Conducting a Job Interview – Part Art, Part Science

The job interview is the most important aspect of finding the right employee for your organization. The purpose of a job interview is to:

  • Provide an opportunity for you to verify the information on a candidate’s résumé
  • Evaluate the candidate’s fit with your organization
  • Confirm whether a candidate possesses the skills, qualifications and experience required for the position
  • Provide the candidate with an opportunity to evaluate your organization to see if it is right for them

The most common mistake of novice interviewers is not preparing properly for the interview. As a result, most interviewers conduct interviews based on their own subjective opinion of the candidate and “gut-feel”. “Oh, I’ll just ask a few questions to get to know the candidate, and I’ll know whether they’ll be a good fit or not.” However, using your “gut-feel” or instinct can be dangerous. You end up making very subjective judgments of the candidates, which may or may not be supported by a candidate’s actual experience.

To avoid this common mistake, follow these 5 job interview strategies:

1.  Prepare for the interview.

  • Review the job description for the position.
  • Take a look at the skills and qualifications that you have said are must-haves and nice-to-haves.
  • Look at the current position that your organization is in and determine if there are specific duties and responsibilities for the position that are more relevant than others.
  • Review the résumés of the candidates you will be interviewing.

The hour that you put into preparing for the job interview is small compared to the time you will spend correcting a poor hiring decision.

2.  Develop questions that are relevant to the position.

Use the interview to determine whether the candidate possesses the qualifications, skills and experience you require. If you need organizational skills, ask about their organizational abilities. If you need strong computer skills, ask what their level of computer knowledge is.

Do not ask leading questions – those questions which require a yes or not answer, where the appropriate answer is often obvious. For example, “Do you have computer skills?” or “Have you ever worked for a non-profit organization before?”

Instead ask questions which require the candidate to provide information to you, without leading the candidate to the correct response. For example, “Describe what your computer skills are” or “Describe your experience working for non-profit organizations.”

This type of question provides candidates the opportunity to describe their experience however they see fit. Based on their response, you can determine whether their experience fits with your organization.

3. Ask for specific examples from the candidate’s work history.

The best predictor of a person’s future behaviour is their past behaviour. To determine if a candidate’s previous experience and behaviours complement your organization’s requirements, ask questions during the interview which require the candidate to describe situations in which they were actually involved in the past.

If the position requires the employee to constantly deal with difficult customers, ask candidates to give you an example from their work history when they successfully handled a customer’s complaint. If you require the employee to organize public events, ask the candidate to provide you with an example of an event which they organized and the process they used to keep all the details under control.

Do not ask the candidates how they would handle a difficult customer or how they would organize an event if required to do so. Hypothetical questions will only give you hypothetical answers.  Candidates can provide any response that they believe is reasonable, regardless of whether they would actually react that way or not when faced with the situation.

4. Be consistent.

Be sure to ask all candidates the same or similar questions so that you can make a fair comparison after the interviews. Of course, have a flow to the interview and ask follow-up questions unique to the candidates’ responses. However, make sure that you are consistent in the questions that you ask so that you can objectively evaluate one candidate against another.

Take notes during the interview. It’s often difficult to remember who said what when you are conducting numerous interviews.

5. Give the candidate an opportunity to ask you questions.

The interview is an opportunity not only for you to find out more about the candidates, but is also an opportunity for candidates to learn more about your organization. The types of questions that a candidate asks will give you an indication of the type of person they are and the issues which interest them. If their only questions are related to pay and benefits, you may want to think twice about their interest in working for you. However, if all their questions are related to the work environment, the position, and your expectations, you may have someone more interested in the position itself and your organization.

Follow these guidelines and you will find that your interviews are more effective and that you will be better able to evaluate your candidates.


Copyright 2008 Clear HR Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

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