People worry about recruitment interviewing, and understandably so, as there’s a lot riding on it. The cost of getting it wrong is huge, in terms of time, effort and money. As a psychologist, I’ve watched many, many people interview and they often go one of two ways: they either give the candidate an empty car park to park on, or they squeeze them into a narrow tube. So, what do I mean?
The ultimate empty car park question is “tell me about yourself?” I mean where do you start? I heard one candidate say: “Well I came out of the womb!” If there’s no parameters, or structure, this becomes quite a lazy question as different people can interpret it in so many ways. And just as bad, is the opposite, squeezing the candidate into such a narrow parameter that they might as well have sent them a form to complete and not bothered to see them at all! A (real) example: “So, presumably you took that role as it was a step up,” “So, you were there five years and decided it was time to move on?” The perfect example of an interviewer interviewing herself! So, how do we get it right?
Well start by not seeing it as an interview, as that cements our mindset into ‘interview’ mode. It’s like if we’re down the pub and telling someone about this super job going in our company and they get really excited. Then we draft an ad and it says: “a vacancy has arisen,” “the successful candidate will…,” “your duties will…” bores us to tears doesn’t it. That’s because we go into business speak mode rather than humanising. So, first is mindset, get into the mode that this is an opportunity to meet someone new who might be right for your firm, a chance to get to know people and ‘sell’ your company to people. That is how you humanise it! Also, another mindset issue is the assumption that everyone will want the job, when actually it’s a two-way learning process and this leads to asking questions such as: “Why do you want the job,” when in fact the truthful answer would be: “I don’t know if I do,” but people are too polite to say that. Everyone has read the Acme book of interviewing as so the old hackneyed questions have become valueless. I worked with a VP of Sales who was interviewing a sales guy and he committed the cardinal interview sin: “What are your weaknesses?” quick as a flash came the answer: “Paperwork.” The VP started writing, a wry smile because of his incisive question. Then the young guy went on: “I love it, I can’t get enough of it, I’m up until 2.00AM just loving my paperwork.” An answer the stupid question deserved.
So, humanise the process, take a genuine interest in them, listen and take notes. Ask lots of open questions: “Why,” “when,” “what,” “where,” “who.” Use lots of follow on questions: “So, what happened next,” “How did you feel about that,” “That must have surprised you, what did you do,” “At what point did you start to worry?” This gets right under the skin of the individual, and it shows you’re taking a genuine interest. Be warm, be polite, be friendly, be interested and then you’ll get to know them, if they’re right for you, and consider what it is you would like them to be saying about you, and your company, when they speak to other people. That’s a different slant, isn’t it!