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Onboarding Starts with the Very First Interview

By Ray Sclafani | October 8, 2015

blonde employee interview


How do you go about quickly and effectively integrating new hires into the culture of your team? The trick is to not wait until the individual is hired, but rather to begin the process of onboarding right from the very first interview. Not only will this facilitate a smooth onboarding process, but it will serve as the basis for more productive and informative candidate interviews.

The interview process

You’re sitting across the desk from a prospective new hire. The challenge is that in the vast majority of cases, they are strictly there to sell themselves to get an offer. You’re striving to form an honest, accurate picture of the individual, while they want to highlight certain facets and shield others. Only after receiving an offer will they even begin to consider whether or not your team is a good fit for them. Why not suggest a different approach that’s in the best interest of everyone?

“Let’s do this differently because we both have an important decision to make here. You’ve got to decide if we’re a good fit for you, and we’ve got to decide if you’re a good fit for us. So let’s really be honest and forthright with each other, and thoughtful about sharing what we know best about our respective areas of expertise (you know everything about you, and I know everything about our firm). That way, we’ll both be in a much better position to determine if we’re a fit for each other.” 

In addition to being a forum to assess the candidate’s skills and personality, the interview is a critical platform for you to share essential information about your team. At a minimum, you want the candidate to walk away from the interview with a clear understanding of, and ideally alignment with:

  • The common purpose of the team (why the team is put together)
  • The concepts of total team leadership and interdependence
  • The values of the firm
  • The vision of the business and the specific role you had in mind for this employee
  • A clear understanding of the job responsibilities

business people working Make sure to also involve the whole team (or at a minimum, the group with whom this prospective hire would work) in the interviewing process. This will help to ensure there are no surprises on either side. If you effectively laid the groundwork during the interviewing process, then physically onboarding the new hire should only require authenticity – demonstrating that you practice what you preached and that your firm genuinely breathes the culture you espoused. If you passionately advocated a culture of total team leadership where everybody works in a collaborative manner, by all means don’t show up on their first day and start bossing everyone around, or the new hire will quickly sour on both you and your team. But if you handle things right during the interview process, not only will new employees coming on board not be surprised by your organization, you won’t be surprised by them. And if there are any surprises, it’s a red flag that you need to go back and re-assess your interviewing process because there’s clearly an opportunity for improvement.


Coaching Questions from this article:

  1. Think about your current candidate interview process. What changes can you make to facilitate a more open and honest dialogue?
  2. Consider your most successful recent hires. Are there specific qualities or personality traits those individuals share that make them a successful fit in your organization?
  3. How might you involve your team more in conveying the values and vision of the team to prospective employees?

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Onboarding Strategies

Topics: Leadership Team Development onboarding

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