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Mike's interview tips

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ShortList's CEO MikeSoutar shares his interviewing tips

This Sunday the final candidates of The Apprentice will slide in front of a business kingpin and do their best to convince them to hand over £250k. Mike Soutar is one of Lord Sugar's interviewers, and working to his belief that the right senior team is key to business success, here he gives his steer for finding those star players

BE THOROUGH

"Almost always, there's a rocky patch when someone starts a new job. It's inevitable. People won't get everything right straight away. So, as a manager, the first thing you have to do is ensure you've interviewed the widest possible group of candidates and conducted the most rigorous interview process, because you have to be certain during the rough patches that you hired the right person. You don't want to sit there with candidate regret. That's a bad place to get into as a manager and an employee."

LET THEM TALK

"Scenarios are a good method to use during interviews. Set them a scene such as, ‘Someone's been coming in late every day for a month. They claim to have an illness they can't identify, what do you do?' It's very hard for them to guess what the right answer is, so they have think on their feet. What you don't want to do is give them the answer in the question, so make your questions short, direct, open-ended and let them talk. Remember you are giving them the opportunity to persuade you that they are the right person for the job. So give them the space to do so."

TRUST YOUR INSTINCT – BUT NOT UNTIL LATER

"When somebody walks through the door I always visualise them in the job. I can't stop myself. And I have to stop myself because my first impressions may not be the right impressions. You must listen really hard and give people a chance. You have to be as objective and rigorous as possible in terms of figuring out how a candidate matches up to the job that you expect them to do. Only after that do you apply instinct. It's easy to give people you like jobs, but it doesn't necessarily build the most dynamic team."

TEST THEIR METTLE

"When you're towards the end of the process, you have to find out whether the candidate is ready to leave their current job, because if they're not ready, they're not coming to you or anyone else. People enjoy being interviewed even if they don't particularly want the job. They enjoy the attention and they may want to use a job offer as leverage for a pay rise, for instance. The question that really counts in this situation is: ‘If you resigned, and told your employers you were coming to work here, what would your employers say?' That normally reveals how much they've thought about leaving. If they look startled, they really haven't thought it through. What you're looking for is evidence of determination to leave their employment because they want your job so much. So often interviewers forget to check this."

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