Art of the interview Featured

11:57am EDT June 30, 2004
When conducting searches, some hiring authorities are very adept at interviewing, while others struggle.

In today's world, with a premium placed on attracting, hiring and retaining quality employees who make a positive impact on the company's bottom line, those who hire should spend time reflecting on how they interview and learning to become better interviewers. While interviewing styles may differ, successful hiring authorities possess qualities that are consistent. They have a plan and a list of questions, they remove emotion and they are an ambassador for their company.

The plan
Develop a plan before you begin interviewing candidates to ensure that you maintain focus throughout each interview and remain consistent when interviewing multiple candidates. Outline what you are looking for in a candidate, such as past duties, responsibilities, significant accomplishments or key skills.

A good interviewing plan lends structure to the process, allowing you to get all pertinent questions answered in a timely fashion while demonstrating to the prospective employee that you are taking the interview seriously.

The questions
As the development of an interviewing plan gives structure to the interview, composing a list of questions delivers substance. There are certain questions you will ask in every interview.

  • What are your strengths?
  • How will you contribute to our company?
  • Why did you leave this or that job?

While some questions are unique to a specific job function -- asking about experience with Java or about how a salesperson has impacted his or her sales organization's success or asking a candidate to describe his or her management style -- you know what you are seeking and have constructed a list of questions that will elicit answers that give you the information to make a solid judgment on whether the candidate is right for the job.

The emotion factor
The goal of an interview is to give the information needed to make an objective decision on whether a candidate possesses the necessary qualifications based on past or current performance.

The objectivity of your decision will be tested if your emotions enter the process. Judge candidates on what they have accomplished and remove your emotions from the interview.

Making a plan and a list of relevant questions is easy when compared to this task. Check yourself throughout the interview to make sure you are finding out about the person's abilities and remaining unbiased.

Ambassadorship
An interview is a two-way street. The candidate will, in some fashion, be interviewing you as well, and have his or her own plan and list of questions in an effort to make a good judgment on whether the opportunity you are offering is the right choice.

This requires you to be a good ambassador for your organization. Answer questions respectfully and instill a positive perception of your organization, realizing that an interview may turn into a courtship if the candidate is superior to his or her peers.

Your time is valuable, and finding that superior candidate is crucial. Evaluate how you are conducting your interviews. Make a plan, construct a list of questions, remove your emotions from the process and remember that during the interview, that you represent your organization.

This will allow you to get your questions answered, be more consistent, make objective decisions and leave your candidate with a positive impression of you and your organization.

Shawn Fier is vice president of operations for Systems Research Inc. Reach him at (847) 585-8006 or sfier@systemsresearchinc.com.