Dos & Don’ts of Conducting a Job Interview
Everybody assumes that it’s the interviewee and not the interviewer that is likely to be nervous before the event. However, in reality, managers too need the right kind of preparation and for some, conducting an interview can be an equally nerve-wracking prospect.
As an employer, it’s important to understand the types of questions and topics that should be avoided to attract and hire the right talent. The most valuable interview is objective and permits the interviewer to determine the knowledge, skills and other qualifications of a prospective employee relevant to the position.
These days, there is no dearth of information available, and most candidates are well-prepared for interviews. It is easy to prepare answers for the most common, expected questions. There are also professional services that can prepare a great resume for you. So how does a company effectively decide who is the best fit and a good hire?
There are two ways to tackle this. First is to formulate different recruitment processes for different roles. Second is to ask different kinds of questions.
In either case, there is considerable preparation required from the side of the interviewer. Foremost, the interviewer should keep in mind relevant policy and guidelines in respect of conducting interviews as asking certain questions may breach age, gender or racial discrimination laws. Whilst this is perhaps the most serious interviewing error, the following essential do’s and don’ts will help interviewers keep the process fair and effective.
Interviewing is not just about asking questions specific to the role. If a candidate has put in a certain number of years in a particular kind of role, chances are he is equipped for the job. However, it would be useful to judge his or her leadership abilities, gauge the propensity to stick to the job, approach to work, ability to work with the team, motivation, ability to motivate others, and any or all other specific requirements for the company. It will also help the interviewer gauge whether the candidate is a good cultural fit in the company.
Here are some of the Dos and Don’ts that will help you drastically change the way you interview your candidates:
# Assess the ability to learn new skills
Businesses are changing very fast these days, and there is tons of access to information. In such an environment, it is important to see if the candidate can adapt as a role evolves. Asking questions to understand that they can pick up new skills are needed. This means, going beyond the standard what are your strengths and weaknesses questions.
Give the candidate a hypothetical situation and ask them for a solution. Or, to give them a company case study itself and see how they respond to it and what solutions they come up with. This will give you an almost real-time idea on their behaviour patterns in stressful, or critical, or conflict situations.
Don’t write someone off if a question has made them uncomfortable and anxious. Move on to a new question. Once things are back on track, you can either rephrase it or ask for the same information in a different way. How a candidate behaves in an interview can be a result of several factors. Ask them a series of questions to be sure of the picture they present, till you are convinced.
# Offer the real picture of the role and the industry challenges and all the demands.
Even if it is shared in the job description, it helps to revisit it in the interview so even the candidate is extremely clear as to what the job demands are.
In one of the cases we came across, a person was hired in a sales role as she seemed the clear cut candidate being a top performer in her previous company. However, in the new role, she did not perform up to the mark. On probing, the product was different, the functioning was different and the target was also different from her previous experience. The size of her previous company was much smaller, making the situation overwhelming for her. So, she was not in fact, the ideal fit at all for the role.
Therefore to reiterate, it would have helped to assess these by asking very direct questions. For example, are you comfortable with the product portfolio as it is different from your previous role? What has been the last years turnover of your compnay? What will be your startegy to deliver on tight targets and deadlines?
It is also important to discuss the demands and expectations of the candidates. This will give insight into their personal goals and how long they will stick with the company. Look for patterns. Does a candidate have a history of making lateral moves? If so, you may be hiring someone who will want a different job in your company in a few months.
# Define selection and rejection criteria clearly.
It is courteous when an interview has ended to let each candidate know what will happen next and when. It is good to be transparent about the selection criteria and the rejection criteria. This will give closure to the candidate who is not being considered, and it will also build the reputation of the company as being professional.
For example, if the criterion for closing the process is going to be long drawn, it is important to make that known to the candidate. In case they are in a hurry to take up a job, it will help them make a decision and in the process also help your company shortlist quickly. If you are particular that the person has to have a specific educational background, stick to it. It will help in deciding the best candidate for the role.
Ideally, you should be able to tell them how they will be contacted (by phone, email, letter etc.) and the latest date by which they should have received a response (whether a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’). It is vital that this follow-up action is carried out, and in the timescale promised.
# Don’t compromise on the process and be in a hurry.
The playing field must remain absolutely level for every interviewee; otherwise, there will be no meaningful way in which you can compare the performance of one candidate against another. While it is vital to ask the same core questions of each interviewee, it is fine and necessary to vary follow-up questions as these will depend upon the initial answers given.
Don’t let first impressions get the better of you. Sometimes, you might meet a candidate whom you decide you want to hire immediately, and you might then ignore evidence brought forth in the interview that contradicts that opinion. Don’t skip the process you have laid down. You have laid down the process for a reason, with careful thought, and even if your instinct says a big yes or a big no, it is good to go through the process to ensure that your impression is validated.
You would typically expect an interview candidate to arrive on time, dress appropriately and to have carried out some background research. As an interviewer, you should follow the same standards.
# Don’t mistreat a rejected candidate
A candidate’s accent, appearance or social background generally has no distinct bearing upon their suitability to perform a role. Remember that an interviewee is likely to be nervous and that the first impression they give may not be a true representation of them as a person. You are seeking the candidate that is the best fit for the job and this cannot be ascertained before the interview has been concluded. So, don’t make a snap judgment.
Also, non-verbal communication can reveal a great deal about what we’re thinking or our prevailing mood. A candidate who interprets your subconscious body language as indicating that you are disinterested, irritated, uncomfortable, tired or not taking the interview seriously will find the experience even more nerve-wracking and is unlikely to perform to the best of their ability. Sit in a relaxed and attentive position, make appropriate eye contact and resist any temptation to fidget, yawn, recline, scratch your head or fold your arms.
After the interview, if you still don’t think the candidate is a good fit, then you let them know politely, in the time frame that has been indicated. Keeping cordial relations with candidates helps widen your hiring pool in more ways than one. Firstly, if there is a role you find them more suitable for, you can keep them in the database and approach them as the first process of screening has already been completed. Secondly, if they have a good impression of the company, it helps build a strong reputation in the hiring market.
# Don’t focus only on job knowledge
These days most candidates who have spent three to four years (or more) in a particular kind of role, are capable of doing the job. However, as discussed earlier, it is not just job knowledge is essential. One has to have a more open approach to learning and has to be equipped to do multiple roles.
The interview should give a more holistic picture. Will they work well in a team? Will the current team align to them? Will they be able to fulfil multiple roles if required? What is their ability to learn? How open-minded are they?
Finally, it is important to focus on the holistic process to ensure that the new hire fits the larger strategy of the company. Having a detailed recruitment process in place is a great idea, and keeping question banks ready to assess different job skills for specific requirements may seem tedious but will ensure that the candidate is a solid hire for the company and there are fewer dropouts.
At Yellow Spark, we have helped our clients develop robust recruitment processes and trained hiring managers to improve their interviewing skills to ensure successful hiring for the company. To know more please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.