Interview format: It’s not just about a meeting anymore

Interview format: It’s not just about a meeting anymore

The resume comes in, the hiring manager sets up a screening call with the candidate who seems good-to-go on the phone. Then the interview process commences with plenty of anticipation from both sides. The interview questions are similar to what every other company uses. The candidate is practiced and knows how to answer all the most common interview questions. The interview may seem like it went well, but in reality, did it?

With all the other options available to recruiters, why are we still resorting to interviews like the above to make hiring decisions? Isn’t this a bit “old school”? Given all the predictive technology we have today that screens candidates, checks their backgrounds, assesses their skills, you’d think we’d be able to give the traditional interview process a bit of an upgrade. Wouldn’t you?

Why is an interview important?

Ask most recruiters and they will say that the interview is the most important part of the candidate evaluation process. Without this meeting (or meetings in some cases) it can be difficult to gauge the true nature of an individual who presents an impressive resume and credentials. People often stretch the truth about their work experience just to get their foot in the door for an interview. An OfficeTeam survey revealed that half of the people who work for the staffing company personally know someone who lied about something on their resume. That is a 25 percent increase since 2011.

And the weird fact is, management actually expects people to fudge a few facts on their resume. 53 percent of the managers surveyed said they often get a sneaking suspicion that a candidate is being dishonest about some part of his or her work history, and one-third has turned down a candidate after finding this out. Are we living in an age where lies are acceptable so long as they’re good ones? It’s no wonder recruiters need to have a few sit downs in-person with candidates to find out the truth behind the resume. That is, if they know how to interview effectively.

But there are the other reasons to conduct interviews that recruiters must not take for granted. The job interview is often the first in-person encounter that a candidate has with the brand and culture of the organization. If handled well, the interview can influence a candidate’s perception of the company so that when the time comes to decide between two or more job offers, they remember the warm fuzzy feeling they had with your recruitment team. This also translates to future customers too. If they have a positive experience during the interview, even if they don’t immediately get hired, they can become brand ambassadors and share the positive vibes with friends and family.

Read more: Don’t make these 6 common mistakes when screening candidates

Different interview styles to consider

According to Princeton University, there are a few traditional and non-traditional interview formats that recruiters can turn to when bringing in a potential new hire. In fact, some of these are a growing preference of the younger members of the workforce. 4 such alternative formats include:

Video Interviews – It can be very efficient and convenient for employees to take interviews by video-enabled formats, like Skype, Zoom, and SparkHire (mobile app). Whether it’s for screening a new candidate or for conducting additional interviews, candidates are giving it praise because they can see the recruiter and put their best foot (or face) forward rather than having to guess at a recruiter’s reaction off of their voice alone. On the flip side, recruiters like this format because it’s a cost-effective way of building the relationship, maintaining touch points with candidates, and much better than trying to evaluate a candidate by phone.

Panel Interviews – If time is a factor and there is a high competition for a specific role, a panel interview may be a good option. This allows a group of leaders to interview a candidate at once, in a group setting. Ramp things up and bring in additional team members to share their impression of each candidate. While intimidating to some, other candidates shine in this type of interview. Ask some unusual interview questions, like, “What are the first 3 things you do when you arrive at work?”, or, “What kinds of people do you prefer to work with?”

AI-powered Interviews – Done generally at the start of the process, a chatbot will engage in a brief conversation with the candidate. The candidate has the opportunity to ask some general questions about the company, the job requirements, the recruiting process, and more. This saves recruiter a lot of time upfront while satisfying the candidate’s need for information. The chatbot may also ask the candidate a few screening questions that will determine if he or she will go into the next round of things. They can also be used to touch base with candidates along the hiring process to keep them updated and in the loop.

Work Task Interview – In some companies, candidates are given a task or mini-project to work on during the interview process. It may include things like researching the company website to find the correct person to set up a meeting with to discuss the project requirements. Or it can be a written evaluation of the current company software, at a highly objective level. Other companies use copy editing, excel, or accounting tests to determine skill levels. Take home assignments can also be used for a deeper view of a candidate’s abilities and can be used to transition them into the company if hired. For example, you can give a candidate information on a product and ask them to create an ad due in a few days. Then if that candidate is hired, give them all the ads created through the interview process and have them turn those ideas into a real advertisement.

Job auditions – With job audition interviews a candidate is invited to experience a company’s real-life environment and culture. The candidate is asked to perform some of the actual tasks he or she may need to do on the job, which is a much more realistic demonstration of their abilities. For example, a marketing candidate may be asked to put together a small campaign for an upcoming employee event, conducting meetings with the actual marketing team and the event manager, and recommending ways to get the word out.

Pro-tip: Don’t forget about the importance of the candidate experience, regardless of what format you choose

Given all these options, what is the best interview format to use?

Comparing in-person structured interviews to non-traditional interview formats, it’s easy to see that the talent industry is evolving.  In a recent Inc. article, Marcel Schwantes shared that traditional interviews are overdone and depict “the definition of insanity.” He suggested that we need to lose the resume and instead give candidates a chance to share their story. Behavioral interview questions are good for discovering the character and soft skills of a candidate. He advised administering predictive behavioral assessments early in the process, “helps hiring managers tap into candidates’ strengths and weaknesses so they can conduct more informed interviews.”

It’s impossible to advise what interview is best for every organization because every job and industry can be different. The main idea is to learn as much as possible about the candidate while giving the candidate a good understanding of the company and its goals for the job.

Whatever your organization chooses, make sure it is relevant to the type of job and understands whatever budget or time constraints might be present. Initial video interviews to screen candidates may be enough to determine if they have the right personality and skills to continue the process. Face-to-face interviews done in a panel style format are more efficient, and can easily be combined with chatbot support for follow-ups. And remember, no matter what style you choose to follow, keep the candidate experience in mind. The goal is to both find a great new hire and give them an interview process that makes them want to say yes when you make an offer. 


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