Interview techniques for employers are often overlooked yet having the right skills as the interviewer is just as important as it is for the candidate to have good skills as an interviewee.
The majority of people are not good at interviewing because it’s not part of their core skill set. They might excel as an engineer, banker or property developer and end up being promoted to leadership roles. With that comes the new requirement to interview to fill positions for their team as and when it is required, but just because they are good at their own role, doesn’t mean they are a good interviewer.
Similarly, many HR professionals are great at their broad range of responsibilities but lack good interviewing skills. It’s certainly difficult to do well but something that everybody can learn to do better with a few simple techniques.
In this episode, Brett Jarman (the founder and executive producer of Experts On Air, the producers of the podcast) and I explored the subject.
What makes a good interview?
At Arete Executive, we predominantly base our recruitment methodology on Lou Adler’s performance-based hiring. According to that, ensuring the role and expectations have been thoroughly and clearly explained is what underpins a good interview.
Here’s an example: we had three organisations that wanted to recruit a sales manager. They all had a typical position description that outlined the role, the responsibilities, the key attributes et cetera.
One organisation said it wanted the first three months to be about the new sales manager showing the team some love and building a culture. The second organisation was looking to launch a new product and had a specific revenue target for the first 12 months. And the third organisation was looking to reduce costs of goods sold by 25% to remain competitive with India and China.
So, all three had the same sales manager position description and were three similar businesses, but each had very different requirements in terms of key deliverables. Each business should have asked specific questions that would elicit relevant responses from the candidates.
As the interviewer, you need to know what kind of person you’re looking to hire and understand how to ask questions so the candidate can talk about their key achievements that relate to your needs. Instead, many companies fail to understand what it is they really want and need from a new employee so they hire what they think is the ‘best’ candidate and then wonder why they don’t deliver.
First impressions count
Another technique for the beginning of the interview is to, within the first few minutes, briefly assess the candidate and decide whether or not you like them. If you do, draw a little plus sign at the top of your notes. Then, for the next half hour, ask questions that will provide evidence as to why not to like them, or vice versa. At the end of the 30 minutes, you can ask yourself whether you still like them or not.
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but by doing that, you’re going with your gut. Often, our initial intuitive reaction to people is good, but it can just as often not be good.
Having said that, it’s important not to brush candidates aside if you don’t immediately like them. If your immediate reaction to someone is negative and you don’t use your time to find things that might change your mind, chances are the candidate won’t have a good interview and you won’t hire them even though they may be the best person for the job.
Birds of a feather flock together
On the other hand, it’s important to stay as clear-headed as possible so you aren’t biased. It’s not just humans who can be biased; Amazon recently tried to use Artificial Intelligence for the screening process, but all the data used was biased. As an employer you need to be conscious of these things.
Another thing to look out for on a panel interview is what is called the ‘halo effect’. If one of your fellow interviewers says, “You’re going to love this person, he’s great”, you’re more likely to consider that candidate.
Or, if somebody walks in and they dress like you, walk like you, and talk like you, in your eyes they already fit your mould. You need to be extremely careful not to let your point of view - whether you have views on age, race or sexuality et cetera - dictate your interview and the outcome.
Assess candidates against a criteria
Finally, it’s a good idea to have some kind of assessment tool you can use once the interview is finished; a tool that will help you record your thoughts about the candidates’ competencies across a range of factors.
This kind of interview technique works particularly well if you are part of a panel of interviewers. Each time an interview finishes, you can independently rank the candidate against a number of criteria. At the end, have a conversation about your various ratings to choose your preferred candidate.
Not everybody gets it right
As much as the interview is about you seeing if the candidate is the right person for the job, remember it’s also a chance for the candidate to decide whether you, as an employer, are right for them. So, whether you’re a HR professional, or a line manager, don’t get a bad reputation by taking a phone call halfway through, or turning up late.
There are all kinds of behaviour which are not only not good in terms of getting a great interviewing result, but in terms of how you're perceived as an employer of choice. The candidate will go back out into the market and talk about their experience, so make sure their interview experience is a good one.
Do this by asking intelligent questions and avoid taking over the interview with basic conversation. It’s a common mistake to make, but can be easily avoided with some basic education around how to interview properly and successfully.
Another common interview mistake is miscommunication between HR and the line manager. In some businesses, HR recruitment is centralised, whereas there are others that have individual departments run their own recruitment process. If the line manager fails to give the right brief, they will get the wrong kind of talent.
Follow up techniques and recommendations
Good techniques for interviewing candidates don’t just end with the interview itself. It’s important to have intelligent, rational conversations with your colleagues so one person doesn’t sway the direction of the conversation to save their own agenda.
Mostly, candidates fail in interviews because there’s no follow up or feedback from the employee, or something comes up in the business and disrupts the interviewing process.
If you’re an organisation recruiting very senior people, don’t base your choice on one interview. We encourage our clients to have a series of interviews or go out to lunch or dinner with the candidate so you can see them in a different environment.
We also recommend psychometric testing for senior executives, and formal verification checks of all qualifications, work history, criminal and financial backgrounds. And of course, comprehensive reference checks. These are all relatively inexpensive things to do and yet a lot of organisations just can't be bothered.
Arete Executive’s full recruitment package means everything is overseen by us; it’s fully comprehensive.
Once we've delivered our telephone interview shortlist, we discuss which candidates the client wants us to interview face to face. We then carry out a face-to-face interview, coordinate the client-candidate interviews, psychometric testing, and verification checks. We will do the reference checks, manage the offer, which can be very challenging also, and provide a 12 month replacement guarantee. So if the candidate leaves for any reason within 12 months other than redundancy, we'll replace them at no charge.
A lot of these interview techniques are available in Lou Adler’s book ‘Hire With Your Head’, which I definitely recommend any hiring managing read.
Or if you would like help with your next hiring campaign, contact us on 07 3010 9220 or [email protected].
Many HR professionals are great at their broad range of responsibilities but lack good interviewing skills. It’s certainly difficult to do well but something that everybody can learn to do better. #HeadhuntedShortlists #Recruitment #HR