BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Top interview secrets of the experts

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Have you ever had the experience of employing someone who you “just loved” when you interviewed them, only to face future disappointment when they turned out not to be the person you thought they were?

This is what I call “interview infatuation” and I coined the term because I’ve seen it happen so often I thought it needed a name.

Interview infatuation often happens because recruitment is not your main job it can be daunting task. Even if you have a robust process for recruitment, interviewing candidates can have you feeling anxious and confused.

Part of the problem is that candidates are often a lot better prepared that you. Dozens of websites provide sample interview questions and recommended responses. Your average candidate may also be more motivated than you are to perform well.

How do you shift the balance back to being in your favour?

By putting into practice just a few things that experienced interviewers do as a matter of course:

  1. Prepare
  2. Ask behavioural questions
  3. Be consistent

Most candidates come into interviews well-prepared and you’re at a disadvantage if you’re not equally well-prepared.

A quick scan of the candidate’s resume and drafting a few questions related to it does not count as preparation. Preparing thoroughly involves:

  • Revisiting the requirements for the role, especially the essential (must have) and desirable (can live without) criteria
  • Writing an interview plan that sets out the steps you will go through in the interview, including introductions, questions and closing
  • Studying the resume, specifically looking for gaps, inflated titles and anything else that doesn’t add up.
  • Reviewing any additional information such as pre-employment assessments
  • Choosing a suitable time and location where you will have privacy and not be interrupted.

As part of your preparation, write behavioural questions that are relevant to being successful in this role. Behavioural questions matter because past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. Anyone can guess the correct answer to questions such as “What are your strengths?”

Examples of all-purpose behavioural questions

  • Tell me about a time when you have had to deal with a difficult client or co-worker?
  • Can you give me an example of a project you have managed?
  • Was there a time when you were under pressure to deliver an outcome in a tight time frame?

With each of these questions, follow up with more probing:

  • What did you do?
  • What went right?
  • What went wrong?
  • What would you do differently if you did it again?

These questions are looking beyond the standard answers the candidate may have prepared. What you’re seeking to understand is not just the good stuff but how they handle situations when things go “pear shaped”. You will also get an insight into their thought processes as they describe what they learnt (or didn’t) from the experience.

When recruiting, you are often comparing candidates with diverse strengths. To do this effectively, it’s recommended that you consistently ask the same questions to all candidates. Naturally, you will ask some different questions as you explore each candidate’s suitability but your basic structure and behavioural question should be the same for everyone. By doing this you will find it much easier to rank candidates according to the essential and desirable criteria for the role.

A simple table of scores for each can help your final decision

One final point that wasn’t on my original list: Don’t feel like you have to do this alone. I always recommend to my clients that they get someone whose judgement they trust to help them interview. Their insight could prove valuable.

Having someone else at the interview may not be feasible for you. In that case, you can still gain help by accessing the many resources available online.

Preparing, incisive questioning and consistency will improve your “hit-rate” at interviews. You may also find it enhances your reputation as an employer.

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