Get to the Meat in Job Interviews
October 25th, 2016
After a while, interviewing job applicants gets to be routine and you may fall into the trap of asking the wrong questions.
When that happens, you may not be getting the information you need. For example, how often have you asked these typical questions?
- “What do you want to be doing five years from now?”
- “How would you handle a situation where another employee needed to be disciplined?”
- “What do you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses?”
There is only one way to describe these questions: Useless.
The reason discussing these issues is a waste of time is that it’s far too easy for candidates to tell you what you want to hear.
The better way is to ask for specifics, emphasizing what applicants have done rather than what they intend to do. If you ask theoretical questions, you’ll get theoretical answers. So. let’s reshape the three earlier questions:
- “What do you want to be doing five years from now? And give me examples of achievements from your past work history that will help you achieve your goals.”
- “Give me a specific time when you had to discipline or reprimand an employee and whether or not it worked. What effect did the action have on the employee? And what effect did it have on you as the supervisor?”
- “What would your three most recent supervisors tell us about your work-related strengths and weaknesses?”
Phrasing the questions this way offers two benefits:
- The applicant is likely to give a truthful answer because he or she believes you will check the answer with former supervisors.
- You might be able to verify the truthfulness of the answer when you check references with the former supervisors.
Often, applicants give more information than they intended. Or, they stammer trying to reply because they don’t have enough practical experience – despite listing years of practical application on their resumes.
The goal in asking job interview questions is “controlled subjectivity.” You can’t freeze out all emotions and gut feelings, but you can control the questions and the direction of the interview. Your ultimate aim is to get as much information that can be objectively analyzed and verified.
Judging a Book By Its Cover
A supervisor walks into a room and notices a male applicant in clean, professional-looking clothes. But he’s wearing dirty athletic shoes. The supervisor is tempted to go through the motions of the job interview, although he’s already rejected the prospect mentally because of his shoes. That’s reacting subjectively to a gut feeling.
But suppose the supervisor conducts a vigorous interview and discovers the applicant is smart, articulate and has handled many difficult situations with ease. The supervisor decides to hire the man and tells him the dress code requires clean dress shoes. That’s interviewing and hiring with controlled subjectivity.
Develop Good Habits
Don’t lose good prospects because of interviewing habits. Train staff members on interviewing techniques. As part of the sessions:
- Have employees role-play as applicants, with interviewers asking them test questions and learning from reactions.
- Identify questions that provide real, specific, job-related and experience-related information.
- Prepare a list of the best questions for all supervisors to use in interviews.