New Kenyan Entrepreneurs | How To Interview Potential Employees

Are you a new Kenyan entrepreneur looking to hire your first employee(s). If you have never inteviewed anyone before, it can prove a daunting task. This article is a brief guide on how to interview potential employees.

During the day of the interview, ensure you have set aside a private room away from any distractions such as telephone calls. There should be someone to usher the candidates into a waiting area and into the interview room. Preferably, their documents should be checked and verified before they enter the interview room to avoid wastage of time.

Once inside the interview room, forget about the old saying not to judge a book by its cover, first impressions mean everything. Note carefully how the candidate conducts himself/herself, watching these three specific areas;
  • Dressing – How is the candidate dressed? Does he or she look like he/she is taking the interview seriously? Is the dressing style professional, businesslike for the industry that you are in? Note here that the candidate does not need to be dressed in an expensive manner but a manner acceptable to your industry. For example, the public does not expect a lawyer to be dressed casually in slacks with no tie. Dressing will give you a fairly good understanding of the seriousness, liberalness or conservativeness of the candidate seated in front of you.
  • Language – How does the candidate greet you once he or she is inside the interview room? Was the greeting professional? A “niaje!” or "vipi!" salutation is hardly appropriate under most circumstances.
  • Confidence – Does the candidate exude confidence or is he/she trembling like a leaf, sweaty hands and all. Confidence in some professions such as sales, law and customer service is crucial. For the “nerdier” professions such as IT programming you could overlook this at the interview stage and focus on the candidate’s technical abilities.
The interview should begin with small talk about the weather, local news and the like to allow the candidate to relax and settle. Gradually move to easy questions like their academic history and work history. You should then move on to the real meat and ask probing questions to get a clear picture of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. You should specifically ask questions related to the following areas:
  • Motivation – Identify what motivates the individual and whether the individual can motivate others. Sample questions could be, “Describe the working environment in which you are most productive and content.” and “Describe a work situation where you motivated your co workers”.
  • Team Work – Establish whether the individual is a team player or a lone ranger. A sample question could be, “Give an example of a successful project you were part of. What was your role? Why was the project successful?”.
  • Leadership – Establish if the individual has leadership skills or potential to lead. A sample question could be, “The department or unit that you lead needs reorganization, tell me how you would go about reorganizing”.
  • Interpersonal Skills – These skills relate to how an individual is able to relate with co workers including superiors. How do they build relationships and how do they resolve conflict? An appropriate sample question could be, “Describe a time when you disagreed with the actions or decisions of your manager or supervisor. How did you deal with the situation? Was the situation resolved to your satisfaction or did nothing change?".
  • Management and Supervisory Skill – Establish if the individual has prior management skills or whether there is potential to be part of your management in future. For example ask, “One of your responsibilities will be to provide direction for your section. Describe how you have done this in the past.
  • Communication – How are the candidate’s communication skills, both written and verbal? What is the candidate’s attitude towards lower cadre staff? You can actually gauge much of this during the interview through non-verbal cues.
  • Planning – Establish the planning skills of the candidate. You could for example ask, “You have a list of ten urgent tasks that need to be completed before the end of the day. Describe how you would go about this.”
  • Decision Making – In today's business world, decisions and the right decisions have to be made swiftly because windows of opportunity open and close at 'light speed'. Therefore, the candidate you settle on must have the requisite experience to enable quick decision making.
If you are interviewing for a senior position in the business and one which will ultimately affect whether the business succeeds or fails you should end the interview with a question like, “Why should anyone be led by you?” The quick and adept thinker, whom is the person you need to hire, will have an answer in less than a second. Most candidates will respond in a shocked, stunned silence and then blurt a clumsy answer after a while.

Avoid asking illegal interview questions and illegal interview practices during the interview to avoid being the subject of a law suit. For example don't ask questions related to their HIV status because this was outlawed in Kenya a few years ago.

You and/or the panel of interviewers should have a standard assessment format where you record the individual's score on a scale of 1 – 5 for each question asked. You may also record the interview on video or audio for future reference. Invite the highest scoring candidates for a second and even third interview before finally settling on one candidate.