Objectives of the selection interview
As well as the need for the candidate to find our about the job and the organization, it is important for the employer to find out about the candidate. It is also a public relations exercise. Interviewers are representing the organization, and the candidate will see the way they act as indicative of the way the organization operates. Bearing this in mind, it is important that every candidate should feel that they have had a fair hearing during their interview.
Introducing the interview
A short clear introduction helps put candidates at ease by letting them know what to expect. Provide a rough agenda for the interview. State how long the interview is going to last. Explain that you will be taking notes.
Do not take notes furtively. Be open about it. Tell the candidate you will be taking notes, but do not do it in such a way that the candidate can see what is being written. Take the minimum amount of notes and confine them to memory triggers and facts. Do not let it interfere with or interrupt the flow of conversation. Be careful about timing. Highly personal or adverse information should be noted when the conversation has moved to another point.
Ensure that you know what the information you want from the candidate and give a good impression by being familiar with the applicant’s details.
Candidates will give much more information about themselves, be less defensive and generally more open, the more relaxed and comfortable they feel. Interviewers, therefore, should try and provide a supportive and friendly environment, which is also giving them the information that they want. There are a number of ways in which an interviewer can strike up a rapport and these include listening, providing verbal cues and providing non-verbal clues.
Interviewers should always concentrate on what the candidate is saying. There is a lot information which will be provided by the candidate. The interviewer has to be able to recall it, use it, relate it to the person’s qualifications, check it for inconsistencies, etc. In order to issue follow up questions, the interviewer must obviously have paid attention not just to what is being said, but also the way in which it is being said.
Reflecting back…The interviewer asks a question which relates to something which the candidate may have said earlier on. For example: “You mentioned just now that you enjoyed geography at school. Why was that?”
Making links…This is similar to reflecting back, but it is used not so much to ask questions but to form links between one section of an interview and another section of an interview. For example: “Your reference to new technology take us to the next phase of the interview. I would like to ask you some questions about your experience with computer-aided manufacturing. Tell me about…”
One of the objectives of the interview is to obtain information about the candidate. Therefore, you should aim to have the candidate talking approximately 70% to 80% of the time and the key to this is the type of questions, which are asked. Some of types of questions commonly asked in an interview are:
- Open Questions…These questions are designed to enable candidates to provide facts and information, to describe things, to express feeling of opinions and to get the candidate talking. For example: Tell me about the duties in your present job? How did you deal with irate customers?” These questions begin with who, what, when, where, why, how or tell me about…
- Closed Questions…“Did you enjoy your last job?” “Did you get on well with your manager?” In either case, the candidate could answer yes or no, and in both cases a word answer would suffice as a reply. Obviously, some closed questions cannot be avoided during the course of an interview, but you should attempt to ensure that the majority of the questions are open ones.
- Double-Headed Questions…These occur when two or more questions are asked in one go. For example: “Why have you applied for the job, where do you see yourself in five years time, and why do you want to leave your present job?” The candidate will either answer the questions they want to answer, ignore those which might be too difficult or too revealing, or they just might forget one of the questions. It is best for the interview to ask the questions one at a time.
- Leading Questions...The answer to these questions is given away in the question itself. This occurs when the interviewer prefaces the questions with information either from the job description or the person’s resume. For example: “This job involves a lot of filing. How do you feel about filing?” or “We are looking for somebody who can work under pressure. How well do you work under pressure?” With questions like these, you are playing straight into the hands of the experienced candidate or the ones who are good talkers.
- Hypothetical Questions...The interviewer describes a situation to the candidate and asks then what they would do. Too many questions of this type should be avoided because what a person says they will do in a given situation might be completely different from what they would actually do. It is much better to look at how the person has handled situations in the past rather than trying to see how they might handle the situation in the future. So instead of asking, “How would you deal with an irate customer if you were faced with one?” you might ask “Can you give me an example of when you had to deal with an irate customer?”
- Self-Assessment Questions…The interviewer asks candidates to assess themselves. For example: ‘Can you tell me why you think you are suitable for the job?’ These are very difficult questions to answer, but again they also play into the hand of the smooth talker or experienced interviewee. It is the job of the interviewer to decide, once the interview is over, whether the candidate is suitable for the job or not, and this decision should not really be influenced by the candidate’s answer to this question. For example, the modest candidate who may be very skilled at their work will come across less suitable for the position than the confident but less skilled candidate.
- Probing Questions – The Funnel Technique...It is not sufficient just to ask questions. The answer to an open question will give you some important information but it will not be enough usually to make an assessment of a candidate. What is needed, are further follow up questions to probe a particular area in more depth. The method for doing this is known as the Funnel Technique. You should begin by asking an open question, which refers to something that the candidate has done in the past, and which also relates to a characteristic on the person’s resume. The open question is designed to give you an overview or a broad-brush picture of what the person has done in a particular area. The subsequent questions are designed to obtain more information on that aspect of the candidate’s experience.
Ending the interview
Once the interviewer has completed his/her questions, an opportunity must be given to the candidate to ask questions about the job and the organization. When this is over, the interview should be formally ended. There are a number of points that should be borne in mind when ending the interview.
- Ask if there is anything else that they would like to talk about which they may not have had the opportunity to mention earlier on.
- Let them know when and how they will be contacted with a decision.
- Thank them for their time, showing interest in the position and the organization.
- Show them out of the room.