The Art of the Interview

Interviews don't work very well.

Virtually every week someone reaches out to me for advice on how to be a better interviewee. There's a canon of knowledge I happily share about that. I also tell them to be prepared for one thing they can't control: the interview itself may be awful.

Horror stories abound

  • The candidate who was interviewed without ever being asked a question
  • The interview team that included no one from the hiring department
  • The interviewer who kept getting interrupted by phone, cell phone and yes, people walking in

These types are outliers in a way – so bad they'd be comical if we weren't wasting a candidate's precious time – but they're not unique.

What's Good?

The truth is that while some organizations do a fine job in this area most don't. Its not a practice most companies put enough effort into.

Given that the interview process has the lowest correlation as a predictor of future job success of any part of the hiring process it behooves us to rethink them.

There are three basic alternatives

  1. Develop real skill – this of course is the most obvious answer. If we're lacking in some important function of our job we hone skills. Behavioral interviewing, note taking, environmental conditions, interviewer calibration and so forth are all things we can do to improve the process. It takes time and will require limiting people “qualified” to interview. This is difficult yet necessary. Some people, even high in the management hierarchy cannot and should not interview. They don't have the skill
  2. Limit interviewing to HR – in many small companies HR is the interviewing process. It isn't just a head count issue: small firms are more risk averse than large ones due to their shallower pockets – HR knows (or should know) how to conduct interviews in a legal and defensible manner. So consider letting HR control the whole process and enable them to determine if anyone else needs to be involved
  3. Stop interviewing – one way to avoid the pain of doing something badly is to just, well, stop doing it. If you accept that interviewing is the least effective means to predict success (it is) then you can legitimately ask yourself why keep doing it. There are other tools available to confirm licenses, education, experience and so on so why waste time interviewing? Oh right: you need to do that to determine the elusive “fit” question in your culture. Right. Well, how's that working for you?

The point is this: if our interviewing process is anything less than excellent why would we accept that?

Interviewing should be treated like any other job skill and we have to set high expectations for same. Done well it can amplify the pre-hire information gathering process.

Done poorly we hurt candidates and our companies.

Why would we do that?



2 thoughts on “The Art of the Interview

  1. Can I add one point? If you are going to interview, acknowledge that it needs to be done properly. It takes time to prepare and it takes time to do it properly. Don’t be afraid of taking more time if you need it. Just arriving 5 minutes before and picking up the CV isn’t going to cut it. You need to know exactly what it is you are looking for in the candidates and prepare in advance how you want the interview to go! This means preparing questions and follow up questions in advance.

  2. Yes, excellent point Alesandra. Too many times interviewers run into a small room, pick up a CV, scan it and then start to fire questions off. Little value comes of any practice not respected!

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