Optimizing Your Interview

By Bill Sitter

The two most important days in your newly hired manager’s career are his/her first visit to your dealership and first day on the job. Think about it…since the initial interview typically provides the first impression, hiring authorities should make the interview experience positive, while gaining necessary information to determine if the candidate merits further consideration. If that answer is “yes” then optimal interviewing requires: selling your company, selling the opportunity, and gathering sufficient input to aid your selection decision process.

VP Chris Sitter and I combine for 30 years of executive recruiting experience and hundreds of managerial interviews. Before taking the helm at Jordan-Sitter Associates, I spent 17 years in AED dealer management and many years in hiring roles with manufacturers. I used to believe I had a “good sense” for interviewing. Now that we can really focus on the crucial components of interviewing, we’d like to share tips to enhance your interviewing effectiveness. We’ve observed the “good, the bad & the ugly” side of interviewing. Today we’ll focus on the positive, so you avoid the “bad & ugly”.

Advance Planning = doing your homework. Carefully read resumes and screen before inviting candidates. Your time is valuable; focus on people who meet your job description. In a future article, we’ll zero-in on the development of a comprehensive position spec – so you’ll have a hiring “bullseye”. Let’s assume you have a good spec; use it as a pivotal pre-screening tool. Determine if he/she really meets your “Desired Qualifications.” Give the job spec and candidate resume to each interviewer on your hiring team, in advance.

  • Set a schedule for meetings. Inform each candidate of: who they’ll meet, dress, directions, and how travel expenses will be handled. Allow sufficient time for each meeting. Be sure calendars are cleared for full focus on each interview.
  • Physical arrangements are important: pleasant, quiet & confidential settings show you care. Remember, first impressions matter. Have a meal-hosting plan. Always respect candidate confidentiality. Facility tours are part of “selling your company”, so are company & product brochures and sharing company history. Arrange for a 2-way, one-on-one meeting atmosphere, not a rigid grilling session.

Time Allocation: Initial interviews should focus about 60% on professional history and relevant accomplishments. Don’t waste a lot of time on a resume re-hash. Have questions prepared. Use the remaining 40% to explore the “fit” to: your dealership, culture, area, and the job. Dig-into: special skills, early background, social adjustment and candidate’s goals.
In a second interview focus even more on “fit” and finer points of the job. Explore how the family will adapt, if relocation is involved. Expanding your interview panel helps the candidate & your selection process.

Okay…It’s Show Time…Interview Tips:

  • 80-20 Rule – You ask (20%) & give candidates ample response time.
  • Open-ended questions – pull-out what you want to learn. Use pointed follow-up questions.
  • Take notes – memories fade with time & with multiple applicants.
  • Go beyond first impressions – please don’t get caught-up into the “halo” or “horns” effect by letting appearance, smooth talking, or any one trait overpower your judgment, good or bad.
  • Discuss compensation & relocation.
  • Ask for meaningful references.
  • Provide closure – ensure the candidate knows what’s next. See if he/she has questions. Express appreciation. Walk them to the next interview or to their car.

Post-Interview Advice:

We encourage you to complete your notes before sharing perceptions with others. Then gather hiring panel input and make a decision. Next steps could be: release & thanks, conducting reference checks, inviting for a second meeting…possibly with the spouse. Keep the process moving. Losing momentum often results in losing “Mr. or Ms. Right”.

Sample Interview Questions:

  • Most influential mentor & why?
  • Personal & professional goals? How do they line up with your core values?
  • Describe your most memorable accomplishment…and failure.
  • Reasons for job changes?
  • Ideal relationship you’d like with your boss?
  • How did you handle a situation where _____? (Fill-in the blank with something relevant to your situation & this role).
  • What organizational tools do you utilize for projects and contacts?
  • Top three strengths you offer our company?
  • What attracts you to our dealership & this opportunity?
  • How interested are you? How soon could you start?
  • What help will you need from us to ensure success?

Use These Guidelines & Stay Tuned: You’re well on the road to effective hiring. Look for future articles to help you “Hire The Best!”