Interviewing provides the opportunity to learn about the applicants skills, abilities and how well they respond under pressure.
Set the rules for the interview team
Before the interview, sit with the team and review the rules of engagement. Basic rules include no questions regarding religion, ethnicity, family, sexual orientation or any topic which would make a reasonable person uncomfortable. If someone on the team doesn’t grasp the limits, replace them now.
The pressure on the selection team can grow if the role has been open for some time or you have already been through one complete round which was unsuccessful. For people on your team nervous about participating in an interview, it’s good to remind them the candidates will undoubtedly be even more nervous.
Remember the purpose of the process is to understand the skills and abilities of the applicant and to get a sense of their personality. Every organization has its own systems and processes which the applicant will need to learn. An intelligent person with basic skills can soon master new processes and procedures even those as complex as printed circuit board production. What can’t be changed is their personality. You should not hire someone whose personality is still a mystery after the interview. If the team sits with a candidate and can’t break past the interview facade, you should not hire them and the failure is yours.
The following is one process which works well:
- Everyone brings a copy of the cover letter and resume and is encouraged to take notes
- The members may sit anywhere, across from the applicant, beside the applicant, anywhere but on their lap.Try not to stack everyone facing the person
- Each member is required to ask one question, in turn
- The question cannot produce a yes or no answer
- The question can build on anyone’s earlier question or it can be on a new topic
- While an interview is usually scheduled to last an hour it doesn’t have to
Another important rule is if any member of the team feels the meeting is going bad, they have the authority to stop the process, without repercussions.Interviews can last less than five minutes when it is clear it is not a good fit. Carrying on is not a good use of anyone’s time.
Conduct the Interview
As suggested earlier, the key is to determine the personality of the person. I was on the selection committee for a Shipping role and although we had several applicants, two stood out but they each had spelling mistakes on their resumes. In their respective sessions, I waded into each interview with a leading question:
“Do you believe Shipping requires a detail oriented individual?”
To which both candidates excitedly agreed and then I pointed out the spelling mistake in their resume. The first candidate blamed his wife for not catching the error when she was proofing his resume. The second candidate looked sheepish and took responsibility for the error. Care to guess who got the job?
Sometimes you need to get imaginative to break through the interview facade. One clever individual I had the pleasure of working with liked to ask candidates:
“If you could be any kind of animal, what kind of animal would you be and why?”
After a stunned silence, we could count on an open, honest and usually surprising answer: A dog because it is faithful. An eagle because it is free. A sloth because it sleeps all day (sad but true response). Other variations which caused more confusion but less telling answers included vegetables, trees and even rocks.
Another interesting question part way through is to suggest a good sense of humour is very important, then pause and ask for their favourite joke. Comedic delivery skills aren’t an issue. You want to see if they can transition their focus from framing interview responses to a simple joke. Very few can make the necessary mental adjustment and you should do your best to hire the ones who can. One proviso is you should have a joke of your own ready just in case the tables get turned.
A great way to close is to be honest and let them know other candidates will be interviewed. Then ask for one memorable word to describe themselves. Often a chatty candidate cannot comply or breaks down and tries to slur “worksreallyreallyhard” into a single word. No matter what the response, capture it at the top of their resume as later it will help the team recall them.
Sometimes a candidate will have waited the whole session for the chance to be clever, so you should ask if they have any questions and respond honestly. Depending on the role, a tour of the manufacturing facility can be useful but it isn’t usually provided at the first interview.
Conduct a Group Review
Bring the group together immediately afterwards, ask for and record each person’s score from 0 to 5. The score is arbitrary and generally reflects their position up or down from the very first interview. Remind the group if the previous interview went horribly, the following one should not receive a higher than earned mark . Tally the scores along with your own in preparation for the last chapter: Group Decision Making.