Make It Count: Conducting Effective Interviews

Make It Count: Conducting Effective Interviews

I hate to tell you this, but if we’re being honest, there’s a good chance that you stink at interviewing. I don’t mean to pick on you specifically, but statistics don’t lie; study after study shows us that hiring manager make decisions based on interviews, and traditional interviews are just barely more effective than flipping a coin. So maybe you don’t stink at conducting effective interviews – but it certainly seems like a lot of us do!

Why is this? We all want to believe that we’re good judges of character. We think we can trust our gut. We think that based on a traditional interview, we’ll be able to accurately predict future performance. Overwhelmingly, the evidence suggests that we’re wrong on all three counts.

You don’t have a lot of time with your candidate before making a hiring decision, so make that time count. Here are 7 steps to make sure that your next interview is an effective one:

Step 1: Prepare – What are looking for? Get key stakeholders to define job requirements such as education, experience and specific skills, as well as the dimensions that tend to be more difficult to assess, like behavioural requirements, the level of maturity needed, thinking ability and overall aptitude. One of the major contributing factors to the overall poor predictive ability of interviews is that they focus on skills and experience, not on passion, personality and ability.

You might find that some of the stakeholders have differing ideas of what is actually required for the role, and isn’t it great that we’ve discovered this prior to starting to source candidates? Once these characteristics are defined and agreed upon, we’re ready for Step 2!

Step 2: Screening – Who makes the first cut? Use the information gathered in Step 1 to create a strong job posting. As the applications start to come in, focus on assessing necessary skills, experience and education only – behavioural qualities are impossible to assess by viewing a resume. Once you’ve identified your top candidates, conduct a brief screening interview over the phone. Be clear on what the overall goal of the conversation is – what are you trying to learn? The most important thing is to clarify any job-related skills that we have questions about.

Step 3: Employee Assessments – If employee assessments are part of your hiring toolkit, now is the time to use them! A common mistake is leaving assessments until far too late in the hiring process. Use them as a guide to complement your decision-making process. Assessments can be very impactful in helping us understand those hard-to-assess qualities that we’ve defined as necessary for the role, such as temperament and cognitive ability. Time and again, research tells us that these are the keys to predicting future performance. If you want to know exactly what to explore once you and candidate meet face to face, it’s important to assess candidates before the interview.

Step 4: Conducting the Interview – In Step 2, you looked for confirmation of job-specific skills and abilities. In Step 3, you were given insight into your candidates’ temperament, aptitude and maturity. The interview is your opportunity to explore any potential gaps and get a more comprehensive view of how candidates have overcome any of their temperamental weaknesses. Make sure to use standardized behaviour-based interview questions, and remember to probe if you need more information. Many high-quality assessment tools will provide you with behaviour-based questions that are specific to the results of the assessment.

Step 5: References – We all know how important references are, but too often they’re approached as an administrative task – viewed as something that we have to do for the sake of compliance when our heart has already decided on a candidate. Don’t make this mistake! To get the most out of your reference conversations, ask some strong behaviour based reference questions that relate to your candidate. References can provide a wealth of valuable information about your candidate, much more than just the standard dates of employment and rehire status.

Step 6: Decision Time! – Making your decision is not something that you do by gut feel – it should be an objective process where you tally each person’s scores and look at their areas of strength and potential weakness. This is vital to making the right hiring decision and it’ll increase the odds of making the right decision dramatically. Once your decision is made it’s time for the final step!

Step 7: Follow Up – You promised your candidates that you’d follow up with them when they met with you for their interview, so now it’s time keep your word. A positive candidate experience for all employees is important to your brand, and it can have a major impact on your future recruitment activities – so make sure you honour your commitment to your candidates and follow up with them!

If we conduct strong, structured interviews and correctly incorporate assessments into the hiring process, we’re not just flipping a coin to make a hiring decision. Instead, the decision gets made based on hard facts. You might not be able to hire the right person 100% of the time – I’d like to find the person who can do that! – but you’ll be able to dramatically increase your success rate. And once the success rate starts to go up, you’ll see the positive impact not only on your next successful hire, but on your entire organization!


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