Wasting time during an interview can cost you more money than you might think. Use this guide to improve your interviewing technique and avoid making hiring mistakes.
At first blush, the job interview can seem like a simple enough meeting to conduct: shake hands, make small talk, ask questions, and compare the candidates. But how do you keep from hiring someone whose best skill is coming off well in a job interview?
"There's actually a lot of preparation that goes into a good professional interview," says Janis Whitaker, the author of Interviewing by Example. "Most people can't wing it off of the top of their heads."
The cost of a bad hire is steep, and it's not just the wasted salary that's expensive. Severance payments, training time, potential customer problems, and recruiting a replacement are all items that you'd prefer to leave out of your budget. Many experts estimate that the cost of a bad hire exceeds the annual salary of a position.
To prevent your company from making an expensive hiring mistake, it's important to have an intentional process for conducting interviews. Here's how to formulate questions and develop a process that will give you the most information for selecting a new employee.
How to Conduct a Job Interview: Know What You're AfterBefore you start searching for the perfect candidate, you need to spend some time thinking about the job. Think about previous people who have held the position and what skills, knowledge, and personal qualities made them successful or unsuccessful. If possible, ask these people or their supervisors what factors contribute to being a good candidate for the job. Make a list of these factors and make sure that everyone involved with the selection process agrees that this is the criteria they are looking for.
"It is important that everyone on the team is on the same page with what the objective is and what the job entails," says Jim Sullivan, the president of an executive recruiting firm called Galaxy Management Group. "[Otherwise] a candidate will come in to interview with one person and then be asked completely different questions by the second person because the second person thinks the job is about something else completely."
Dig Deeper: How to Find and Hire Good People
How to Conduct a Job Interview: Ask the Right QuestionsBy using the criteria you have decided on, you can form pointed questions that make the most of your time with the candidate. Tom S. Turner, a Vancouver-based independent consultant who designs selection systems, uses a list of about seven to 12 criteria and develops four questions for each factor he is looking for. Two questions are positively worded, meaning they ask the candidate to speak about something he or she did well. One question is negatively worded, meaning it asks the candidate to think about a time when they made a mistake and how they dealt with it. And the last question serves as a backup in case the candidate draws a blank on one of the other questions.
There are many different approaches to creating job interview questions:
• Fact-based or general questions: "How many years did you work at [company x?]Most interviews include some questions that clarify information listed on the candidate's resume. Questions that ask about why the candidate wants to pursue a job in a specific field or with your company also fall into this category.
• Situational or hypothetical questions: "What would you do if you saw a coworker stealing from the company?"Asking the candidate what he or she would do if placed in a certain situation is a situational question. "It's not a bad technique," Whitaker says, "But a lot of people can answer those questions 'of course I would do this and I would be nice to everyone,' and a lot of people get fooled by those."
• Stress questions: "Why would we hire you? You have no experience."Stress questions intentionally put the candidate in a stressful situation. The objective of these questions is to learn how the candidate reacts to stressful confrontation, which can be an important success factor for people like police officers and customer service representatives. Asking a question like this, however, can come at the expense of bad rapport. "If that was one of the success factors, being able to tolerate interpersonal confrontation, I would prefer to go after examples in their background by using a behavioral question," says Turner, who has been hired to help design interview processes for police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. "I very seldom [ask a stress question]."• Behavioral questions: "Tell me about a time when you initiated a project that resulted in increased productivity?"
The theory behind behavioral interviewing is that past performance is an excellent predictor of future performance. Instead of asking general questions, the interviewer asks for specific examples that demonstrate skills. For instance, instead of asking, "Do you have initiative?" the interviewer would ask for an example of a time when the candidate demonstrated initiative. Most behavioral interview questions start with phrases like "tell me about a time" or an adverb such as what, where, why, or when. "In actuality you're not really asking someone if they have done something," Whitaker says. "What you're doing is asking them to explain to you how they have done it. So it's very, very difficult to exaggerate or fake this interview." Another advantage of behavioral interviewing is that because the answers are based on actual past experience, they can be double-checked. This is where the crucial step of checking references comes in. "If you think they're fudging the answer or fabricating the answer, you can always ask former employers that they're saying they showed that behavior at whether it was true or not," Turner says. He also uses references, or as he puts it "the referee," to get the answers to negative questions (examples of when the candidate made a mistake) if the candidate doesn't provide them.
Because they are generally accepted to generate the most accurate responses, most professional recruiters dedicate the majority of each interview to these type of questions.
Sullivan warns, however, that this technique might be difficult when evaluating people who are from other cultures or have language difficulties. Another challenge is that some people just don't think well on their feet. This problem, however, can be somewhat circumvented by sharing the factors that are important for the job with the candidate before the interview.
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