Tips for effectively conducting a job interview

If you are looking for some practical advice on how to prepare and conduct the job interview, then read on. As a manager or business owner, the hiring decision is one of the most important you make …… A poor hiring decision can create tension within the team and damage your brand – as well as create potential performance management issues that you would need to address as a manager. Therefore It is a decision that is worthy of investing time, thought and method. recruitment and selection interview

Here are some proven tips on preparing behavioural interview questions, avoiding discrimination and also how to gather the right type of information in arriving at  your hiring decision.

Your aim of course is to select the best person for the job. However let’s also acknowledge that effective recruitment is more than just preparing and conducting good interviews …. Just as important is where and how you advertise the vacancy. The “marketing” component of the process will determine the quality of applicants you are able to attract and screen for a selection interview. Unless you have a good pool of candidates to select from, you may be tempted to hire a person just because they are better in comparison to other candidates – although they do not necessarily meet the real requirements of the vacant position.

Preparing to conduct the interview

When preparing to conduct a recruitment interview, it is important to learn how to develop questions that relate clearly to the selection criteria of the position. There are many different types of interview questions that you can ask, and one of the most popular is known as the “behavioural question”

The behavioural question is one method of assessing an applicant’s current ability to do the job, by asking them about their past. This approach is also referred to as “behavioural interviewing” and is based upon the premise that past performance can be used to predict likely future performance. In particular, the more recent and frequent the performance and behaviour, the stronger it’s predictive power.

A sample behavioural questions for the attribute of initiative, for example might be either :

  1. Tell us about a time where you displayed initiative – perhaps for example, when you improved a procedure or a process at work? ….. or, a similar question is
  2. What new ideas and suggestions have you put forward during the past six months?

The behavioural question is very different to the “hypothetical” question – which is more theoretical in nature ie “How would you handle a situation ….?” The hypothetical question runs the risk of eliciting a hypothetical answer – In other words, you don’t really  know if the applicant would actually behave in the way they answer the question – all you know is that they have the knowledge and not whether it’s applied.

In our recruitment training course conducted in-house for companies in Melbourne, participants practice developing sound interview questions from sample selection criteria.  If you are with a government department in Canberra, check out our course Interview Training Canberra

Another aspect to your preparation is ensuring you are familiar with the resume of the candidate. If you have decided to invite the person to attend for a job interview, then obviously you have judged from their written application that they appear to meet many of the requirements of the position. But there may be some specific areas of their past experience that you want to ask about. So have those person-specific questions also prepared, in the same way you have your core questions that will be asked uniformly of each candidate.

Don’t just ask questions – assess skills

Although having good sound interview questions prepared is important, also think about ways you may be able to include some skills assessment in the interview process. For example, it might be asking them to actually demonstrate to you some of the key technical skills that may be required in the position (eg. computer skills the job requires) – or maybe you have a role play planned, to help observe their customer service skills, or maybe if public speaking is a job requirement then you’ve asked them to come prepared to deliver a short presentation.  interview skills

After all, if you owned a circus and you were looking to recruit a juggler – would you be wanting to ask them questions, or would you be wanting to observe their juggling skills?

By including a relevant skills assessment in your interview process, it becomes a far more robust process that will more likely lead to the selection of the most capable person – as opposed to selecting a person who is just good at selling themselves and talking themselves up.

Avoid discrimination & bias

When you are thinking about how to conduct the job interview, it’s important to be aware of relevant legislation. Equal employment opportunity (EEO) legislation aims to ensure that applicants are assessed on merit in any recruitment process.

Australia has both state and federal legislation that makes it illegal for employers to disadvantage applicants from the selection process on the basis of:

– gender

– age

– marital status

– race;

– religion;

– political beliefs

Generally, interview questions will likely be legitimate as long as they are clearly job related and potentially able to be asked of all applicants. As an example of a discriminatory question, it would be totally inappropriate to ask a married woman with children a question such as:

“How will you manage your child-care arrangements so that your work is not disrupted?”

Instead however, what you could legally ask of applicants in the interview …:

“Is there any reason why you could not work a rostered evening when required?” (assuming that this was indeed one of the conditions of employment).

Techniques for conducting the interview

The quality of the recruitment decision you make will depend upon your ability as an interviewer to gather and interpret quality information about the various candidates. You need to be able to …

  1. Set the applicant at ease, as much as reasonably possible. Adopt a conversational and friendly manner – after all, you don’t want the candidate feeling it’s an interrogation. If you appear too cool and clinical, you may give a good candidate second thoughts about whether they want to work with you!
  2. Ask your planned questions, ensuring they are clear and easy to understand (ie. avoid long-winded questions)
  3. Explore the response of the candidate and probe beneath superficial answers  eg “Tell me more about …”
  4. Keep some notes on candidate responses during the interview, for later reference.  If you’ve interviewed three or four candidates, then it can be  a bit of a blur at the end of it all to remember who was who and what they said unless you have some notes.
  5. Pause and use silence occasionally, to see if the candidate will add more information to their responses
  6. Do referee checks thoroughly – no matter how impressed you might be by an applicant. And ensure that you have identified the nature of the relationship that referees had with the candidate – for example, are they the immediate reporting manager, or a peer. Try to have referees who can offer different perspectives – exploring with them the candidates responsibilities and achievements, but also their working relationships with customers and colleagues ……..      A recent example that serves to remind us of the importance of verification of candidate career history and claimed qualifications is a story reported in the Australian newspaper (May 28, 2016 – Business Review section), reporting on the dismissal of a senior executive for allegedly falsifying aspects of his resume.

    “Telstra has parted ways with its chief technology officer Vish Nandlall, with the senior executive leaving yesterday. Mr Nandlall was let go after he was alleged to have embellished his resume. It’s understood Mr Nandlall, who served a 21-month stint at Telstra, had claimed to have an MBA from Harvard.”

  7. Remember how you treat all applicants will affect the brand of your business. Whether it is an applicant who was unsuccessful in actually gaining an interview – or the candidate who was unsuccessful at the interview – keep them informed and ensure all communication with them is prompt and has a courteous, appreciative tone.

By the way, for more ideas on interview questions have a look at Interview Questions To Ask which lists some general questions.  If you’re after questions for a project management position, see Project Manager interview questions

I hope you’ve found some useful tips on how to conduct the job interview. Appointing staff who will represent your business is one of the most important business decisions you will make .It’s worth Investing the time and thought to get this right.

The following short video clip offers some interviewing tips –  just ignore their ad at the end!

If you’re wanting to understand a bit more about the nature of behavioural questions, then here’s a video clip (of me) explaining their use – although it was produced more with the intent of assisting candidates become more familiar with these types of questions.

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