Interviewing – Part 1
This article and the one which follows describe the best ways to prepare and carry out effective interviews
For a lot of the recruitment process everything is very CV-driven but at this stage that changes. Although interviewing seems very different to a CV-based assessment it is essential that recruiters maintain a systematic, criteria-based approach.
The interviewees should not only know the time and location of the interview, but they should also be told the names of the interviewers and their job title. The best candidates will want to use Linked In to research who they are meeting. Inform interviewees the length of the interview as well – they need to schedule their day too! If your interviewees are in employment bear in mind that they may have to take leave to attend your interview so they will need advance warning.
Never forget that the interviewee is assessing your organisation too, if you reschedule multiple times or at very short notice what impression is this giving? Although you might be doing it for very good reasons the interviewee may well see it as a sign of a chaotic or badly-run organisation.
Never underestimate the importance of the interview venue. If you have an office then this is not an issue but even if you are a start-up you really shouldn’t be interviewing in a public place. A café or hotel lobby is not private enough for a formal interview and you will simply not achieve everything you need. Although it may be convenient for you if you have another option which is more formal then take it.
Preparing for Interviews
An interview script is the best starting point for preparation. It is important for the Human Resources Manager or the talent acquisition team to develop a list of core questions which the interviewer will ask every applicant; responses must be recorded so that candidates can be effectively compared.
Use the required and desired criteria and write questions which invite interviewees to expand on their experience or skills. Now write questions based on your other criteria which are not focused on skills and experience. Here you are looking for attitudes and personality traits which are required or desired for the position, focus on the behaviours you want. If you are stuck then try to write a question where the answer will show you if this interviewee is someone you want to work with, if this is someone you want to have around the office!
Next, against the list of interviewees’ names prepare a comment sheet or score sheet to record each answer. Never try to record the interview only in your head, remain systematic in your approach. The first time you develop these scripts and score sheets it may seem like a lot of work, just remember they can be re-used and adapted in the future.
Study each CV before the interview. When meeting an applicant you should have a copy of it on hand for reference, but if you make the applicant feel that this is the first time you have read it in detail then you are sending the wrong message.
This preparation has equipped you with a number of questions that will help you evaluate candidates and maintain a standard across all the interviews. However now do not allow your script to dominate and turn the interview into a mechanical question and answer session, this is a mistake inexperienced interviewers make. The other major mistake is to fail to get the interviewee to relax. Assume that the candidate will start with some amount of stress. It is your job as the interviewer to minimize this by trying to put them at their ease, a few minutes focused on this at the start will mean the outcome is much more effective.
Starting the Interview
In an established organisation the interviewee will have been greeted and seated – a strong candidate will arrive 10 minutes early to allow for this. If you are doing this stage yourself always make a note of when the interviewee actually arrived.
After greeting candidates courteously (showing respect for them and putting them at ease) don’t forget to introduce yourself and anyone else with you – along with job titles.
Your next job is to set the interviewee at ease by making polite and general conversation. This should never include questions or comments which are personal or related to the interviewee’s appearance. Standard openers include the ease of finding the location, parking, traffic, the weather or other general topics about which anyone can chat easily.
Your behaviour will set the tone for the interview. If you seem too casual an applicant may take the interview less seriously and if you seem too serious you will probably make the candidate more nervous. Either way you will fail to bring out the best in the interviewee. Remember that how you behave during an interview will reflect the image and values of your business.
It is completely natural for people to form judgements based on first impressions. It is natural (perhaps instinctive) to unconsciously note how a person enters a room, greets you and takes a seat (the first 30 seconds) and to allow these to form the basis for your overall judgement of them. As an interviewer you must make a strong effort to only allow this first impression to only relate to the position you are interviewing for. You must not let it overshadow the interviewee’s capabilities and potential, the world is full of excellent, high performing people who make a poor first impression.
As you quickly build a first impression you are asking two things, ‘Can I trust this person?’ and ‘Can I respect this person?’ The first is your assessment of warmth, the second is an assessment of competence. As an interviewer your main focus is competence, in the narrow areas of the position you are interviewing for. If the candidate fails to build your trust (through there warmth) do not allow this to get in the way of your assessment of their competence.
Warmth can be a problem!
There is another side to this. A mistake often made by business owners building what is, at the start, a small team often are focused on the interviewee’s warmth. The business owner starts to get distracted from the criteria which were set out and a feeling of ‘Hey, I like this person, I’d like them to work for me,’ takes over and the competence area can become compromised. We see this most when interviewing for sales positions. People who are good at selling have some ‘instant warmth’ capacity, people trust them easily and quickly, an interviewer who isn’t a salesperson can become distracted by this and not drill down into the interviewee’s competence – how much added to sales volumes, targets exceeded and so on.
Using a systematic approach to interviewing is essential. Interviews consume a lot of resources so planning and preparing them is the best way to ensure that these resources are used effectively.
(…continued in part 2)