Much is written and discussed about how to perform at an interview; the best interview techniques, how to answer those tricky questions, what and how to prepare, and of course make sure to keep that vital eye contact. There is little written about the role of the interviewer and how vital it is on their part for them to conduct a good interview. Many people assume that since they passed the interview at their organisation in the first place they must be suitably equipped to evaluate future employees. However, the ability to give a good interview - and conduct one - is actually miles apart. In the below, I touch upon some of the cardinal sins that occur when giving an interview. Do heed them, as giving a bad interview can mean failing to attract the talented people you want.
Firstly, the most important thing to do is to engage the candidate in a conversation. Don’t have a rigid Q & A session, as it will simply lead to stock answers and superficial responses. Asking a series of written down questions, with little or no further input from the interviewer, will lead to an awkward and uncomfortable interview. By discussing concepts and ideas directed specifically at the role, you can then build a picture of what and how the candidate really thinks; it will allow you to see far more of the real person. By asking more open ended questions and allowing the candidate to develop on their answers, you will be in a far better position to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for a role.
Secondly, and one of the most fundamentally overlooked areas by an interviewer, is the need to sell the position – an interview is a funny thing, at the beginning it would appear one person holds all the cards, the interviewer after all is the evaluator. By the time the interview ends, this dynamic could potentially have shifted, the interviewer is now the seller and must sell the role accordingly. For example, I spoke to a candidate of mine who was of the opinion that the interview hadn’t gone well at all – he was fairly certain that he wasn’t going to get the job and wasn’t sure now he even wanted it. When I spoke to my client the next day, he raved about how good the candidate was and was going to make him an offer. In this time, the candidate had accepted a job at what was in my opinion a far less exciting position with a lower salary. The client never moved on from the evaluator (or the buyer) to the seller. Remember that for anyone moving jobs it is stressful, complicated and ultimately life changing. A person needs reassurance that what they are choosing is right for them and, as an interviewer, if you fail to message across what is great about the job during the interview, it could mean you don’t get the right person for your organisation.
Further important points to be mindful of include:
• Although it may seem a particular ‘google’ and an innovative thing to do, asking an out of the ordinary question doesn’t really tell you anything. I have encountered all-sorts of bizarre questions asked of candidates; “what animal are you?” perhaps being my favourite. If you really want to find out about the personal side of a candidate, ask what their interests and hobbies are – don’t ask why they said ‘Orca’!
• Make sure the right people are conducting your interviews and that everyone involved in the interview process is looking for the same thing – in my former time in IT recruitment, HR interviews were common place and they would often turn down candidates based on shortcomings regarding certain soft skills. In one particular instance, I convinced the hiring manager to see a developer that their HR department had turned down. The things the hiring manager was looking for - discipline, detail and focus - were the exact qualities this candidate had and the exact qualities that ruled him out from the HR interview. He wasn’t an extroverted laugh-a-minute idealist…but he was a darn good developer!
• Discussing salary in the room…don’t do it. You may end up tying them to an answer that they may not have clearly thought through. As a recruitment consultant, our goal isn’t to have a client pay more or a candidate accept less, it is about finding a deal that works for everyone. If you ask someone early in a discussion about salary, they are most likely to quote the highest figure possible and neither party may come back from this.
• Giving feedback in the room…again just don’t do it. Candidates informed that they performed great in an interview who are subsequently unsuccessful can be left very hurt – also as an interviewer, until you have finished all the interviews, how you can justly evaluate what was a great interview? Be thankful for their attendance and time but don’t give any evaluation.
Before your next interview, make sure to give prospective employees the format for a great evaluation and please remember to sell the positives of the position and your organisation. It will mean in the long run more talented and suitable people joining your team.