With many firms holding off on hiring until the new budget year now is a great time to review your firm’s interviewing process. In fact, your firm should stop interviewing all together. The interview is no longer the most effective way to evaluate potential hires. As the economy recovers firms must quickly meet client’s needs. This makes every hire the most important. Each new team member must be productive the first day. Welcome to the age of qualifying.

Qualifying is seeking to understand the candidate’s skills and how they meet the needs of your firm. The qualifying process has three key elements: evaluation, qualification and feedback. Each of these steps is designed to gauge a candidate’s abilities, fit and potential.


The evaluation process consists of assessing the candidate’s basic skills and how they match up with the core competency of the job description. To do this accurately your firm must have a clearly defined job profile for the position you are hiring for. A thorough understanding of the responsibilities and duties of the role the candidate is filling is a key component of qualifying candidates. It is the basis of the entire evaluation process.

The candidate will need to provide your firm with a resume, portfolio and project list. These three documents are critical in evaluating the candidate. The resume contains a summary of the candidate’s experience and education. The portfolio is a graphic representation of that experience and education and the project list gives a real-world framework for the candidate’s background. These three documents together help your firm evaluate the candidate.

Also important in the evaluation process is screening the candidate. The screen can be completed in-person, on the phone or can be contracted out to a recruiting agency. The screen is a simple conversation that allows you to eliminate candidates who may look great on paper but upon further questioning do not meet the requirement of the job profile.


Qualifying candidates is conducted in person and should involve several key leaders in the firm. Each firm representative should be responsible for qualifying an aspect of the candidate’s experience.

Two main areas that need to be evaluated are technical skills and behavioral skills. Technical skills can be measured in many ways, in-depth questions, tests and candidate presentations. However your firm chooses to measure the technical abilities of a candidate each technical question you ask must be developed using the job profile as a guide and the same questions must be asked of every candidate.

The second area that is important to qualify is the candidate’s behavior skills. Behavior skills are the personality traits the candidate will draw upon to solve problems in the new positions. The goal in asking these questions is to understand if the candidate has the behavior traits to be successful in the role. Again you will want to refer to the job profile to understand what behaviors the position requires.

The best way to assess behavior skills is to ask behavior based qualifying questions. These questions are asked with the understanding that past performance is the best measure of future success. So what makes a behavioral based interview question?

A few rules are:

• Ask for specific examples from the candidates past
• Keep the questions open ended
• Do not accept hyperbole (keep the candidate relating to real examples from their past)

By asking behavior based interview questions you will gain a greater understanding of the candidate ability to be successful in the new position.


Feedback is the process of evaluating all the information you have gathered. This includes the candidate’s answers to your questions, the candidate’s portfolio and resume and any tests or presentations they provided. Feedback is the most important aspect of qualifying. Coming together and discussing the candidate allows your firm to make a very informed and balance hiring decision.

There is several effective ways to gather feedback. One is a feedback form. Each form must be specifically tailored to the position and must be given to every person who meets with the candidate. Another way to gather feedback is in a debriefing meeting. These are especially helpful to design firms because the evaluation process can often involve group meeting and presentations from the candidate. The debriefing meeting allows for the sharing of information, thoughts and perceptions on a candidate.

So why is it important to start thinking about qualifying candidates instead of interviewing them? To be honest qualifying and interviewing are similar in function. The difference is perception. By asking if a candidate is qualified to be a member of your firm you start to set a higher standard, one that ensures qualified candidates each time. Because each hire IS the most important firms can no longer simply interview talent, they must qualify them.