||Some topics – like interviewing skills – just cry out for lengthy articles. But when we first began these newsletters, I promised they would be kept short. So on this subject, I’ll make some brief comments, and we’ll return to this theme again in future newsletters.
The interviewer’s most common mistake: doing most of the talking. No, no, no! A good rule of thumb is to speak no more than 25% of the time. Now is the time to find out all you can about your prospective hire and remember - if you’re talking, you’re not learning.
Be prepared when you come to the interview. Re-read the resume as you’re setting up the questions you’ll ask. Obviously, we all know not to ask questions answerable by “yes” or “no.” Your questions should elicit answers that show how the candidate really behaves in different situations, so you can figure out how well s/he will fit into your company. But beware: these days, many candidates are skilled at interviewing. They know how to put the right spin on their answers and they may have been coached on what not to say.
Behavioral interviewing is a technique that can help you gain important insights about a candidate. We will cover this technique in more detail in an upcoming newsletter, but here are some quick examples. Behavior-based questions often begin with phrases such as “Describe a situation in which…” or “Give me an example of a time when…” or “ Tell me about an occasion when…” Setting up different scenarios and asking “what would you do if…” questions will help you gain some insight into how flexible and creative and solution-oriented your interviewee really is. Have a list of questions, but also be prepared to go into unforeseen areas opened up during the interview. (A note of caution here: there are some questions interviewers cannot ask legally. That’s a topic for a future newsletter.)
The point of all this is to understand the fit between the candidate’s skills and experience and what your position requires. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. The more examples of behavior you can bring out in an interview, the more accurate your predictions of the match will be. Use body language, like nodding your head, to encourage the candidate to continue speaking. Avoid looking at your watch during the interview as it can cause some people to tense up, but keep a clock visible somewhere in the room for your own use. Again, resist the temptation to talk most of the time.
Another mistake is to judge the candidate by your first impression. One of the best pieces of advice I have received about interviewing is to withhold judgment until the end of the interview. This sounds simple, but it’s actually quite hard to stick to it, especially when you find the candidate really appealing. If you don’t “warm up” to the candidate right away, make it your job to find out why s/he would do a good job. Obviously, the candidate was intriguing enough to be brought in for a face-to-face meeting; push yourself to keep looking for the good stuff. Conversely, if you find yourself really “clicking” with the candidate, beware of being content with too-facile answers to your questions. Dig deeper to find reasons why s/he couldn’t do the job. This is counter-intuitive, but it can help you avoid a snow job and find the gem for which you’re searching.