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Tips for Employers: Effective Interviewing

The employment interview can tell you more about an employee than any of the other employee selection tools.

Supervisors, managers and anyone else in a hiring capacity should have a conscious awareness of sound, effective interview goals and techniques. Here are the basic areas of concern:

Interview objectives.
Basically, the interview is an information-gathering process. That information helps in the final decision to hire. It can also suggests where to place an employee in a specific work assignment. This decision can be made whether you are employing someone from outside the firm, or transferring or promoting an employee from within the company to a more challenging work situation. You can even use the interview information to help reshape an assignment to suit more accurately the talents of the capable individual.

Prior to any interview, the interviewer must have a clear picture of what he or she is looking for in the candidate being interviewed in relation to the job requirements. Many top interviewers find it helpful to set up a list of the "musts" and a list of the "wants" which will be explored during the interview. "Must" factors are those essential for a sound candidate/job match. "Want" factors strengthen the match but are not mandatory.

For example, for a senior sales manager, "musts" may be: actual sales experience, commitment to travel, language ability, ability to motivate subordinates, ability to run sales meetings, etc. "Wants" may include: familiarity with your product or service, territory knowledge. plus other specifics you feel would be desirable, but would not specifically rule out a candidate.

The interviewer has an important fact-finding checklist to:

  1. Gather Information
  2. Help form an impression
  3. Pinpoint unique characteristics;
  4. Study physical appearance as an accurate expression of personality;

    and

  5. Establish whether or not the person can express himself or herself.
Learn something of the person's desires, needs and motivation. Assess whether or not the candidate is compatible with the proposed work group and gained from other sources.

Leadership. Has the candidate held a leadership position? Is it similar to the one for which you are interviewing? Has the candidate been responsible for hiring, training, motivating other employees? Can the candidate lead without alienating others? Has the candidate been responsible for terminating the employment of others? Is this function important to the assignment that you have open?

Attitude. What does the candidate think of previous employers? Did he or she identify with the company's corporate values and policies?

Dependency. Does the candidate have a normal need for approval from superiors? Or is their a tendency to be overly dependent on the opinions of other?

Adaptability. Does past performance indicate a flexibility and ability to change as an employment situation changes?

Stability. Is the candidate resistant to stress, or would a high stress situation affect his or her ability to perform? What are the candidate's comments about stress and work pressure in previous jobs?

Motivation. Is work a source of personal satisfaction? Does the candidate have a wide range of interests other than work? Is there a reasonable grasp of current affairs? Does the candidate appear to be a social butterfly, or are there signs of being socially restricted?

Danger signs. Interviewers, like the interviewee, are human. As a result, their objectivity can be swayed by the personal interplay within the interview situations. To help you maintain a balanced overall view of the candidate in relation to the employment position, here are a few 'red flags' to look for; they indicate a need for caution:

Immaturity. Are there indications of immaturity that could detract from work performance? Look for a tendency to blame others, criticize unnecessarily, an inability to make unpopular decisions, unrealistic and over-blown claims of accomplishment, hypersensitivity, aspirations beyond ability, irresponsibility and demanding behaviour.

Interviewing technique

If you are conducting the interview yourself, it is your responsibility to establish the best picture of the applicant vis--vis the position. If you draw out a complete information picture from the candidate, you can reduce the risk that a promising candidate will be passed over.

Here are some proven guidelines for interviewing:

  1. Be as pleasant as possible to establish an early rapport; first impressions are important. Be sure to introduce yourself by name. Don't fake an over-friendly or hearty approach, and avoid "chit-chat".
  2. If you are going to make notes. tell the interviewee the reason. Reassure the applicant that all information will be treated in professional confidence.
  3. Ask your questions clearly and concisely, while keeping your tone conversational. Interview...don't sell. Don't ask questions that can be answered yes or no . Probe for in-depth answers, but avoid leading or loaded questions. If you find contradictions in the answers, probe to find the reasons.
  4. The most important rule of all. Keep your own Personal Opinion, Bias, and/or Prejudices out of the interview.

Suggested Areas for In-depth probing

Intelligence: In addition to scholastic levels achieved, what can you discover about the applicant's effective range of applied intelligence?

Energy Level: Does the candidate have the ability to sustain a high level of work activity? How has this been demonstrated?

Forcefulness: Is the candidate vigorous in the presentation and defense of opinions? Or is the candidate merely defensive?

Perception: How sensitive is the applicant to the feelings and motivations of others? Does the candidate reveal an awareness of his or her impact on fellow workers?

Objectivity: How realistic is the candidate in assessing personal assets and liabilities. strengths and weaknesses?

Communication: Does the applicant communicate effectively with others? With you? How clearly does the candidate express himself or herself? Does the candidate organize information to pass it on? Does he or she understand your views?

Organization: What in the candidate's history indicates a well organized person? Does it seem the candidate can plan effectively and carry out those plans?

Decision: Is the candidate systematic in his or her decision-making approach? Is there a tendency to play hunches and follow intuition or first opinions?

In addition, answer these questions regarding the applicant:

  • Are there signs of personal or emotional instability?
  • Has there been a recent marriage or divorce? How has your candidate responded?
  • Has the candidate changed jobs frequently? If so, for what reasons?
  • Is the candidate personally attractive, yet not suited for the particular assignment?
  • Does the age of the candidate correspond with the number and kinds of positions claimed? Be sure to verify dates of employment and number of positions with previous employers.
  • Have there been frequent residence changes? If so, what are the reasons for these changes? Does the applicant refuse to answer some questions without giving an adequate reason for his refusal?
In interviewing, as with any worthwhile skill, practice makes perfect. Conducting a good interview is demanding, yet the results are rewarding, as you watch former applicants transformed into productive, achieving employees. Therefore, follow these guidelines to constantly improve your interviewing techniques.

Abridged from an article originally appearing in Dossier by Management Recruiters, 1987

 



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