James Baggott: Here’s a question: Why do I dislike interviews so much?

James Baggott: Here’s a question: Why do I dislike interviews so much?

I HATE interviews. For someone who has technically built their business on journalism, that’s not exactly a good thing to say, but I’m not talking about sitting in a room with a man in a suit talking about cars – I can get along just fine with that.

No, what I’m talking about is nervous people, sweaty palms and stupid, utterly useless chit-chat about past careers.

The problem is, I know if I want to hire someone within five minutes of them walking into the room.

That means when I don’t want to hire someone, I have to drag it all out for another 30 minutes of boring conversation just to look polite.

My business is built on personalities and talent. And if they haven’t got the first, then frankly I don’t really care about the second. I know that sounds like I’m talking myself out of hiring some brilliant people, but in a small business like mine, what matters most is getting along with the rest of the team. It’s about fitting in – if I think they’ll do that, I’ll then be much more interested in their ability to string a sentence together.

I’ve interviewed some absolute lunatics over the years. There was one who clearly hadn’t showered for a week before turning up – either that or he’d used sewage for shower gel.

Then there have been the swathes of sweaty palms and countless ridiculous answers to questions that have quite clearly been picked up from a book.

Note to interviewees: Don’t read a book about getting hired first. Be yourself and answer honestly – with your own answers, not ones you think the interviewer wants to hear you say.

The problem is, finding good people is hard work and it’s not just tough down here in sunny Gosport – I know it’s just as difficult out there for dealers all over the country.

I often hear from dealers how difficult it is to fill positions – few people leave school with the ambition of being a car dealer, which is where I reckon your trouble starts.

Yes, being a salesman might mean long hours and hard work, but the rewards are great if you’re good at it – and it can pay extremely well.

The industry needs to work hard on getting that message across and then work out the best way to check whether they’re the right people for the job.

I’m sure there are many dealerships out there with brilliant ways of assessing candidates. There’s no golden rule or magic formula to getting it right, because every business is different. I’ve started to come up with a plan for mine.

Firstly, I’ve decided to be a lot more honest in interviews – if there is no way I’m going to hire a candidate, I’ve decided to tell them at the end.

Yes, that’s harsh – and can be a little crushing – but I make sure I tell them why and give them honest feedback as to how they can better their chances next time. That way, hopefully, they’re not put off forever, they might go on to try again and they’ll get far more out of their trip to the coast than a ‘sorry, you didn’t get it’ email.

I’ve also begun trialling group interviews. OK, I know they’re about as welcome as a trip to the dentist, but I’m looking for outgoing, confident people who can get on with others and I have decided that throwing them into a room together might just be the best way to do that.

I read a brilliant piece recently about how Google hires its talent and the importance it places on finding the best people. Hiring goes to the very core of what Google does and is ingrained not just in the managers’ responsibilities but of all members of the team.

Everyone gets involved – even those who the hopeful candidate might be working alongside can be the ones asking the questions.

And it doesn’t stop there – those first interviewers feed back their comments to an interview panel who ensure the process is fair and above all else that they’re staying true to Google’s values.

Google says: ‘While involving Googlers in our process does take longer, we believe it’s worth it.

‘Our early Googlers identified these principles more than 10 years ago, and it’s what allows us to hold true to who we are as we grow.’

It seems to be working for them then, so will probably be good enough for us.

What I take from the way the world’s search engine does it, though, is that hiring works better when you do it collectively, so from now on potential candidates can look forward to a chat with any one of my brilliant team.

Delegation, you see, is the art of great management. And it means I don’t have to do it any more.

Who is James Baggott? He’s the founder of Car Dealer Magazine and Chief Executive Officer of parent company @BaizeGroup, an automotive services provider. He now spends most of his time on Twitter @CarDealerEd and annoying the rest of us.

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