Illustration: A job interview Illustration: A job interview Illustration: A job interview Illustration: A job interview
Small Business

Managing a Small Business

Building Trust: Finding an Employee You Can Count On

4 Tips for Establishing Trust with Job Candidates

Job interviews are often nerve-wracking for candidates, but that sentiment can sometimes be felt on both sides of the table.

"We're in a post-recession market of low unemployment and high demand," says Andrew Challenger, vice president of business development at outplacement and recruiting company Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Chicago. "That's creating a situation where trust needs be established during an interview, now more than ever. And that means a company – not just the candidate – needs to convey trust."

Businesses need employees they can rely on to fuel growth, while candidates are often looking for positions that foster creativity and flexibility. How can a company deliver that assurance while finding the employees it needs?

Here are some expert tips on bringing trust to the process of interviewing and screening candidates:

1. Dial down the atmosphere: One essential aspect of building a strong team within a small business is cultural fit. An overly formal interview tends to make candidates feel on edge, which means a company may not see the real person behind the interview suit. Challenger advises hiring managers to do interviews in a relaxed setting, like a lounge area or a nearby coffee shop. As part of the interview, walk the candidate through the office and make introductions to team members.

"Candidates are looking for a place where they can spend a majority of their waking life for the next five to 10 years," says Challenger. "They need to see that rather than relying on your word that it's a good environment."

2. Supply questions in advance: Unless the position requires quick, strategic thinking that relies on urgent responses, a good screening tactic is to email candidates questions at least a day before the interview. This is a newer approach that's catching on quickly, Challenger says, because it gives candidates an opportunity to prepare thoughtful responses and examples. It also communicates a level of trust, suggesting that the company wants the candidate to have the best chance to succeed, he says.

3. Ask trust-centered questions: If you want to know whether a candidate is trustworthy, just ask, says Mary Kay McMahon, a former senior HR executive with the Kellogg Company who is now lead HR consultant for information services firm Wolters Kluwer. Questions can be geared toward examples of past behavior where integrity or trust was part of an outcome, she says. "Past behavior is the best predictor of future success. So, if trust is among those job-related competencies that are important to me as a hiring manager, I ask questions related to that."

4. Ditch the weaknesses: Many interviewers ask questions about flaws, such as "What are your weaknesses?" But Challenger says this question is often useless.

"Basically, you're trying to find out how a candidate will evade the question," he says. "You're asking them to manipulate the truth to make it sound favorable. When you're building a team based on trust, is that really the technique you want to look for most in your employees?"

Building a solid team that values trust is worth the time and effort it takes to do savvy interviewing and screening, experts say, and can build a foundation for long-term growth.

Read all of our stories on establishing trust among your team:

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