The Hiring Series, Part 3: The Interview Process

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When you want to hire a talented person who embodies your culture, conducting a thorough interview is critical.

To get started, you’ll need to first review the submitted resumes against a list of characteristics or traits that you are looking for in a candidate. Write down intangible characteristics as well as talent-related characteristics. Things like honesty, enthusiasm, and overall positive personality come to mind.

Define an interview process by working through the following points:

  1. If the candidate will be speaking with your clients over the phone or in person, you should conduct a phone interview as part of your process. If you do so and like them over the phone, invite them into your office for a face-to-face interview.
  2. If you don’t interview candidates over the phone, call them to set up a face-to-face interview.
  3. Determine in advance how many face-to-face interviews you’ll conduct at your firm and with whom (i.e., phone interview, in-person interview with your office manager, and then another in-person interview with you).
  4. Take your list of characteristics and match questions that will bring out the candidate’s thoughts and experiences around those topics. Prepare your interview questions with a mix of basic get-to-know-you interview questions and behavioral interview questions. The behavioral questions usually begin with “Tell me about a time when…,” so they cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.” We developed a list of strong interview questions for you to use as a reference and can send it to you by request.

Look for the following things within each of these meeting points:

Phone Interview

Choose your candidates and email each one to request a time for a phone interview. In the email, remind them that it is a phone interview and include approximately how long the call may last. This way, they know how long to expect to be away from other commitments.

Before the call, review their resume and have your specific questions mapped out. Check out their LinkedIn profile to ensure it matches up with the resume submitted. Keep good notes, as you will be using them throughout the process. It’s always a good idea to print out the questions on a sheet of paper so you can write your notes next to your questions. This is helpful if you have to go back and reference something.

At the beginning of the phone interview, give the candidate a high-level overview of the process:

“This is Kim Skouras from the Impact Partnership. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I would like to take about half an hour to review your resume, describe the job, ask you some questions, and then open it up to you for any questions you may have for me. Is that good?” 

Note how they sound on the phone, and think about how they’d sound talking to your clients. Do they have a strong phone presence? Do they interrupt? Do they talk too much or not enough? What is the volume and tone of their voice? If you have doubts about their phone presence, shorten the interview and don’t invite them in.

If you’re pleased with what you hear from the beginning, move into the resume-specific questions.

During the interview, ask about salary expectations. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time if their salary request is not in your range. Describe — don’t sell — the position you are interviewing for. Describe job expectations for 6 months from now to 12 months from now, ask 3–4 behavioral questions, and then turn it over to them for questions. Questions from candidates will indicate where they are focused. The candidate should do most of the talking in the interview, and you should do most of the listening.

To close, give your interviewee next steps. If they “wow” you during the phone interview, invite them in for a face-to-face interview in your office:

“I really enjoyed our conversation and would like for you to come into the office to meet the team and have an in-person interview.”

If you know the people in the office that the candidate will be meeting with, tell them. Schedule a time and send them an email to confirm. Include the time, your address, and directions to your office.

If you don’t invite them in, you can end the phone call by saying “Thank you for your time today. We have several other people we are interviewing for this role. At the end of the week, we will be reviewing the candidates we’ve phone interviewed to move 3–4 candidates onto the next step. You will hear from me by the end of the week.” At the end of the week, preferably Friday afternoon, email them and let them know that you’ve decided to move forward with other candidates.

In-Person Interview

A face-to-face interview is the single most important meeting you will have with your potential employee. It gives you the opportunity to pick up on the other 93% of how the candidate communicates, since only 7% is verbal.

As with your phone interview, prepare your questions in advance. If you conducted a phone interview with the candidate, review your notes and make sure you are not asking them the same questions. If the interview process consists of multiple stages or multiple people, make sure those people are prepared and ready as well.

If the candidate will be performing the same job as another person at your firm, make sure they sit with that person for a minimum of thirty minutes prior to you meeting with them to see the day-to-day role of the actual job they are applying for.

The following three points should be considered as part of the success or failure of the in-person interview:

  1. Timeliness. If they can’t make it on time to the interview, they won’t make it on time to work.
  2. Attire. Is the candidate’s outfit professionally appropriate? Does it match the culture of your firm? My expectation is that a suit should be worn to an interview with any financial services role.
  3. Overall Confidence. Self-confidence is vital. If the candidate has confidence in themselves, then others can believe in them. This translates to client services. If you can’t believe in the candidate, your clients won’t either.

While these things are part of the equation, there are things that you, the interviewer, control that can also make or break the interview process. One of them is stress. A candidate will naturally be nervous at the beginning of the meeting. If you create an environment where they feel comfortable and can relax, you have a better chance at experiencing their true personality. To put them at ease, be genuine and share information about yourself and the company. And remember to smile!

Begin by building a rapport. A tour of your office and introduction to your team would be a good idea for when the candidate first arrives. Once in your interview space, begin by asking behavioral and situational questions. The questions should mimic real situations related to the job they are applying for. Behavioral questions have no right or wrong answers. You are purely observing how the candidate improvises and reacts under pressure.

Look for cultural fit. Will your candidate be comfortable working in your firm? Will they fit in well with the people already working there? Do they demonstrate the type of demeanor that works best with your current client base? If so, sell the role and the organization in the second half of the interview.  Only do this if you are confident in the candidate.

And, most importantly, make the process fun.

Was this article helpful? Stay tuned for more posts in our hiring series, including more detail on how to make a job offer. For more tips on hiring, check out the first two parts of our hiring series: Creating the Perfect Job Description and Reviewing Resumes.

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Stephen Odom, CEO of The Impact Partnership


Chief Executive Officer

Stephen started in the insurance marketing business in 2001 as a new business consultant. In 2002 he was promoted to Director of Sales and built a 200 million book of business from scratch. By 2005, he was one of the top wholesalers in the country, working with some of the top financial advisors and insurance agents across the USA. In 2008, Stephen was promoted to Co-President of one of the largest IMOs in the country.

In 2011, Stephen continued his entrepreneurship path and co-founded The Impact Partnership, an INC 5000 company. Stephen is responsible for the strategic vision of Impact and is laser-focused on creating a culture of growth for both internal teammates and our amazing customers.

Stephen lives in Kennesaw, GA, with his wife of more than 20 years, Kendra. They are blessed with three beautiful children Katie, Tyler, Anna Brooke, and Laya, their German Shepherd and Luna, their BernieDoodle.