One mouth, two ears -advice for employers conducting interviews

One mouth, two ears -advice for employers conducting interviews

Posted: Tuesday 3 March 2015. Author: Capita HR solutions.

IT'S THIS time of year that students are contacting various organisations seeking work placements for the upcoming year. We have also had a major software firm announce 400 jobs are on the way, so the smell of polished shoes and pressed suits is definitely in the air.

And while it's a tried and trusted cliché to say that no-one likes going to an interview, it's very much grounded in truth. An interview can be a very nerve-wracking experience, especially given the fact that you are voluntarily going into a situation where you are putting yourself forward to be judged by strangers, with the potential that you may well be rejected - and who likes being either judged or rejected (apart from those 'talented' few on The Voice or X-factor or any other reality show of your choice)?

Factor into the mix that while it's bad enough having all that pressure to compete against strangers, selling your personality, skills and experience, it can be even worse if you are met with a shambles of a process, run by employers who have clearly not prepared themselves. So while there are countless articles advising applicants on how to prepare and perform in an interview perhaps the people at the other side of the table might need a little guidance.

First of all, manners count. We know the basics - introducing yourself and your colleagues, offering a glass of water and so forth.

But let's think a little beyond that to areas that many interviewers don't really consider (or care about). If you give a candidate a set interview time, for example, then have the good grace to start as per schedule. Chances are the candidate also has things to do, has perhaps paid for travel or has had to give up some annual leave to attend. To that end try to be realistic with your scheduling in the first place. If you anticipate it will take around 30-40 minutes to interview someone then allow additional time to score and some buffer time in case you overrun. Be careful how many interviews you hold each day. There is a tipping point whereby you run the risk of starting to feel jaded, which is not fair on the candidates or your organisation.

When the candidate arrives, let them talk, it's not all about you. Interesting as your life history might be, the point is to hear predominantly from them. Conversely don't let them talk too much - at least not when they are going off piste.

If you have a schedule, then stick to it and let the candidate know why you need to move them on from any particular answer. Remember too that anyone can be overcome by nerves. If someone needs a question repeated or a minute to collect their thoughts, afford them that grace. This does not make them a bad person or diminish their attributes. The ability to flawlessly rhyme off a stream of pre-prepared dialogue does not automatically make someone the best person for the job.

Keep a check on your questioning technique. Interviewing is about discovering if the person sitting opposite you has the skills and experience to flourish in the job. It's not a game of wills where you try your best to catch them out. Ensure you ask questions that can be objectively measured. Things like 'attitude' or 'confidence' are very difficult to assess in an interview setting.

With this in mind, make sure the job description and competencies are relevant. The interviewee needs to have a clear picture of what they will be expected to do in the role so they can focus on relevant examples and you need to be sure you are asking questions or using tests to measure the attributes that will make your company (and this role) successful.

It's also worth being realistic during an interview - if a candidate is not covering the area that you have asked about or has gone off on a real tangent, stop them and direct them back to the matter in hand. Nodding and smiling as they go round the houses does neither party any good. It's also good practice to clearly explain what type of interview you will be holding; if it's competence based then the candidate should be made fully aware that you expect to hear real life examples of where they have actively engaged in the area you are asking about. Stop them from using the dreaded "we did" (as they can easily hide what their level of contribution was) and make sure they tell you what "I did". Remember to take notes. Trying to remember what was said in an interview when you are scoring candidates, giving feedback or even standing in a tribunal defending a claim, months later, is not easy. It doesn't need to be war and peace but should be comprehensive enough for feedback and to give a clear indication of why the candidate was or was not successful.

And finally, don't oversell. While you obviously want to attract good staff it's important not to make promises during the interview that will disappear into thin air once they are hired and turn them right off your organisation almost as soon they step through the door.

Capita HR solutions