Interviewing candidates? Beware…

I’ve been updating our Zoomly dynamics workshop on ‘How to interview’.  Now is not the place and time for a piece about equality and employment law.  Beyond that little minefield, there are some basics that it’s not too hard to get right. 

Why can it go wrong?

Unstructured interviews are notoriously unreliable.  There’s a stack of research to back this up (such as Allen Huffcutt’s, see below).  If the interview is more of a cosy, ‘get to know you chat’, it’s about as good a predictor of the applicant’s suitability for the job as a roll of the dice.   You’re gambling.  With someone’s job, your team’s performance, morale, the business…you get the idea.

We hire in our own image.  Oh good, a mini me!  If the interview is just a chat, human nature will take over.  We will view the person who seems to share our views, interests, contacts and er, favourite sport much more favourably that a top candidate who does not.  We could end up with a great buddy but a rubbish hire.  Now try telling them they don’t make the grade.

Pet questions get pat answers.  Even experienced interviewers can wheel out their tried and trusted – but tiny – repertoire of pet questions.  ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’ – anyone?  And guess what: the average candidate has got pat answers prepared for every one.  ‘I’m a perfectionist.’  ‘I’m just a driven individual’.  ‘I’m a people person.’  Tells you a lot about exactly what they do all day, doesn’t it?

There’s more: going with our gut feel, judging people on first impressions, rushing the interview, falling for charm offensives, not giving people feedback, etc., etc.  And that’s without getting into the legal howlers that are so often made.

So what to do?  Lots, but for starters try:

  1. Get clear on exactly what the job involves, day in, year out.
  2. Create interview questions that relate directly to the job.
  3. Make sure the questions ask for specific examples of what the candidate did and how they did it.
  4. Don’t read the application form and c.v. before the interview.  You might start from bias.
  5. Ask only the agreed questions, and ask them of all candidates.
  6. Have a rating system for answers to the questions.
  7. Get a colleague to run the interview with you, to keep each other on track and compare notes.
  8. Check and compare the ratings.
  9. After the interview check documents such as application forms, c.v. for evidence that supports the answers given.
  10. Use a variety of methods in addition to the interview (tests, both written and practical).

Check out Huffcutt here

More Zoomly thoughts you may find helpful:

3 essential skills to manage your career   

4 more essential skills to manage your career

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