Think you can interview? Think again!

Can I be be straight with you? The interviewing skills of many hiring managers leaves me cold. Let me explain.

When vacancies occur, particularly at shortlist stage, a successful hiring result depends on at least four building blocks coming together. They are-

1. A substantial proven hiring and selection company-framework.

2. First-class assignment brief for the role (not just a lazy job description!)

3. Properly informed, pre-screened quality candidates. Accompanying comprehensive report per candidate from the recruitment supplier/researcher, e.g. screening interviews, candidate CV, inclusion justification, appropriate public domain information LinkedIn profile etc., and all internal first interview notes from the employer per candidate.

4. A skilled lead interviewer with a pre-arranged question plan for each candidate, including a job-specific interview assessment rating system.  If others attend from the employer, their full awareness of each candidate support papers is important.

While lots of organisations might instinctively claim a reasonable record of successful hires, structured pre-interview briefings with plans ahead of time are not sufficiently commonplace for my liking.

For example, an on the hoof two-minute scan of a prospective employee CV minutes before starting the interview ought to be a sacking offence. Not to mention last-minute pre-interview panic questions from hiring managers including, "Who is in this interview with me? Who is leading the process? Who picked this one out anyway…?'' Perhaps you recognise something?

Yes, if we click on our knee-jerk ‘excuses folder', we will see a hundred reasons why interview planning never happens. I argue that is because insufficient hiring managers are deadly serious enough about the entire recruitment process and cut corners anyway.

Who can afford the luxury of one single sub-standard candidate? Or deny the inextricable link between new placements and company profit and loss?

Most hiring managers have never had the benefit of interview coaching, and as a training need, it rarely gets a mention?

When recruitment occurs, they blag the interview stage, perhaps relying on prior experience as a candidate or copying other dubious examples.

The resulting performance can be dreadful. Consequently, too many recruiting managers treat interviews as a chore and just ‘wing it.' Perceptive candidates will say it shows and they tell other people. Not helpful for a company reputation.

The seat of the pants interviews miss important signals and send wrong messages as they clunk along. Interview skill is rarely if ever included in management appraisals so that skills shortfall can remain dormant and dire for years.

Talent haemorrhage from excessive staff turnover doesn't seem to wake the defaulters into getting a grip either.

Equally, if external recruiters are encouraged to submit candidates, how do they get away with not meeting their nominations face-to-face before launching recommendations into hiring companies? Not the best service is it?

For those claiming they do interview candidates face-to-face, exactly who measures the efficacy of that interview? Why do companies allow it? Could that mean lightweight briefings for applicants, leaving it all to you?

Don't you think candidates should arrive knowing more? ‘Recommendations' need to have navigated a thorough job-specific competency-based interview. Preferably conducted face-to-face by an experienced industry specialist search professional before the candidate details arrive on your system. Is a detailed report from that critical meeting too much to ask? 

At the first sign of a ‘leaver', learn to resist ringing up several recruitment agents and saying, ‘We have this vacancy, have you got any CV's?' Of course, they have probably thousands, and if they all send a bunch guess who has to sort them out? Be very selective and set out your expectation with your provider, and if you force down the price guess what you get back? Not the best candidates. They get saved for an opportunity attracting a higher fee. 

When conducting your interviews, avoid prejudice, stop practised interviewees in their tracks and don't mess with ‘pop psychology'. Instead, liberate legitimate candidates and encourage them to show their best.

Get them on their feet in front of a whiteboard to ‘describe what they will do with the job to increase your profitability or efficiency'.

Resist wooden questions or ridiculous requests, like ‘what animal would you be in the jungle?' or the daddy of them all, ‘Where do you want to be in 5 years time? ("A long way away from you," most candidates will think!)

If you believe people matter, then make interviewing and hiring a serious business. Avoid the guesswork of assumption, don't make decisions on ‘gut feel', it's your job to know exactly why a candidate appeals or not. 

Classic pitfalls to avoid include the mystic summary. It starts with, "There is something about this candidate I like…but I can't quite put my finger on it!" Oh really! We are talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of employee here over a few years. Would you buy a new house because there is something you like, but you can't put your finger on it? Try harder, and remove the risk of hiring someone just because you liked her or him.

If you ask the right questions in the first place, you eliminate gut instinct and will know exactly why the candidate appeals. Each hiring either adds or detracts from company wealth, and you need to decide on facts and not gut feelings!

Are you the person who makes up their mind up about a candidate in the first five minutes and then spends the remaining interview time justifying your decision?

Find out how to make every prospective employee meeting a worthwhile experience for both parties. You never know, if you get it right see what priceless new employee relationship you ignite.

For aspiring or recently promoted managers, even experienced leaders, Alan delivers an eye-opening ‘hands-on' hiring workshop for the company hiring staff. It will change the way you conduct your recruitment, saving huge cost and precious time. 

Call 07850 577 441 or e-mail alan@alandawson.co.uk to learn more. 


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