Are you Good at Conducting Interviews?

“Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”   Larry Bossidi – GE

Interviewing is a skill that needs to be mastered. You can get the most from the interview by carefully planning in advance what you want to learn from candidates as well as what they will need to learn from you.

Each interview needs to be in a positive frame of mind remembering that, as a prospective employer, you are also a salesperson for your firm and the position you want to fill. As you evaluate the candidate, he is also evaluating the position and you as a potential employer. Remember your behavior during this interview reflects directly on you and the firm.

Here are a six tips to have an effective interview.

Be Prepared

To start with be prepared with a list of questions. Depending on the position it is good to take the help of a subject matter expert to decide on what you want to ask the candidate.

The questions need to be a mix of open ended, behavioural and yes and no times. The objective being to evaluate the best fit from among the probables. The questions need to be structured based on the type of behavioural competence expected of the candidate. For instance to check his ability to handle stress – you could ask “What is the most stressful situation you have found yourself in at work? How did you handle it?”. To check attention to detail – “tell me about a time when you were confused by a customers request. What steps did you take to clarify things?”

Go through the resume

It is never a good idea to open the resume for the first time after the interview has started. Go through it in beforehand and also check his/her linkedin profile. Possibly you could scan the recommendations section and see what his/her colleagues have to say. This gives multiple reference points to evaluate the answers.

Follow up on the answers.

Devil is in the details. Having list of questions gives a broad direction to the interview but the real understanding of the candidates level of competence is in being able to ask specific questions based on the answers she provides. Being able to probe in an encouraging manner helps one to get a clear picture of the how well the candidate has performed a similar role in the past.

Take Detailed Notes

Jotting down as the candidate explains is key because a you will need it for reference and comparison with other candidates and b as you write down it helps to focus thoughts and you are able to frame better follow up questions for the candidate to process. It is important that you write in a legible handwriting or half your time will be spent deciphering what you have written. I mention this because when I started out in this line I used to scribble during interviews and later would be left scratching my head as to what I had written a few minutes ago. I have come a long way now.

Listen

As an interviewer your job is to listen to what the candidate has to say. Your job is to evaluate the candidate so you should be listening , most of the time. Let the candidate talk. That doesn’t mean the interviewer should not talk at all. Probably a quarter of the time should be good enough. You need to be able to explain the position, the job, and the company the culture, and answer any other pertinent questions the candidate might have. But the majority of the time needs to be spent evaluating what the candidate has to say.

Be Courteous

Sometimes the interviewers are in such a hurry to get the interview over that they right away jump into experience part. A little courtesy won’t do harm – unless you are planning on stressing the candidate for some reason. Even if that is the case it would be a good idea to mention as much towards the end of the interview. Coz, even the candidate is evaluating you, and good candidates have options. Unless you are Miranda Priestly ( Devil wears Prada) you don’t have to be rude.

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There is a chasm that separates politeness and being chummy. However attractive or like-minded the candidate might be – suppress the urge to bridge that chasm. This is not the time to make friends. You are at an interview get on with the job.

In the modern workplace where knowledge is the most important resource the ability to assess a candidate and select the best fit can be crucial differentiator to the financial viability of a project or even of a firm. That is the reason why leading organisations place so much importance on the hiring process.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Expert based in Bangalore.

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