Before you hire, put job candidates to the test
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Interior designers are on the move, looking to take advantage of the current hiring boom. Since demand currently exceeds supply, if they see an opportunity for a promotion they are going to go for it — whether they meet all the job requirements or not. That puts the burden on employers to validate each candidate's skills and experience.
Lots of candidates look good on paper. They may even interview well. When they show up for work, will they deliver? Education and experience vary considerably, even at the same job level. Don't wait until you've made a hire to find out.
Understandably, candidates want to put their best foot forward. If your job description specifies certain required skills, chances are candidates are going to claim some proficiency in those skills, even if in doing so they are stretching the truth a bit.
Can they execute a design in Revit or SketchUp, or are they "familiar" with it? The only to way to find out how proficient they really are is to test their ability. Sit them down in front of a computer and give them a task to complete.
Some firms now require candidates to demonstrate their design skills as well to check that they have in fact executed the types of projects shown in their portfolios. These can vary in size and complexity, depending on the level of the position.
The same holds for business and administrative skills. If it's important to your firm, you should test their knowledge of basic office software, such as word processing, presentations and spreadsheets. Tools are available online to conduct such tests.
Does the candidate claim to know how to use your firm's design management or billing software? Ask them to explain how they would perform a few essential tasks.
Testing is a time-honored recruitment tradition. Back in the day, if you wanted a job as a secretary, you had to take a typing test. Editors and proofreaders are routinely given copy to edit or proof as part of their selection process. Designing involves a number of identifiable, demonstrable skills, which makes testing a relatively straightforward procedure.
Not everything you want to know about a candidate can be tested. In addition to skillsets, you also want to measure their aptitude. How good is the candidate at problem solving? How quickly do they learn new skills or master tasks?
You can assess aptitude by engaging with the candidate and asking situational questions, like "what was the toughest design problem you've faced, and how did you solve it?" The answer will give you insight into the candidate's ability, inventiveness and reasoning process.
Unless yours is a large firm with its own HR personnel, testing can be a time-consuming and onerous process. A good recruiting firm can help you with this chore. They will have the instruments and experience to test and evaluate candidates, and screen out those whose skills don't measure up before their application comes to you.
Either way, you will have confidence that the candidate you hire is everything he or she claims to be.
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