Maximizing the interview process

John Ha

Most companies use some version of the following process when trying to fill a position:

1) Post job

2) Source candidates

3) Screen candidates

4) Interview candidates

5) Select and make offer to top candidate

While all of these steps are critical and important, completing a successful interview is arguably the most challenging step in the recruitment and selection process. There are many reasons for this, including personal biases, bad timing, lack of training, lack of alignment with the position at hand . . . the list goes on and on. Truth be told, the main reason this step is so challenging is that most managers think they are very good, if not great, interviewers. As a result, they do very little to prepare for this critical task. I couldn't even come close to telling you the number of times a manager has said to me, "I've interviewed thousands of applicants, and I know what I'm doing," or some form of this statement.

Why do managers think they are good interviewers? I think it's mainly that those same managers think they are very good at getting a "read" on people. The value and success of accurately getting a read on someone without much data is even supported at some level by "experts." Have you read "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell? The book talks about how we can make snap judgments within the first two seconds.

How often have you heard about the importance of first impressions, and how a bad first impression is almost impossible to overcome? The unfortunate reality is that if the candidate hits the right button with the respective interviewer from the onset, there is a good chance that the interview is going to go well. Whether it's the attire, the handshake or a common hobby, first impressions are a powerful influence, good or bad.

So, how do you ensure that you don't let first impressions become such an overbearing factor in the interview process? How do you try to level the playing field for all candidates and force the success of the interview to be based on the actually questions and responses related to the company and the position?

There are no guarantees in recruiting, but here are a few tips that you should consider when engaging in your next hiring process.

  • 1) Ensure that you are applying a consistent method to how the interviews are conducted. The same process should be followed, including how the interview is coordinated, travel arrangements, pre- and post-interview activities, and the interview itself.

  • 2) Ensure that you have an interview guide that contains questions that focus on whether or not the candidate would fit into the corporate culture and whether or not the candidate can perform the job.

  • 3) Utilize multiple people to interview each candidate (ensure that the same group is used to interview all candidates as much as possible). Avoid using panel interviews unless the position warrants it (i.e. positions that require making regular presentations to client groups). Be sure to determine who is going to ask what questions. Having to answer the same question from multiple interviewers is inefficient and generally perceived negatively by the candidates.

  • 4) Provide interview training for all involved. The ability to interview candidates and determine job fit is not a natural born talent. It needs to be learned and continually honed. And at minimum, the interview training will ensure that level interviews are conducted. Good interview training classes also address details such as how to prepare, choosing the appropriate settings, seating position, note taking and techniques to help relax the candidate.

  • 5) Debrief as a group and discuss the interview results of each candidate as soon as practical. Avoid the practice of having a point person collect everyone's notes and recommendations to determine if a decision can be made. The richness of having multiple people interview the candidate can only be realized if an open discussion takes place.

Interviewing is tough. It can be a beast. Don't let it become an unnecessary hindrance to your organizations by not giving it the respect it deserves.

Give me a call or an e-mail to discuss your plant's particular interviewing processes, problems and performance.

John Ha is the president of Reliability Careers, a provider of workforce solutions for the reliability and maintenance industry. This business not only provides traditional staffing services for companies but is dedicated to help customers better understand and identify their needs, produce talent through on-the-job and apprentice programs, and provide ongoing training requirements to keep the workforce on top of its game. For individual career seekers, the firm finds top-flight career opportunities in the reliability and maintenance field. Contact John at 918-388-2438 or e-mail info@reliabilitycareers.com.

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