Interviewing may not be the most effective way to evaluate candidates, but it is still the most common. There are other better predictors of job success, but some of those methods require more resources to manage than your company many have.
If the interview is all you've got, it doesn't mean that you are relegated to a life of bad hires or lots of first year turnover. It just means that you have to get really good at interviewing.
Some of that comes down to building your skills as an interviewer, which can only really happen with a lot of real skills practice (Effectively "probing" a candidate for more information is easy in concept but is far from easy in reality).
Beyond building your skills, some of it comes down to building the right interview process.
The Point Of The Interview
As my wife frequently complains about, I'll start with a bold statement of the obvious:
The purpose of the interview is to facilitate a discussion with the candidate so that you leave that discussion with the right information you need to make a hiring decision.
I'm certainly not going to win any business innovation awards for that statement. Here's the thing, though. Everything that happens in the interview should directly help you achieve that purpose. Unfortunately, in my work with clients on their interview process, there are often parts of the process that aren't actually helping them achieve that purpose, or there are key parts of the process that could help but are missing.
Three Ways To Improve Your Interview Process
These aren't rocket science concepts, but doing them well requires some focus and diligence:
1. Have a pre-interview preparation meeting with whoever is involved in the interview
This important step is often overlooked. It is understandable. Business life is always busy. Many of us are cramming interviews into already over-booked calendars.
The problem of not taking a few minutes for a team preparation meeting is that it doesn't give you and other interviewers the opportunity to get aligned on what you are all looking for. This often results in different expectations of the candidate, how he or she answered the questions, and ultimately whether the candidate was what we were looking for.
When combined, these often cause frustration with the process, delays in making hiring decisions, bad hires, or letting good candidates move right past you.
A good preparation meeting gets in front of these problems. Here are three key things to do during your preparation meeting:
- Do a quick group review of the candidate and the resume
- Do an overview of the role the candidate is interviewing for
- Get alignment on the key questions you want to ask - both technical and cultural - and what kinds of answers you are looking for
To do it well only takes a few minutes but is invaluable in going into the interview aligned and focused.
2. Have a post-interview calibration discussion with all of the interviewers
Post interview calibration sessions often don't happen for the same reason that pre-interview preparation meetings get pushed aside. It feels like we just don't have enough time. The interview is over, and you're running to the next meeting (or interview).
When you don't do them, though, you miss valuable opportunities to get multiple perspectives about the candidate from co-workers who sit in different roles. You also lose the opportunity to sort out and gain alignment on what was good or bad about a candidate so that you can apply that to others you are interviewing for the same role.
Without calibration, I've seen clients continue to miss opportunities to refine their candidate search process or criteria for who makes it to the face to face interview stage. And all of this equates to an unnecessarily elongated interviewing process, frustrated interviewers, and a belief that interview process just isn't working.
3. Focus the interview on personal attributes and culture fit
There's an important quote from Jim Collins, business consultant and author of the New York Times Bestselling book, "Good-to-Great." In his work around what separated great companies from good companies, he noted:
"In determining the right people, the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience."
Even with that, many interviews today still focus primarily on technical skills, knowledge, and abilities. This isn't to say that you shouldn't care about those things because there are certainly required baseline capabilities to do the job. You can, and should, still assess those.
But use the bulk of the interview to focus on assessing attributes like learning agility, interpersonal effectiveness, and cultural fit, which have been shown to be much better predictors of short and long-term job success.