Your job hunting success depends on interviewing. The question is how. In our experience, there are a number or things you can do to help you become a better interview. There are several common themes to interview success that if considered can likely improve your chances conducting a positive interview and leaving a desirable impression.
Preparation Like anything else, good interviewing begins with preparation. Interview prep begins with analyzing the position to be filled. Assess what a candidate will need in order to be successful in the position. What skills, knowledge and type of experience are needed? What core competencies are important to their success, such as customer responsiveness, decision- making and problem solving. What does their attitude need to reflect? You'll want to decide what types of interpersonal skills are important, and how they will fit into the culture of the company.
Once you've analyzed the position, it's time to review the job. What would you observe a person in this position doing each day? Review the qualities of others presently performing the job, and review the performance evaluations of top performers in this role. Think about the dynamics of your team. What personality types make up the team, and are you missing a key personality that could benefit the team. Get input from existing team members, and find out what they believe it would take for this person to be successful. Sit down with them one and one and ask them to provide feedback.
Identify any additional job related information required to select the best candidate. What will you need to capture in addition to core competencies, and what do you need to ask a candidate to bring or require during an interview, such as proof of certifications, records of education and list of references. Ask for a list of names of people the candidate interacted with in prior positions they held, this way you'll have references that will be able to provide helpful feedback, and not a list of neighbors and friends.
Now it's time to build an interview team. Determine whom to include, what role do they play in the company, and what role will they play on the interview team. Examples of who to put on the team would include the hiring manager and a recruiter and/or HR representative. You'll want members of the team who will have regular interaction with the new hire. These team members can also provide valuable insight and can help sell the organization to the prospective employee. Define a role for each person involved in the hiring process. Think outside the box; include a technical advisor, a team member involved in the cultural fit of your company, and another who is keyed in on customer responsiveness. Set an interview schedule well in advance so all players are able to participate.
The next step is to construct a well thought out interview guide, preferably one that is specific to the role you are hiring for. While this task may seem daunting, it is no longer good enough to have the same guide for every position you hire for. A customized, focused guide, lined up specifically for each position results in finding a better person for the position, increased retention and better productivity. An interview guide will help keep less experienced members of the interview team from asking illegal questions. It allows the team to provide feedback in a structured format, and will enhance the applicant experience, so the candidate doesn't have to answer the same questions over and over. Lastly, it will help you identify interpersonal skills and cultural fit. The guide should have traditional and situational questions such as greatest strengths, and why the candidate feels they would be a good fit. You should have cultural fit questions such as what motivates you, and what made you pursue this type of career.
Conducting the Interview
The second key to your interview success is conducting an effective interview. And to be effective, you should utilize behavioral and competency based interview questions, because past behavior and performance are still the best indicator of future behavior and performance. There are three parts to a good behaviorally based interview question; the lead phrase, which is often neglected by the interviewer, but one of the most important parts of the question because it lets the candidate know what will be expected of them in this role. The behaviorally based interviewer asks the candidate to provide specific information about a real situation vs. a hypothetical scenario and includes an expression of desired behavior within the question. A properly structured behaviorally based interview question would look something like, "In the customer service department we often receive calls from customers who are unhappy with their dining experience. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an unhappy customer a work." Then you can add follow-ups, which further guides the candidate to provide the types of responses you are looking for, like "What was the specific situation? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?" The response you are looking for from the candidate involves specific situations, based on real life experience, outlining specific actions, resulting in a desired outcome that aligns with the skill/knowledge/core competency that you have identified.
This is sometimes a little difficult for candidates to understand and many will try to give you answers in a hypothetical way. It is important to redirect the candidate and explain that you are asking them to provide real life examples. Sometimes it may take a few redirections for a candidate to give you what you want. Often, they may have difficulty coming up with specific situations. The key to good interviewing is patience. Give them the time they need and don't let long pauses make you uncomfortable. With persistence and patience, most candidates can come up with the examples you need to properly evaluate them, and if they can't, then they clearly don't have the experience you have defined as key to the job.
Post-Interview Review Meeting
The last key, vital to a successful interview is the post interview summary/review meeting. This establishes a formal process for finalizing the interview process and gives each interviewer the opportunity to share feedback and make a recommendation, and brings the interview process to a close. It also allows quick communication with the candidate, which leads to a satisfactory candidate experience whether hired or not. Post interview meetings should be scheduled prior to interviews being conducted, either on the same day or day after. Each interviewer should be asked to prepare an interview report prior to the meeting. The format of the interviewer's report should include yes or no on hiring the candidate, a report on interpersonal skills, cultural fit, and what was learned from competency based questions and technical knowledge. Each report should take no longer than 5 minutes, and no open discussion should take place during reports. The primary decision maker/hiring manager should give the last report. I think it's best to leave an open discussion about the applicant until after all reports have been given.
So, the secret's out. If you give yourself the time to effectively prepare for the interview process, your odds of hiring a top performer dramatically increase. Put the three keys together and it becomes a win-win situation. By assessing the position to be filled and developing a picture of what you expect from a candidate you get the ball rolling. From there, assembling a strong team to conduct the interview and providing them with a well thought out interview guide sets the play in motion. You're ready for a productive interview, for both your team and the candidate. By taking time to establish effective behavioral and competency based questions that help you identify how closely a candidate matches the position to be filled sets up the perfect play. Once you conclude your post interview meeting, it should be clear to you and your team which candidate is the best fit for your organization.
What About Tricky Questions “Tell me About Your Weaknesses”
The interview was going fine until the Rep asked the candidate what weakness she had (not my preference of words but it was on the table). The candidate said that her weakness was that she liked people too much. Well that was the first time I had heard that weakness so it really caught my attention. She went on to say that it probably really was a strength because it made her more effective. I thought, "Hmm, she has been coached." The Rep was going to let it go at that and began to ask the next question. I excused my interruption and asked if I could ask a question. The Rep said "Sure!" I looked at the candidate and said, "When you were asked about a weakness, you responded and turned it into a strength. That was fine and I know that technique of coaching. However what we really were looking for was what areas as an Executive Assistant could you improve?" She proceeded with, "Well another weakness is that I am..."and turned that into a strength. So I said, "Let's move away from weakness. If you were to come to work here, what kind of training could my client offer you to improve your skills?" Her response? "I Am Not a WEAK Person!!!" Wow! Probably not weak but she doesn't listen and certainly was not a match for that VP. I apologized profusely. While the questions from the Rep continued politely, the interview was over - and she didn't realize it.
Develop situations in your company that this person may face and ask them how they responded to a similar situation in a previous company. Those answers will help you determine if they are a good fit. Ask them about previous successes and failures and what they learned from each. After you ask a few additional questions, circle back and create a situation in your company that is similar to one of their failures; and ask them how they would handle it.
Making notes during an interview is fine if it doesn't distract you too much (Never, never make notes on a resume and then save it!! When? Never!). The interview should be a conversation where you learn about each other and determine if the position is a good mutual fit.
When the interview is done, the last person with the candidate should thank them for their time. Then ask them if they have any further questions or concerns. Do your best to be sincere and truthful. Remember, they may be a current or potential future customer. Once their questions are asked and answered, manage their expectations for the next steps of the process. If your company is very interested in them, be sure to let them know that also. Remember this is the needs analysis step of the sales process for both the candidate and the company.