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How to get what you want from an interview

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HR PEER GROUP MEETING 24 APRIL 2014

HOW TO GET WHAT YOU WANT FROM THE INTERVIEWEE. 

14 members of the group gathered for breakfast and we talked about the interview process and how we can follow the correct process to ensure we choose the right person for the job.  The costs of not recruiting the right person can be huge i.e. the cost of recruiting and re-recruiting, and damage done to the business while an unsuitable person is in the role – client relationships etc.

We kicked off the session talking about issues that each of us had experienced.  And the following, amongst others, where brought up:

  • The importance of looking at the job description or person specification at the outset of the recruitment.  Has anything changed since you last recruited into the role?  Ensure that you determine which skills are essential to the role and which skills are desirable.
  • A line manager likes the look of a candidate and then gears the interview to confirm that they are the right person for the job.  They do this by asking leading questions and deliberately focussing on the positives.  This results in them not finding out essential information about the candidates, skills and team fit and potentially recruiting an unsuitable candidate. 
  • HR conducting interviews and not having the technical knowledge to be able to question around the relevant skills.  It can often be beneficial to have HR and a line manager on the interview panel.  They will look at the candidate from different perspectives and therefore this approach can result in more information being gleaned.   An interview panel of more than one can also be useful as it allows one person to take notes whilst the other asks questions.
  • Interviewers requiring a particular educational level from the candidate when it isn’t relevant for the job.  Some employers are too blinkered when it comes to recruiting graduates.  If the degree is not essential for the role then they may be excluding other competent candidates from consideration.
  • Interviewers talking too much in interview.  Their focus is on telling the candidate about the role and in doing so not finding out about the candidates suitability.  The 80:20 rule should apply in interviews with the candidate doing 80 percent of the talking.  Questions should be open – encouraging the candidate to talk, and behavioural rather than hypothetical.  Therefore the focus is on getting the candidate to demonstrate their skills and experience by describing what they have done in the past and how they have dealt with certain situations rather than explaining how they would deal with a situation that may come up.
  • Candidates lying – either on their CVs or in interview.  Giving you the information they think you want to hear.  Research shows that exaggerating qualifications and hiding gaps in employment is commonplace.  It is therefore useful to back this information up with references etc.  Careful questioning should reduce the risk of lying in interview.  Thus the use of funnel questioning can help to delve further into an area.
  • Managers being told they must ask a set list of questions and not deviate from this list.  This results in not being able to probe into certain areas of interest / concern.  Make sure you have a degree of flexibility in the interview so if an area needs to be explored further you are able to do so.  Don’t arrange your interviews too close together so you have to cut them short.  It is better to have a gap between them than cram them in back to back.
  • Discounting certain groups such as older candidates when they may be the best people for the job.  Obviously this goes against age discrimination and is therefore illegal, but this aside, in discounting certain groups you are limiting your talent pool.  Consider the reliability and commitment of the candidate as well as their team fit.
  • Using testing and assessment centres.  These seem to be used quite often and are obviously more practical in a larger organisation where there are a few candidates.  You will be able to discover   more about a person, how they communicate, fit in with a team, their leadership qualities and time management and prioritising skills amongst other things.  It is imperative that these tests are valid – i.e. they should measure a candidate’s skills and abilities in the role.
  • Psychometric tests – these can be used to look at a potential employees preferred working style.  They are situational and may reflect frustrations in their current role.  Again it is really important that you know what you are looking for when you compare a desired work style against a candidates.
  • Multiple level interviews.  You will get to know more about a candidate the more often you meet them.  They may relax a little more each time.  Some employers involve a social aspect to the process maybe a lunch etc.  This may let you get to know more of the real person.
  • Competency based interviews.  Some people enjoy the structure of these and others find them too prescriptive.  Perhaps the best approach is to have an element of competency based questioning in the interview with some flexibility to introduce other styles where appropriate.
  • Trial Sessions / Days.  Used by some to give both sides a chance to ‘try before they buy’.   Allows the shortlisted candidate some time in the role to see how it suits.  Beware of asking them to commit too much time as payment may be expected and turning them down after they have committed a lot of time is more difficult
  • Pre-employment checks and references.  Many references aren’t worth much.  Previous employers may be nervous of giving too much information for fear of litigation.  They can be useful for checking dates of employment and therefore uncovering gaps etc. 
  • Asking about time off / health problems.  If a candidate offers the fact that they have had a lot of time off sick you really have a duty to enquire whether they require any reasonable adjustments at work to help them perform their job.  It can be useful to include a phrase in the invite to interview letter asking if they require any reasonable adjustments to help them attend interview.
  • Asking about family circumstances.  As potential employees we all want to know that the candidate will not have any problems attending work.  Rather than asking direct questions such as ‘what childcare arrangements have you made’, consider explaining the requirements of the role including hours of work any overtime, shift work etc.  It is then up to the candidate to ensure that they can comply.

 Compiled by Tracy Fisher CIPD – Registration Co-ordinator at Wote St Employment Bureau

 

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