Imagine this, you are a new manager and you have just been tasked with finding and recruiting a new candidate for a role in your team, you have never interviewed someone in the past and you have never attended an interview skills training course, where do you start?
You may be asking yourself:
Where do I start?
What questions should I ask?
How will I know if they are a good fit?
How should I control the interview?
These are only a few things you may be thinking and these are typical of the types of questions I find people asking on an interview skills training course.
So let’s have a look, there are a few questions here that this blog can try and answer.
Where do I start? Well as with any meeting an interview is no different it needs to have a structure. You need to always remember there are 3 phases the beginning the middle and the end.
Before the official interview starts you also need to consider some basic ground rules
- There should be no interruptions
- You should dedicate your whole attention to the interviewee and the interview process
- Meet and greet the interviewee in a friendly manner
- Try and make them feel comfortable it may be their first interview or their first interview in a long time
- Remember they may be nervous and part of your role is to make them feel comfortable
- Wherever possible avoid sitting across the desk, the fewer barriers between you and the interviewee the better.
- Offer refreshments if appropriate
- Be prepared to take the time to look at their CV
- Look for areas you wish to explore on the CV
- Have a clear agenda and have some questions prepared.
- Use small talk to build rapport
- Thank them for their application
If I thought about it long enough there are probably many other things that you need to consider before the interview itself but if you use the above as a basic checklist you will be at least moving in the right direction.
So many people think that recruitment interviewing is easy but it is not and there is no doubt that there is a lot to be learned from interview skills training courses as well as giving people the skills they need they also help to increase confidence levels.
Okay so now for the interview:
1. Have a plan or an agenda
This is vital and you need to explain this to the interviewee before going into the questions on the interview. Every person will have their own way of structuring an interview but the key components are to be able to learn about the interviewee, explain the job and to allow them the opportunity to ask questions.
It is important you let the interviewee know what the structure is so that they will feel comfortable for example someone asked me on an interview skills training course, how do you do this? So I have set out below something typically I may say to let the interviewee know the structure of the meeting:
‘I would just like to let you know what we will be doing today, firstly as we have never met I would like to start off by finding out a bit more about who you are and what you have done in the past, then I will clarify with you the specifics of the job you have applied for and finally there will be plenty of time for you to ask me any questions you wish about the company or the job etc, is that okay?
I would also as part of the introduction let them know the next step for example ‘just to let you know we will not be making any decisions today but after this round of interview we will be creating a shortlist of people to meet again for a second interview, we will let you know within 10 days whether we will be calling you for a second interview is that okay?
2. What questions should I ask?
On interview skills training courses the questions are vital as good questions and good listening skills normally mean a good interview. It is generally a good practice to ask similar questions to each candidate to get a consistent view.
In recruitment interview skills training courses, I always talk of different questioning techniques as being level 1 level 2 and level 3 and 4.
Level 1 questions are questions people should be able to answer easily without too much thought and I usually would use these at the beginning to get the candidate into the habit of answering questions without too much pressure. I would then gradually move on to level 2 questio0ns which would be geared towards their experiences and I would try and use open type questions for this.
I remember many years ago attending a recruitment interview skills training course and the instructor had an acetate on an overhead (long before the days of powerpoint) and it read:
There were 7 honest servicemen who taught me all I knew
Their names were which, what, why, where, how when and who, I believe the verse was written by Rudyard Kipling, but I have always remembered it for any role I have done in management or sales or recruitment.
The level 3 questions is whereas they say in sales ‘the rubber hits the road’ and these are what I call probing questions where I start to dig deeper based on the answers that the candidate has given.
Level 4 questions are also referred to as behavioural or competency type questions and these are essential to try and predict how the person would behave or act in a certain set of circumstances.
It is often said on interview training courses that the best way to predict future behaviour is to base it in past behaviour and although you cannot guarantee this you would be a fool to ignore it. What we are trying to do all the time in recruitment interviewing is put the odds in our favour so as we do not end up recruiting the wrong person or as I say putting a square peg into a round hole, we have to try and get the best match for the job role the other team members and the organisation.
Competency level 4 or behavioural questions is where you ask someone to describe something they have done in the past, what it was, what did they do and what was the result (I often also ask what did they learn from it)
An example would be that if you were recruiting for customer service you may ask the following:
Tell me about a time you had an irate customer
What was the situation
What did you do
What was the result
There is a method called the STAR method for this type of question which means
Another popular way of remembering is called the SBO which stands for Situation Behaviour Outcome
3. How will I know if they are a good fit?
Using a mixture of all of the above will help and I will always say your gut feeling is important but it is not enough to recruit someone with. There is a series of training videos that are often used in interview skills training courses called ‘More than a gut feeling’ and good interviewing and recruitment is more than just a gut feeling.
In the past, I have also often asked a member of the team to meet with the candidate after the interview to discuss the positives and challenges of the job and it is amazing what a second opinion can do to check if they are a good fit particularly if it is slightly out with of the interview itself
4. How do I keep control?
You will have candidates who occasionally will go off on a tangent and in the interest of keeping the interview focused you need to keep control.
A simple way to do that is when you feel this is happening just interject and ask them a relevant question for example: ‘that’s interesting can I just ask you…..’ It is often said good politicians answer questions with a question as it is said that whoever asks the question will control the conversation.
I wish it was all just as simple as this but there is a lot more to interview skills training than people think and one of the costliest mistakes we can make in business is putting the wrong person in the job.