Become a Better Interviewer: Five Simple Moves

August 8th, 2014

There are two institutions in the modern professional workplace that employers cling to, generation after generation, despite their tendency to return limited value. The first is the annual employee review, and the second is the job interview. Again and again, these two conversations generate a froth of useless anxiety (on both sides of the table) and a mountain of meaningless data. But employers persevere…simply because better alternatives have yet to be discovered.

Interviews are flawed by nature; they’re difficult to script, difficult to compare, and difficult to control. An offhand remark that sounds like a red flag to one supervisor may seem innocuous (or even appealing) to another. And empty questions like “Are you a hard worker?” keep showing up in interviews, despite the lack of real information they provide.

But despite these obstacles, you still need to meet your candidates in person before you make an offer (this will always be true), and you still need to push data aside and rely on your intuition and human intelligence to extract value from this conversation. Here are a few ways to cut though the nonsense and actually find a candidate who will join your company, stay, contribute, and thrive.

1. Drop the act.

Your interviewees may be eager for your approval. But they aren’t fools. If you try to manipulate, intimidate, cross examine, insult, bait, or challenge them, they’ll see through you as well as anyone would. You’ll lose the most talented applicants who have somewhere else to go, and you’ll select for the ones with the highest levels of desperation. Just be yourself.

2. Research the job first.

If you’ll be this employee’s direct supervisor, you already know exactly what she’ll be doing all day long. But if not, learn what this job entails before you step into the room. Too often, hiring managers face candidates with completely mysterious skill sets (this often happens in IT), and their questions are drawn from a script they don’t really understand.

3. Look for cultural fitness, not just skill sets.

Ask open ended, “behavioral” questions. For example, “Describe a situation from your past in which you were asked to cut corners in order to meet a deadline. How did you resolve this conundrum?”

4. Read between the lines.

The candidate won’t just answer through her words alone. So pay attention to everything that falls outside the verbal realm. Which questions make him tense up? Which questions elicit her passion and interest? Is he a shy person (despite what he tells you about his lion-like boldness)? Is she a risk-taker, as she says (despite her conventional career path?) Is she likely to be loyal? Is he likely to be warm and kind?

For more on how to get the most out of your interview process and find the best matches in your candidate pool, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

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