speak with that manager for a reference?  This can be one of the most revealing questions.  Be aware of what their non-verbal communication is saying too you.
  • Does his/her career progression make sense?
  • Did they make a lateral move or change industries abruptly?
  • Ask which position was most challenging and/or most rewarding?
  • Where did they achieve the most / the least?
  • Who was their best manager and why?
  1. Dig Deeper

Most of the time candidates will come into an interview with stock answers and examples.  It is your job to get beyond the stock answers.  Follow up questions are critical in revealing a candidates motivations, attitude and aptitude.  Ask follow up questions like:

  • “Tell me more about …..”
  • “Why did you ….”
  • “Can you give me another example?”

When a candidate runs out of a stock answer, their true character comes out.  When you feel you are getting a stock answer, don’t rush to move on, dig deeper to see what lies under it.

  1. Be Consistent Across All Candidates

Hiring managers a notorious for ‘going with the flow’ of the conversation which makes comparing candidates very difficult.  If you are truly trying to uncover an exceptional candidate, you must be methodically comparing them.  Using the same basic format and questions simplifies the evaluation process.

Writing down how a candidate ranks against the predefined success criteria during and immediately after the interview process is critical.  We often think we will remember the specifics around a candidate’s interview but often after multiple candidates are interviewed and weeks go by, those conversations all blend together.

Taking notes about how each candidate addresses each of your success criteria eases your mind and speeds up the hiring decision process.

By training yourself on how to be a better interviewer, will directly result in you making better hires enabling you to surround yourself with an exceptional team.

Other Candidate Interviewing Resources:


Tim Howard is the founder of Energy Sourcing, an Energy Technology Executive Search Firm, which helps companies find exceptional talent through executive search, permanent placement and project consulting.  Howard has been leading technology staffing teams for over 15 years and is the founder of three other technology and staffing firms.  He has degrees from Texas A&M University in Industrial Distribution and Marketing.  

Tim Howard’s LinkedIn Profile


By | 2020-04-04T11:16:53+00:00 June 15th, 2018|Employers|