If someone has been in account management for many years, it’s safe to say that they “know how to do account management”. So, why even bother with the interview process? Wouldn’t it just be easier to say, “Hi, nice to meet you. You’ve done this for 10 years already, come do it for us.” If only it were that simple.
How do you interview for personality? How can you tell the fakers from the makers? This is someone who you’ll depend on day in and day out internally, but also the face of your business.
You’re looking for a few key factors in your decision to move to the next step in the process.
1 - Are they a positive person?
Before you get into the nitty gritty of an interview, ask them how their day has been. This should put them at ease and you’ll get some insight into how they would interact with a client that they’ve just met. If they are a bit of a negative nelly, that’s not going to go away. If they are scant on details, same goes. Give people the benefit of the doubt that they might be a little nervous, but know that the gut check that you get in this first 2 minutes of the discussion is critical.
2 - Can they follow simple instructions?
A phone interview is about getting them talking, not the other way around. Interviews aren’t something these candidates do on a regular basis (if they are, that’s a whole other red flag), so you need to tell them what you’re hoping to get out of your line of questioning.
Prompt with things like, “I want to get an understanding of how you work on a daily basis and learn more about how you’re successful at what you do. As we go through this conversation, please elaborate on stories and examples as much as possible.”
When you prompt this, it puts the candidate at ease in knowing what you’re looking for and if they can do this throughout the conversation, it shows that they can listen and follow instructions. If you have someone that just goes on and on with out a point or has short answers of “yes, I can do that” without any color, then you know you’re not on the right track.
3 - Can they tell a story?
If a candidate cannot, in the simplest of terms, explain to you what they do, then explaining what the creative team is doing to your client is really going to be a challenge. Once you’ve prompted them for what you’re looking for, start asking questions that are important to the role at hand. Using cues like “tell me a time that you…” or “give an example of…” throughout the conversation will lead you to the details that you need.
“Tell me about how you handled a difficult client request” is better than “How are you with handling difficult clients?”. Just a change in wording will shift the discussion.
4 - Are they self-aware?
What are your strengths and weaknesses are popular interview questions for a reason, they give someone the opportunity to give you the perspective on how they view who they are and how they work.
Asking the questions a number of ways will also garner additional insight – “What would your co-workers say about you?” and “What would your clients say about you?” gives you access to how they are looked at in the outside world as well as not just getting their practiced strengths answer. It also gives you something to look back on during the reference check process to see if their perception aligns with reality.
5 - Do they understand who they’re answering to?
Ask about the structure of communication they’ve had in past roles – explaining that you mean, who was in charge of a specific account, who worked with the client, what internal partnerships did they have, etc. Tell them that the more detail they give the better. This will give you a look into how much responsibility that they had and what decisions they made.
6 - What do they value?
Finding out what’s important to them in their next role helps give you truer insight into why they might be leaving their current one. It’s also good to ask why they value in client relationships and internal relationships, it will give you a peek into how they play well with others.
If the interview is going well, this gives you some good insight to know what to sell to them as part of the role later in the process.
Overall, this process should take no more than 30 minutes. Keep in mind that your goal is to know if this person is the right fit to come in for an in-person meeting. If it’s not the right fit, let them know. Leaving them hanging endlessly will only hurt your brand and cause bad karma in the future. It’s important to provide them with next steps in the process and be as transparent as possible.