From the monthly archives: "July 2010"

When interviewers don’t have a clear purpose, they can leave themselves open to being influenced by likeability of candidates and other peripheral information.

There is a lot of material available about how to interview – such as behavioural event interviewing, asking for answers in the STAR format, or using probing questions, but sometimes recruiters go into interviews without a firm idea of just what they are trying to achieve.  There are five key things that recruiters should try to achieve when interviewing.

1. Match Competencies

A recruiter’s primary aim should be to match the candidate to the competencies identified as necessary to perform the job.  This is an obvious aim, but it must pervade all of the other four goals.

Competencies can be knowledge, skills, abilities and personal style needed to perform well in the job, and it’s the bread and butter of recruiters – it may not even be consciously considered that much. You also want to establish a match to the culture.  Sure, someone with 10 years in the Melbourne Symphonic Orchestra might fit into the culture of the Armed Forces, but you’d want to check.

2. Verify Experience

The next goal is to verify the person’s experience.  People embellish, omit, exaggerate and downright lie on their CVs.  But it is more difficult to do this during face-to-face questioning, if the interviewer asks direct questions.

For example, when a candidate states that they managed a project, recruiters should ask: “Were you the one managing the project or were you reporting to the project manager? How did you jump from project coordination to managing a $1.2m project?”

When a candidate uses the word “we” a lot, it may be a sign that the person is a modest team player, but interviewers should ask for clarification of who actually had ownership and accountability for final decisions.

3. Gather More Information

CVs have information gaps that need to be filled and can raise as many questions as they answer.  Recruiters need to gather more information through questioning, using the CV as a starting point for their assessment.

Don’t settle for vague or glib answers.  Ask, for example, “Who had final sign-off on the budget”, “Who worked with you on managing the budgets? What were their roles?” and “What was the exact size of the budgets you were working with?”

4. Assess Motivation

This is an important factor to gauge because without a clear and strong motivation for the role, the candidate may be gone in three months, leaving you red-faced.  Or they might take one of those other four roles that they are being recruited for by other agencies.  Examples of the types of questions that can help determine a candidate’s motivation include:

  • “Why do you want this job in particular?” They should be able to answer this.
  • “How do you feel about the 90-minute drive to work?  Have you done that before?”
  • “Are you willing to update/alter your CV before we send it to the client?”  And then see how quickly the candidate does this.
  • “Are you able to rearrange your schedule to come in to our office in the next few days?”

5. Observe Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are less important for some roles than others, but they’re virtually always relevant to a candidate’s success at a client interview.  Listen and observe during the interview, but also think about whether you really need super smooth, five-out-of-five social skills or whether it’s just a ‘nice-to-have’.

Some of the obvious things to look out for are:

  • Social ‘appropriateness’ (although people have different ideas about what this means);
  • Strong prejudices or inflexible beliefs;
  • Emotions – indications of impatience, confidence, anxiety, conceit, enthusiasm, boredom, etc; and
  • Communications skills, as evidenced when a candidate:
    • Is articulate and easy to understand;
    • Presents ideas in a structured way and in a logical sequence;
    • Listens and comprehends, and answers actual questions asked; and
    • Does not interrupt too often.

Good techniques are essential to interviewing, but having clear goals is equally important, otherwise you are just blindly following a process.

Don’t be that interviewer who has no preparation and no clear interview goals, walks in with only a brief glance at the CV and says, “So, ummmm, you worked at Telmar Industries?”

First published in Recruiter Daily 22nd July 2010