Today's Date is September 1, 2014

Preparation is Critical

The first step in conducting an effective interview is preparation.

Have you ever considered the steps a contractor must take when erecting a building? First he must have a plan, then he must order materials, then he must assemble a team to implement the plan, and finally, he must gather the appropriate tools before he begins to dig the foundation. All of his “ducks must be in a row” before he starts to dig, if he is to successfully complete his building project.

Conducting a meaningful interview requires the same careful planning as does erecting a building. Carefully pre-planning for the interview increases your odds of making better hiring decisions.

As an agent of your company, a candidate’s image of your organization will be directly affected by the impression you make during your initial contact with him/her. If your initial conversation with a candidate is a telephone interview, it is imperative that you don’t miss scheduled calls. Good candidates are usually busy people who have gone out of their way to block out time to speak to you. It is quite likely they’ll lose interest in working for your company if you neglect to call them as scheduled. To avoid this problem, treat telephone interviews as important as face-to-face interviews.

The following are some suggestions for conducting a meaningful face-to-face interview:

Location:

Decide where you are going to conduct the interview beforehand and choose a comfortable setting conducive to conversation.

Mute the Phone:

Do not allow phone calls to interrupt the interview, as it indicates a lack of politeness. Mute the ringer on your phone (some phones have a “Do Not Disturb Button”) or ask receptionists to forward all calls to voice mail. Nothing is more disconcerting to a candidate than a hiring manager who can’t focus on the interview because of incoming distractions.

Time:

Allow enough time for the interview. Appearing as though you are in a hurry to finish suggests that the candidate’s time is not valued. Avoid scheduling interviews during times you know are hectic for you, such as the very beginning or end of the day. Also, be mindful of potential problems such as traffic when you set the time.

A good interview will take at least an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Make sure you budget enough time to get a good sense of this candidate who might be joining you for the better portion of your weekly waking hours.

Share your Decision Timelines:

A good interview will leave both you and the candidate feeling like you have a good sense of the potential match between the person and the position. At the end of the interview, let the candidate know how things will proceed from here: whether you have other candidates yet to interview and how long you expect it will be before a hiring decision can be made. Let them know that if they are a finalist candidate, you will be checking their employment references and academic background.

Assure the candidate that you will let them know (either personally or through their recruiter) one way or the other about the outcome of your hiring decision.

If The Mayberry Group referred the candidate you are about to interview to you, you will have been provided with a Candidate Package that includes the following information prior to your interview.

  • A copy of the Candidate’s resume
  • The referring Recruiter’s assessment (including a narrative on Candidate’s work behavioral style, family situation, special needs, and any other pertinent information that would assist you in reaching a hiring decision
  • Paraphrased references from at least three professional reference sources
  • Results of any applicable testing
  • Results of background checks, if requested
  • Degree verification

The Rush to Judgment

The biggest mistake you can make in the interviewing process is to make your decision to hire or not to hire too early in the process. Many Hiring Managers make their decisions during the first five minutes of the interview based on appearance, demeanor or a limp handshake. Others rely on “gut feelings” when making their hiring decisions. Human nature being what it is, most of us have a natural tendency to seek out others that are most like us when making a hiring decision. There is nothing wrong in that approach, except that you run the risk of limiting your choices by excluding other possibilities that might lead to a wider range of talents, ideas and abilities.

Think of your internal decision-making mechanism as a three-way switch, with “Yes” at one end, “No” at the other and “Maybe” in the middle. It’s important to keep your switch at the “Maybe” position for as long as possible. Moving to “Yes” too early might make you feel relaxed but it’s also likely to end in disaster – causing you to ignore negative data, to globalize strengths, to slip into a “selling” mode and (worst of all) to stop listening. A premature “No” can be equally dangerous: biases about age, physical characteristics, even race can easily override a candidate’s strong points.

Try to remember that rarely is anyone really at their best during the early part of an interview: even the seasoned professionals get anxious or tense. The good news is that these effects usually wear off after 15 or 20 minutes. Hopefully, your switch will still be in the “Maybe” position when that happens.

10 Quick Tips to help keep you in control during an interview:

  1. Fight with yourself to stay objective. Recognize when you feel either too relaxed or uncomfortable –keep your buying switch in the “Maybe” position.

  2. Conduct a 20-minute performance-based phone interview before you sit down for a face-to-face interview. When you talk with someone on the phone first, you automatically minimize the impact of personality and first impressions.

  3. Don’t start the actual interview right away; chat or take a walk together instead. This will help minimize emotions and set up the framework for a good dialogue.

  4. Use a pre-planned, structured interview. Write down a few Behavioral-Based Questions to ask right away, whether you like the candidate or not.

  5. Measure your first impressions again after 30 minutes. Compare with your original feelings and evaluate your reactions.

  6. Change your frame of reference: ask tougher questions if you like a candidate, easier ones if you don’t.

  7. Listen four times more than you talk. The interview isn’t a casual conversation – it is a fact-finding expedition. Get a page of notes for each of the candidate’s accomplishments.

  8. Treat the candidate as a consultant, someone you’re paying to listen to. We always listen more carefully to those we consider experts.

  9. Talk about real work instead of hypothetical issues. Accuracy will increase if the interview is more like a problem-solving session.

  10. Use a panel interview to minimize emotional response. With fewer worries about a one-on-one relationship, you can get to the truth faster.

Using these 10 tips, you’ll never have to feel out of control again – at least during an interview and you will increase your chances of making better hiring decisions.

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