To be prepared, or not.

If you are a candidate I don’t see that as a relevant question. Yes, you should be prepared, really prepared.

If you are conducting the interview, there is emerging debate about whether advance preparation is beneficial. Really?

Barbara Corcoran, whom I have written about before, is a serial entrepreneur, new business investor, and a judge on the wildly popular and award-winning Shark Tank reality television show. She comes down on the side of less is more.

In an interview with Adam Clark, a New York Times editor who compiles the twice-weekly Corner Office CEO Q&A, Corcoran explained it this way: “When I hire people, I just look for the light in the person, to see what’s good about them. I can spot it a mile away.

“And I never read a résumé until after the interview because you never know who wrote it, and you can be fooled by it. If you read a résumé, the interview is nothing but a business small-talk session confirming stuff you just read.”

That is an interesting if not counter intuitive perspective but, apparently, it works well for her purposes.

While I can see/appreciate her point of view, I do not agree. I am a firm believer in comprehensive preparation. At our firm, our preparation begins when we are conducting the due diligence site visit on the front end of the search process.

There are four categories we review:

  1. Job Description. The official job description is typically of little use in the candidate selection process with the exception of the minimum requirements. So in our interviews with the principals to the search, we expand this to cover all functional responsibilities and preferred/required skill sets with the necessary experience in each set.
  2. Performance Deliverables. How success will be defined for the chosen applicant. This section usually covers several dimensions and we explore each one.
  3. Challenges/Hurdles to Success. This is important information. Has the candidate effectively overcome similar challenges?
  4. Organization/Community Culture. This is critical and so we incorporate questions on this subject in every site visit interview. In a smaller towns, the community’s culture can be as important as the organization’s profile.
  5. DISC© Profiles of Direct Reports. This information is incorporated into the various interviews to determine candidate compatibility/the ability to build an effective working relationship.

We expand this information into interview forms with multiple questions in each category. These questions are prioritized and then assigned to various stages of the interview process — initial candidate screening (telephone), the Skype interview (prior to meeting the candidate in person) and the face-to-face (F2F) interview, a three-hour session that includes video taping of select questions that is then incorporated into our presentation of recommended candidates.

Initial preparation for the candidate interviews includes a thorough review of their resume, social media profiles/posts as well as any information that may be found on professional association websites. We look for professional/experiential strengths and weaknesses for special attention at each step of the process. Interviewers are constantly updating their candidate knowledge as more information comes into their file.

Prior to the F2F interviews, the Engagement Partner will review the entire folder, and then add additional questions to flesh out areas of interest or concern.

While the video questionnaire has five to seven core questions that each candidate will asked, additional questions designed specifically for each candidate will be developed.

With a three-year placement guarantee for C-suite/senior leadership positions for the firm and the steep cost of a mis-hire, we believe this level of attention to detail is important.

In interviewing, the goal is not to miss something that could screw up the obvious.