Guide to Effective Interviewing


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Despite its apparent flaws, the interview remains a necessary part of the hiring process. This guide reveals what you need to know about the different interview styles so you can determine which ones will help you to hire the best medical sales professionals.

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Guide to Effective Interviewing

  1. 1. The MedReps.comGuide to Effective Interviewing
  2. 2. IntroductionWhen the MedReps team set out to research the most effectiveinterview techniques for hiring quality sales reps, we were surprised bythe ongoing debate surrounding the most effective interview questionsand tactics. Not only did we discover a heated dispute over the besttypes of interview questions, but also about the effectiveness of theinterview itself within the hiring process.Despite its apparent flaws, the interview remains a necessary part ofthe hiring process. This guide reveals what you need to know about thedifferent interview styles so you can determine which ones will helpyou to hire the best medical sales professionals.
  3. 3. The Problem with Interviews…Anyone who’s ever been on a first date knows how That’s not to say the purpose of the interview isawkward conversations with strangers can be. But to “trip up” a candidate and get them to saydespite the discomfort, if both parties see something incriminating, but a good interviewersomething worth pursuing, that first date will will ask questions designed to reveal aprobably lead to a second, third, or fourth before it candidate’s character, work ethic, value system,gets serious, and then there will be countless more and of course, their proficiency in the skillsdates before a couple decides to make the ultimate required by the position. But is it possible tocommitment. gain this insight during an interview? Are there really questions that can successfully glean thisOkay, so the analogy isn’t perfect. Hiring decisions information in a few brief meetings with aobviously aren’t quite as permanent as the decision candidate?to get married, but it does involve selecting acandidate who – on some days at least – you willspend more waking hours with than you do yourspouse. And yet, many times this decision is madeafter a couple hour-long conversations with acandidate on their very best behavior.
  4. 4. Results on a resume can tell you something about The interview process itself may be flawed. Aa candidate’s qualifications, but managers generally three-year study by Leadership IQ found thatrely on the interview to “get to know” the 46% of new hires fail within 18 months ofcandidate and see if they’ll be a “good fit.” But how employment and only 19% achievemuch can a series of routine interview questions unequivocal success. Mark Murphy, CEO ofreally tell you about a candidate? And even if you Leadership IQ, explains why the interviewask some “tough” questions, who’s to say the process is partly to blame:candidate didn’t prepare for those questions after “The typical interview process fixates onreading them on an employer review site like ensuring that new hires are technicallyGlassdoor? competent. But coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament are much more predictive 46% of new hires fail of a new hire’s success or failure. Do within 18 months of technical skills really matter if the employee isn’t open to improving, employment and alienates their coworkers, lacks drive and has the wrong personality for the job?” only 19% achieve unequivocal success.
  5. 5. HR thought-leader Dr. John Sullivan agrees thatthe interview process is severely lacking. Hismanifesto on the 50 most common problems withinterviews covers a range of probable issuesincluding an interviewer’s inherent bias, a lack ofweighted questions and rating systems, the generaldifficulty of evaluating for fit, and inconsistencies inthe questions asked in the interview, the structureof the interview, and the interviewers’expectations.Certainly, making a hiring decision after a fewconversations can be difficult, but there’s no realalternative. Skills assessments, role playing, andextensive reference checking, can work inconjunction with the interview to evaluate acandidate, but despite its flaws, the interviewremains a necessary part of the process.
  6. 6. Preparing for the Interview Some of the problems with interviews could be For example, an outgoing hiring manager may prevented by better preparation on the part of dismiss a shy or soft-spoken candidate as “not interviewers. If hiring managers spent more right for the job” even though the position may time defining their ideal candidates’ values, not benefit from an outgoing personality. By attitudes, and work habits, they would have a outlining the personal traits important for the clearer idea of what qualities to look for during position prior to meeting with candidates, the the interview. interviewer would be less likely to let irrelevant preferences affect their decision. A typical job description goes into great detail about the qualifications and technical skills Now in the case of hiring a sales professional, required by the position but usually only cites dismissing a candidate for being shy or soft- generic terms like “team player,” “go-getter,” spoken is certainly understandable. In fact, and “hard worker” to describe the ideal these qualities may be on a list of unwanted candidate’s attitude. As a result, the manager attributes for that position. Thinking through has no criteria for evaluating the candidate’s the desired characteristics, as well as the personality, and thus is likely to rely on their unwanted traits, can help the hiring manager own personal preferences to determine “fit.” stay focused on what’s most relevant during the interview.
  7. 7. Interview FormatsRecruiters and hiring managers may use several Companies aiming to save time may utilize theinterview formats during the hiring process – a group interview, a format in which multiplephone call for the initial screening, followed by a candidates are invited to “interview” at theface-to-face interview with the hiring manager, same time.and maybe a panel interview with the potentialteam. Technology has introduced some The group interview may be largelyadditional options such as the video conference informational, consisting of a presentation oncall or a Skype interview in which the recruiter the company and what the job entails, or it mayor hiring manager can speak to a candidate be more like an audition interview in which“face to face” via computer or mobile device. candidates are put together and expected toThese methods help companies eliminate travel solve a problem or discuss a topic. The hiringcosts in the earlier stages. manager can then observe how individual candidates respond to a team environment, who naturally falls into a leadership role, who is particularly persuasive, etc. While candidates may feel slighted by the group interview, it can be an effective way for companies to quickly narrow the applicant pool. Most companies, however, give candidates the courtesy of a one-on-one evaluation.
  8. 8. Personal Interview StylesOne’s personal interview style is usually dictatedby their management style. That is, a manager whoinstills fear in employees will likely adopt anintimidating interview style, and a moreapproachable manager will likely have a friendlyinterview style.While most often, the interview style develops Sometimes interviewers adopt a persuasivenaturally out of the interviewer’s inherent style in an attempt to “sell” the job to thepersonality, it can also be a strategic choice used to candidate. A persuasive interview style, liketest a candidate. For example, an interviewer may the friendly style, can give the candidate falseadopt a more intimidating style during the stress confidence. Alternatively, a transparentinterview, or they may choose to be overly friendly interviewer will be upfront with the candidatein an attempt to make the candidate so about their intentions and expectations forcomfortable that they reveal more about the interview without being overly friendly orthemselves than they might have done otherwise. intimidating – an approach welcomed by most candidates.
  9. 9. Types of Interviews The interview is an unavoidable part of the hiring process, but how you choose to interview is completely up to you (or perhaps the company you work for). Knowing the prominent interview techniques available can inform an interviewer’s choices, but it’s unlikely they will select one style and use it exclusively. Most interviewers will settle on some combination of the following types of interviews: Traditional Directive Behavioral SOARA/STAR Case/Audition Stress Traditional
  10. 10. Traditional Sample interview questions:Overview: A Traditional interview is exactly what most jobcandidates are expecting. Standard questions such as  Tell me about yourself.“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “How would a  Start with your most recent positionpast supervisor describe you?” are almost mandatory. and walk me through your resume.Traditional questions invite the candidate to paint a (Often used by unpreparedpositive picture of themselves, after which a smart interviewers!)interviewer will ask follow up questions to dig deeper into  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?their answers.  What kind of work do you most enjoy?  Describe your ideal supervisor.Pros: The Traditional format puts both the interviewer and  Do you prefer working with a team or on your own?the job candidate at ease because both parties generally  Why do you want to work here?know what to expect.  Do you consider yourself a leader?  What are your greatest strengths andCons: Most candidates will be ready for these questions, so weaknesses?you are unlikely to learn anything about them that theydon’t want you to know. Additionally, most candidates arefairly certain about what it is the interviewer is hoping tohear and will answer the question accordingly. However,just because they give the “right” answer doesn’t meanthey’ll choose the best action when put to the test.
  11. 11. Directive Sample interview questions:Overview: The goal of a Directive (also called Structured)interview is to extract similar information from all  What is your quota for the currentcandidates so that the interviewer can more fairly assess year? What did you achieve in thecandidates based on the same set of criteria. Questions are previous quarter?prepared beforehand and the interviewer typically takes  How many calls do you make per day in your current/most recent position?notes to document the candidate’s answers. The focus is  How many people do you manage?on the candidate’s qualifications and relevant experience  Do you have experience with Salesforcerather than personality and cultural fit. CRM?  Have you worked with an iPad as a salesPros: The Directive style allows for more parity between tool?candidates and thus may be favored by corporations with  How many years have you been callingstrict guidelines for the hiring process. The Directive style on C-level hospital executives?is also useful in an initial screening of candidates.Cons: The leading style of questioning is designed to elicitspecific information – and nothing more. A lack of open-ended questions prevents the interviewer from learninganything unexpected about the candidate.
  12. 12. BehavioralOverview: Based on the idea that past behavior is the best Sample interview questions:indicator of future performance, the behavioral interview  Describe a time when you were able toprompts the candidate to recount detailed descriptions of build a relationship with an initially hostilepast events and accomplishments related to their career. prospect or customer.Behavioral interviewers aim to extract specifics about a  Describe a time when you weren’t able tocandidate’s involvement in and contributions to any win over a prospect. What do you thinkrelevant achievements listed on their resume. you could have done differently?  Tell me about a time you were tasked withPros: When used effectively, this technique draws relevant defining a strategy for achieving results. What was the outcome?information out of the candidate that they may not have  Tell me about a time when managementrevealed otherwise. It prompts them to provide specific asked you to change your priorities orexamples of their past successes (and in some cases, focus.failures), after which the savvy interviewer will ask follow  Describe a time when you were givenup questions to gauge their level of involvement. direction you did not agree with.  Describe a situation, with a prospect orCons: Whatever the candidate reveals is 100% from the with a colleague, where you adapted your communication style to make acandidate’s perspective and thus will not always provide a connection.complete picture of the situation. For example, a candidatemay cite their successful work on a project and leave outthe fact that it was team-driven. However, good follow upquestions would reveal this detail.
  13. 13. SOARA / STAR(Situation, Objective, Actions, Results, Aftermath) / Sample interview questions:(Situation, Task, Action, Result)Overview: An extension of Behavioral interviewing, the  Describe a challenging situation you faced in your recent sales career.SOARA or STAR technique prompts the candidate to  What was your goal during that time?recount the specific details of their past involvement in  What steps did you take to reach yourrelevant business situations. More than simply asking the objective?candidate to describe a situation, successful execution of  How did your team/manager/customersthe technique will trigger the candidate to share details react?related to objectives, actions, and results.  How did your choice and subsequent action impact your ability to reach quota?Pros: Like Behavioral interview questions, asking SOARA or  Looking back, what would you haveSTAR-based interview questions will jog a candidate’s done differently?memory and help them to give you a complete picture of  How did that situation inform yourhow they have conducted themselves in past relevant thoughts on the sales process?situations.Cons: Past behavior may not be applicable in the currentmarket. How a candidate successfully handled a problem inthe past may not be the best way to handle that sameproblem now.
  14. 14. Case or AuditionOverview: In the Case or Audition interview, the candidate Sample interview questions:will be asked to demonstrate their skills rather than simply  How would you recommend atalk about them. The candidate may be presented with a pharmaceutical company go aboutsimulated business scenario or “case” about which they are evaluating the pros and cons ofencouraged to ask questions and gather data to fully acquiring a given biotech company.understand the situation before walking the interviewer (McKinsey case interview example)through the steps they would take to solve the problem. A  One of the largest healthcare groups inbrainteaser or riddle may also serve as a “case.” Frequently your territory has instituted a no-seeused by consulting firms, the Case interview technique policy. How do you continue to get information to physicians?applied to a sales position might require the candidate to  Sell me a bridge.prepare and perform a sales presentation for the  Prepare a presentation on one of ourinterviewer or interviewing team. best selling products.  Your nephew is running a lemonadePros: By simulating a probable business scenario, the stand over his spring break. After sellinginterviewer can more effectively evaluate how the only 3 cups on Monday, he asks you forcandidate will perform in the given situation. If actions help. What do you recommend?speak louder than words, the case interview provides the (Reportedly asked by McKinsey)best insight into a candidate.Cons: The simulation is just that – a simulation. It may notbe an accurate representation of how the candidate wouldbehave in “real” circumstances.
  15. 15. StressOverview: The stress interview involves subjecting a Sample interview questions:candidate to an uncomfortable situation and evaluatinghow they handle it. The interviewer may create the  Companies hold onto their top performers regardless of economicstressful circumstance by making the candidate wait an trends. So, why were you let go?hour or more for the interview to begin, by insulting the  Why didn’t you make your quota in Q2candidate, allowing long pauses after a candidate’s answer, of 2011?or tactlessly asking stress-inducing questions about a layoff  Your numbers aren’t all that impressive.or an admitted area of weakness. Unconventional (Silence)questions such as brainteasers and riddles may also be  On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird areused as part of the stress technique. you? (Reportedly asked by Zappos)  You are shrunk to the height of a nickelPros: The stress interview allows the interviewer to see and thrown into a blender. Your mass ishow a candidate may operate under pressure, so this reduced so that your density is themethod is ideal for evaluating candidates for high-pressure same as usual. The blades start movingpositions. The use of brainteasers or riddles may provide in 60 seconds. What do you do?additional insight into how candidates tackle problems. (Reportedly asked at Google)Oddball questions may also trigger genuine reactions thatreveal an unexpected aspect of a candidate’s personality.Cons: The stress interview can be revealing, but it can alsoirritate talented, qualified candidates to the point they feelthe job isn’t worth the hassle. (Plus, it can be kind ofmean!)
  16. 16. Illegal Interview QuestionsA good interviewer will dig deep to uncover what kindof employee a candidate might be, however, there aresome areas best kept covered. The US Equal Business Insider advises avoidingEmployment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits questions like these:discrimination against a job candidate based on race,color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national  Are you married?origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic  Do you have children?information.  What country are you from?Alison Green (of Ask A Manager fame) says that  Is English your first language?questions on these topics are not actually illegal, but  Have you ever been arrested?making a hiring decision based on the answers to them  Do you have any outstanding debt?is. To play it smart, it’s best to avoid any question that  Do you drink alcohol socially?may cause the candidate to disclose information  How long have you been in the workforce?related to EEOC prohibited topics.  Which religious holidays do youNote that if the question is relevant to a candidate’s observe?ability to do the job, the interviewer may factor theanswer into the hiring decision. In the case of hiring asales rep expected to conduct business in operatingrooms, questions related to their ability to becredentialed for hospital access may be relevant.
  17. 17. “Now, what questions do you have for me?” You won’t be the only one asking questions Some questions to prepare for: What will you expect from the new hire in the in the interview. Top candidates won’t hold first 30, 60, and 90 days of employment? back when you ask them if they have questions for you. They’ll be ready, and you How are top performers recognized? should be too. The candidate you want will How would you describe the corporate culture? likely have several employment options, so while your answers should be honest, they What is your management style? should also aim to impress. What would others in this role say is the biggest If your candidate doesn’t have any questions challenge they face? for you, that’s a red flag indicating either What will the person you hire need to do to inexperience or indifference. You should still ultimately reflect well on you and your decision proceed with “Well, you might be to hire them? wondering…” and then tell them a little more about the company, why you like your job, and what challenges the person you hire may face in the role.
  18. 18. Post Interview ReviewImmediately following the interview, the hiring manager should evaluate the candidate using aconsistent rating system. The system should allow the interviewer to objectively assess thecandidate in the areas critical to the position. Naturally, not all areas of evaluation will hold thesame importance, so unless you design a formula for weighting answers and averaging out a finalscore, it’s best to simply keep the big picture in mind when making comparisons. View the following sample evaluation for a sales rep position. Candidate Evaluation 5 Ideal / Exceeds expectations 4 Acceptable / Meets requirement 3 Adequate / Some training required 2 Not adequate / Extensive training required 1 Not adequate 0 Not enough information EXPERIENCE SKILLS ATTITUDE Relevance: _____ Salesmanship: _____ Positive: _____ Amount: _____ Technical: _____ Determined: _____ Sales Performance: _____ Leadership: _____ Honest/Ethical: _____ Industry Relationships: _____ Listening: _____ Open to Feedback: _____ Notes:
  19. 19. ConclusionThe interview is by far the most subjective part STAR-based questions. Certain roles may benefitof the hiring process and therefore is probably from incorporating the Case interviewthe most complex. There is no one-size-fits-all technique, and for a few positions, perhaps anprescription for effective interviewing; each intense sales role, the Stress interview mayinterviewer can only learn the techniques and prove particularly revealing.decide for themselves which combination But perhaps the most important part ofproves most successful for hiring a given interviewing isn’t the technique or style used,position. but rather the preparation beforehand and the grading system after. Thinking through exactlyMost interviewers don’t choose one technique, which skills and traits are desired for thestyle, or format and use it exclusively; rather position will help the interviewer to focus onthey’ll pick and choose from the various what’s most relevant during the interview. Aftermethods and create an interview process that the interview, rating the candidate using anworks for them. Perhaps they’ll use Directive or established scale allows hiring managers toStructured questions during the initial phone- more fairly assess candidates and ultimately,screen interview, then ease into the face-to-face make better hiring decisions.interview with some Traditional questionsfollowed by Behavioral – prompting thecandidate to provide specifics through SOARA or
  20. 20. For more hiring resources visit Good luck and happy hiring!