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Interviewing has been called an ART, and there is no doubt that it calls for insight and creativity. But it is also a SCIENCE, and in order for it to achieve truly and effective results for the organization, it requires:
“ Having a preplanned structure ensures you are asking the right questions,” says Shelly Goldman of The Goldman Group Advantage, a Reston, Virginia, executive firm. Whether she’s recruiting 50 entry-level workers or just one C-level executive, Ms. Goldman takes the time to lay the foundation before beginning to interview candidates. Shelly Goldman President, The Goldman Group Advantage, Reston, Virginia
Behavioral : The candidate is asked to perform a task or take a battery of tests for the job and to answer questions that focused on how he/she may handle actual situations or would handle future situations.
Describe the position’s duties and the technical knowledge and skills required to do the job.
Identify success factors: How did previous top performers in this job behave?
Establish performance expectations: What do you expect this person to accomplish?
Tip # One: DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVES BEFORE YOU START. Even if you think you are an expert interviewer, a “seat-of-the-pants” approach can backfire. Take the time to clearly define what you are looking for before you begin recruiting.
1. Icebreakers : As their name implies, icebreakers are used to build rapport and set candidates at ease before beginning the formal interview. Examples:
Did you have any trouble finding our place?
Before we start, would you like a cup of coffee or a glass of water?
Tell me about yourself.
Tip # Two: SELECT YOUR QUESTIONAIRE IN ADVANCE. Don’t rely on a job description and a candidate’s resume to structure the interview. You’ll get much better information if you carefully pre-select questions that allow you to evaluate whether a candidate has those skills and behaviors you’ve identified as essential for the job. You might include some or all of these types of questions:
2. Traditional questions: With these, you can gather general information about a candidate and their skills and experience. Because these questions are asked often, many candidates will have prepared answers to them, so they can be used to help candidates feel at ease in the early stages of an interview. Examples:
What are your greatest strengths ?
What are your experiences that are related to the position for which you are being interviewed?
4. Behavior-based questions: These require candidates to share a specific example from their past experience. Each complete answer from a candidate should be in the form of SAR response – Situation , Action and Result . Examples:
Tell me about a crisis you could have prevented. Did you do anything differently after the crisis had passed?
Tell me how you resolve crises by deploying your team members. Give me a specific example.
Crises usually require us to act quickly. In retrospect, how would you have handled a recent crisis differently, if you had been given more time to think before acting?
5. Culture-fit questions: These will help you select candidates who are motivated and suited to perform well in the unique environment of your organization. Examples
What gave you the greatest feeling of achievement in your last job? Why was it so satisfying?
Why did you choose this type of job?
What motivates you to work hard? Give me some examples.
Tip # Three: BUILD AN INTERVIEW TEAM. Whenever possible, have more than one person interview candidates; you’ll gain a balanced perspective and be more likely to have a fair hiring process. In addition to the reporting manager and a Human Resources representative, think about including some of the people who will be working with the new hire.
Put candidates at ease : Interviewing can be stressful, so do your best to help candidates relax. Make sure candidates are greeted and escorted, if necessary, to their interview location. Start with low key questions.
Don’ judge on first impressions : We’ve all met them --- people who don’t make a great impression but end up being great employees. To make sure you don’t overlook these diamonds in the rough, withhold judgment until you’ve had the chance to thoroughly evaluate a candidate’s capabilities and potential.
Tell the candidate a little about the job: While you don’t want to dominate the interview time, you should start with a brief summary of the position including the prime responsibilities, reporting structure, key challenges, and performance criteria. This will help the candidate provide relevant example and criteria.
Don’ be afraid to improvise: Plan your questions, but don’t feel you must ask only those you have chosen in advance. Shelly Goldman, executive recruiter with The Goldman Group Advantage, says, “Be responsible for what the candidates tell you, and build new questions based on their answers.”
Take notes : While you won’t have to transcribe everything the candidate says, do write down important points; key accomplishments; good examples, and other information that will help you remember and fairly evaluate each candidate.
Invite candidates to ask questions: This can be the most valuable part of the interview. Why do they want to be here---is it the challenge of the job? The advances in the industry? The prestige of the organization? Is it the paycheck?
Follow legal interviewing guidelines: It is critical that you understand and follow legal hiring guidelines. The easiest way to keep your interview fully compliant is to ask only questions that relate to the job, thus eliminating the potential for bias by not introducing questions or scenarios that will illicit irrelevant information.
Let the candidates know what they can expect: Always end the interview on a positive note, but be genuine. Don’t tell candidate to call you if you don’t mean it. If the candidate is a good fit, be clear about what the next steps would be.
Compare notes and reach consensus. The post-interview evaluation is the time to compare notes and advance the hiring decision. Each interviewer should be prepared to back p remarks and recommendations with specific examples and notes from the interview.
Deepen the questions as you narrow the field . Subsequent interviews with finalists were valuable opportunities to learn more about them.
Definition of an Illegal Questions Title VI, The Americans with Disabilities Act , and other Federal and State acts forbid employers from discriminating against any person on the basis of sex, race, national origin, religion or disability. Therefore, an illegal question is any question pertaining to any of these areas that could be construed discriminatory and is completely unrelated to any requirement of the position . Questions must be focused only to determine a candidate’s capability to perform the essential functions you have defined for the job.
Affiliations : Do not ask about clubs, social organizations, or union memberships; do ask relevant professional associations.
Age : Do not ask a candidate’s age other than, “If hired, can you produce proof that you are 18 years of age?”
Alcohol or drug use : The only allowable question relating to current or past drug or alcohol use is, " Do you currently use illegal drugs ?"
Following are some of the key areas that are covered by fair hiring laws. Essentially, you cannot ask questions that will reveal information that can lead to bias in hiring, but you can ask questions that relate to job performance.
Criminal Record : Do not ask if a candidate has been arrested; you may ask if the candidate has ever been convicted of a crime.
Culture/Natural Origin : You may ask if the individual can, "upon hire," provide proof of legal right to work in the United States. You may ask about language fluency if it is relevant to job performance.
Disability : You may ask if candidates can perform essential job functions, with or without reasonable accommodation; and you may ask them to demonstrate how they would perform a job-related function. You may ask about prior attendance records. And you may require candidates to undergo a medical exam after an offer of employment has been made.
You as the interviewer may unconsciously make assumptions about some candidates based on the way they speak; their age; or any of the background information that the candidates may have listed on their Resume.
The following are some of the more common interview bias that even the most seasoned interviewer sometimes fall into:
Average/central tendency – The average bias becomes apparent when the interviewer has difficulty deciding which candidate is best and rates them all about the same.
Contrast – The contrast effect occurs when an interviewer compares candidates to each other or compares all candidates to a single candidate. If one candidate is particularly weak, others may appear to be more qualified than they really are.
Cultural noise – Cultural noise occurs when candidates answer questions based on information they think will get them the job or what they think the interviewer wants to hear. For example, a candidate who has been an individual contributor may tell an interviewer that they prefer working as part of a team.
First impression – This bias can work either for or against a candidate, depending on the interviewer’s first impression. A candidate who is very nervous and stutters during the first few minutes may be viewed as less qualified even if during the remainder of the interview they are poised and well spoken.
Gut feeling – The gut feeling bias occurs when the interviewer relies on an intuitive feeling that the candidate is a good or bad fit for the position without looking at whether or not the individual’s qualifications meet the criteria established by the job specifications and candidate profile.
Halo effect – The halo effect occurs when the interviewer evaluates a candidate positively based on a single characteristic . For example, a candidate’s self-confident attitude may overshadow a lack of experience in a particular requirement.
Harshness/horn effect – Harshness or the horn effect occurs when the interviewer evaluates a candidate negatively based on a single characteristic.
Knowledge of predictor – This bias occurs when the interviewer is aware that a candidate scored particularly high or low on an assessment test that has been shown to be a valid predictor of performance.
Leniency – Leniency bias occurs when an interviewer tends to go easy on a candidate and give a higher rating that is warranted, justifying it with an explanation.
Negative emphasis – The negative emphasis bias occurs when the interviewer allows a small amount of negative information to outweigh positive information.
Nonverbal bias – Nonverbal bias occurs when an interviewer is influenced by body language. For example, a candidate who frowns when answering questions could be rated negatively even though the answers were correct.
Question inconsistency – Question inconsistency occurs when an interviewer asks different questions of each candidate. While this is acceptable to a certain extent in order to delve more deeply into each candidate’s qualifications, there is no baseline for comparison if there is no questions that were asked of all candidates.
Recency – The recency bias occurs when the interviewer recalls the most recently interviewed candidate more clearly than earlier candidates.
Similar to me – The similar to me bias occurs when the candidate has interests or other characteristics that are the same as those of the interviewer and cause the interviewer to overlook negative aspects about the candidate. For example, an interviewer who played college football may select a candidate who did so even though the candidate’s qualifications are not the best for the position.
Stereotyping – The stereotyping bias occurs when the interviewer assumes a candidate has specific traits because they are a member of a group. For example, an interviewer may assume that a woman would not be able to successfully perform in a job that required frequent lifting of packages weighing 50 pounds .
Stay focused – Even before you start to ask any questions, you want to have a reasonably specific ideas of what information or insights you’re expecting to gain from the interview based on your pre-interview research and the hiring criteria
Make every question count – Every question you ask during a job interview must have a specific purpose. That purpose may by to elicit specific information, produce some insight into the candidate’s personality, or simply put the candidate at ease.
Here are some tips on how to master the fine art of interviewing:
Pay attention – Listening attentively is a difficult challenge under the best of circumstances but is often an even tougher challenge during a job interview. That’s because your tendency in a job interview is to draw conclusions before the candidate has completed the answer. Yet another tendency is to begin rehearsing in your mind the next question you intend to ask while the candidate is still answering the earlier question. Fight that tendency. Pour the full measure of your concentration on the candidate and what he’s/she’s saying.
Don’t hesitate to probe – Whenever a candidate offers an answer that doesn’t address the specific information you’re seeking, nothing’s wrong with asking additional questions to elicit more specific answers. For example, if a candidate talks about the money he saved his department, ask how much and how.
Give candidate ample time to respond – The fact that a question you ask doesn’t produce an immediate answer from the candidate doesn’t mean that you need to rush in with another question to fill the silence. Give the candidate time to come up with a thoughtful answer. If the silence persists for more than ten seconds, ask the candidate if he/she wants you to clarify the question. Otherwise, don’t rush things. Use the silence to observe the candidate and take stock of where you are in the interview. Remember that the interview is a time for you to listen, not talk.
Suspend judgments – Doing so isn’t easy, but try to keep your attention on the answers you’re getting instead of making interpretations or judgments. You’re going to have plenty of time after the interview to evaluate what you see and hear. What you don’t want to do is prejudice yourself in the beginning of the interview so that you fail to accurately process information that come later.
Take notes – Our memories can do tricky things to us, leading us to ignore what actually happens during an interview and to rely instead on general impressions. Taking notes helps you avoid this common pitfall.
Close Ended Questions - Questions that call for a simple, informational answer – usually yes or no
Example: “How many years did you work for ABC?”, “Did you enjoy it?”
This type of question works best if you’re trying to elicit specific information or set the stage for more complex questions. Pitfall to avoid: Asking too many of them in rapid-fire succession, thus making candidates feel as though they’re being interrogated.
Open Ended Questions – Questions that require thought and oblige the candidate to reveal attitudes and opinions.
Examples: “Describe for me how you handle stress on the job.” “Can you give me an illustration of how you improved productivity at your last job?”
This line of questioning if often used by employers, but coupled with closed-ended questions Pitfalls to avoid: Not being specific enough as you phrase the question and not interceding if the candidate’s answer starts to veer off track.
Leading Questions – Questions asked in such a way that the answer you want to hear is obvious .
“ You know a lot about team-building, don’t you?” “You wouldn’t dream of falsifying your expense accounts, would you?”
This should rarely be used, if ever. You’re not likely to get an honest answer – just the answer you want to hear.
The main topics covered in this presentation were taken from the following sources: How to Interview Candidates Louise Kursmark Monster Contributing Writer Texas Job Hunter’s Guide OSU Career Service: Legal vs Illegal Questions Ready Reference This presentation has been put together solely for the purpose of training the Managers and Supervisors of Letstalk.com and not for the infringement of copyright laws. GPC Training and Development