Does this sound familiar when you hire a new employee? The person you get doesn’t resemble the person you thought you hired. At the same time, the new employee is often just as puzzled — because this sure as heck doesn’t seem like the job you promised. Everybody ends up wasting a great deal of time, effort and money.
Most of the time, the seed of this great misunderstanding is planted during the interviewing process (or lack thereof). Conducting a job interview may seem simple on the surface; however, it is a highly demanding process, one that requires a great deal of structure in order to achieve a number of complex objectives. There are a few ways to do it right…and a number of ways to do it wrong.
TAKE THE INTERVIEWING SELF-QUIZ
The following self-quiz highlights some of the most common mistakes made during a job interview. To find out how good you are as an interviewer, respond to each of the following statements by rating yourself on a scale of 1 to 10: Ten means “always,” or you agree strongly with the statement; 1 means “never,” or you disagree strongly.
- I like to wing it in the interview and let the conversation take its own course. Some managers like an unstructured, casual approach. They feel it creates an informal, open atmosphere that encourages candor. Unfortunately, this is usually a sign of lack of preparation. The result, more often than not, is rambling confusion. While some subjects get beaten to death, other areas can be overlooked completely, as the meeting drifts aimlessly. (Rating: _______)
A better way: Keep in mind that ad libbing is for amateurs. Take the time to prepare for an interview, if only by developing a discussion outline. Both you and the candidate will get more out of the meeting. Most of all, you’ll be sure to cover all important points. That way you ask all the questions you need answered…and the candidate gets all the information he or she requires.
- I confess that I do like to dazzle job applicants a bit, impress them with my success and that of the company. This is usually rooted in the SBO’s justified pride in the company he or she has built. Unfortunately, it can come off as blowing your own horn or, worse, shallow arrogance. As a result, prospective employees may become cautious and defensive…not the best atmosphere in which to conduct a candid discussion. (Rating: ________)
A better way: Be friendly, but not boastful. Also, make sure that any background or bio information you share about yourself is for the specific purpose of gaining more information about the candidate.
3. I’ve been known to let the applicant run the interview. Some people are masters of the interview process. They know how to control the meeting, say what the interviewer wants to hear and make a good impression by focusing on what makes them look good, while sidestepping negative information. (Rating: ______)
A better way: Go in prepared, with your own agenda. Then, if the applicant begins to drift or becomes evasive, keep returning to the question and bird dog for complete answers.
4. I’ve been known to beg the question, help applicants find the “right” answer. For instance, you might ask: “There will be some evening work at first, but I’m sure you won’t have any problem with that, will you?” Astute applicants will quickly learn how to go with the flow and let you point them in the direction of the “right” answers. (Rating: _______)
A better way: You will get more accurate, honest responses if you ask open-ended questions. For example: “How do you feel about evening work several days a week?”
5. I sometimes fail to follow up and get more details on important questions. Most applicants expect to be questioned; in fact, they’ll probably enjoy talking about themselves. But they also may be concerned about talking too much. (Rating: _____)
A better way: Be willing to follow up, even if it involves using such stock statements as “tell me about that” or “why do you say that?”
6. I fail to take adequate notes. Some interviewers believe that taking notes discourages candor and puts the candidate on guard. Unfortunately, it also leaves the manager with no written documentation of what took place during the meeting. If you’re interviewing a significant number of people each month, it won’t be long before you have difficulty keeping all your information straight. (Rating: ________)
A better way: Applicants expect you to take notes during the interview. If you’re uncomfortable with this, jot down key phrases and ideas. Then make sure to go back as soon as the interview is over and make detailed notes.
7. I tend to take too many notes. Inexperienced managers, especially, may go overboard when it comes to taking notes. If you write down every word, this will make the candidate uneasy. At the very least, he or she will begin talking slowly and waiting while you record answers. All spontaneity will be lost as the conversation gradually comes to a standstill. Worst of all, the candidate’s answers will become clipped and formal — accurate, perhaps, but far from insightful. (Rating; ______)
A better way: As with all things, moderation is the key. Take notes. However, don’t let it become the focal point of the interview.
8. I generally form an opinion of the applicant during the first minute or two of the appointment. Whether it’s love at first sight or an instant sense that this person is all wrong, such first-impression conclusions will skew your ability to be objective and effective during the rest of the interview. Regardless, you should remain open minded. (Rating: _____)
A better way: Allow yourself to make NO judgment whatsoever about the candidate or his or her qualifications until after the meeting is over and you’ve had an opportunity to review your notes.
HOW DID YOU DO? Go over your answers and circle those with the highest ranking. These are the areas on which you need to focus and work to improve.
Recommendation: Practice your interviewing skills with another manager or a friend. Or you may wish to record an interview (but be sure to get the candidate’s permission first). Then review how you conducted the interview and look for ways to improve.
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