Ten top tips for interviewing techniques – a guide for employers
We are about to enter the new season for job applications, which has started again in January, when everybody makes new year resolutions and decide it’s time to change jobs. These are our top tips for interviewing potential new members of staff.
Be nice to the interviewee
We get the occasional report of incredibly rude interviewers from potential candidates who say from the moment they walk into a room to the moment they leave, the person interviewing them has been curt and abrupt. This is not a good thing to do, whether or not you like the interviewee or have any intention of employing them. They have gone out of their way to come and see you and may have had to book time off work, arrange childcare, change appointments, only to meet you in an incredible vile mood! Not good for your reputation generally and also not really a good way of doing interviews..
Always make sure you don’t talk too much about yourself
We get lots of interviews with feedback where the interviewee says they turned up, listened to a director talking about themselves and their business for 45 minutes having not uttered a word other than an occasional nod of the head or a yes or no. These interviews are completely pointless. You won’t have found anything out about the person, you probably have bored them to tears and you’ve wasted 45 minutes of your life that could have been spent doing better things like actually asking the person questions about themselves and making a decision as to whether or not they fit into your particular position or company. By all means start the conversation by explaining a little bit about yourself and your organisation, but then bear in mind this is someone else’s opportunity to sell themselves to you, and you need to give them the floor to enable them to do this.
Ask your staff to keep an eye out for the person being interviewed and see what they think of them
This is a quick and easy way of determining whether or not someone is going to fit into an organisation. Tell your colleagues that someone is coming to be interviewed and ask them to keep an eye out for them and see what they think. So much can be picked up simply by observing someone and the way they speak to others that you can’t pick up in an interview, which someone can put on an act for. Has the interviewee been rude to the receptionist, have they sat in the waiting room scratching their armpits? Have they spent most of the time on their phone? Lots of things to look at and an easy way of doing it.
Ask technical questions
Some interviewers seem afraid of doing this, but our advice would be to try and do this as much as possible, because you want to try and eek out from the person their actual knowledge and capability rather than just their experience. In law firms it can be a good idea to actually give the person a case or a real life problem and ask them how they would deal with it. This can be a very easy way of putting the person on the spot and seeing how they would cope with pressure in that particular type of scenario. This is something you cannot rehearse for, so a good way of using an interview to determine whether or not someone is going to be of interest to you.
Ask questions that are not too long and detailed
We sometimes find that some employers are too big for their own boots, and decide that they’re going to ask questions that are so indecipherable they probably can’t even remember what the question was by the time they get to the end of asking it. We’ve all been there – I remember going for a police station accreditation interview many years ago and being asked a question by a partner from another firm who no doubt thought he was looking very clever to his panel members, but the other panel members and myself didn’t actually know what the question was by the time he got to the end of it, and someone else had to ask a question instead! Keep the questions short and make sure they are open ended so that it gives the interviewee lots of opportunity to speak about themselves rather than simply giving you a yes or no answer, which is a bit pointless.
Try to interview with more than one person in the room
If you interview with two people it makes life a lot easier because it is quite hard work conducting an interview – you have to constantly be able to think of questions to put to the person, and also to be able to pick up on anything that needs clarifying or further detail.
Always try and put the interviewee at ease
Start the interview by asking the interviewee about their journey, the weather, how they have got to the interview, the traffic, a football match that was on last night, anything that is not related to the job or to the interview in itself, which will then gently ease the interviewee into the interview, rather than just going straight in and going for the jugular. By all means ask difficult questions and be as awkward as you can be, but don’t do it right at the start of the interview. It isn’t really fair and I’m not sure you would enjoy it yourself if you walked into a room and somebody started barking questions as you and putting you on the spot.
Remember this is a sales pitch
The person being interviewed is trying to sell you something, which is basically their experience and themselves, so that your organisation takes them on in a particular role or opportunity. They are not going to have the opportunity to sell themselves to you if you don’t give them the opportunity, so think about the questions that you ask and think about enabling the person to give you as much detail as possible so that you can make a decision on them.
Read their CV before the interview
This is a common complaint amongst interviewees – interviewers start to go through the CV whilst the person is in the room and actually sometimes will even say that they haven’t had time to read it. This is not a good sign of someone who is interested in recruiting. Try to read the CV, make notes on it, and ask questions based around the CV and things that the person has done. Pay particular interest to the activities and interests section, which gives you an insight into somebody’s personality and also gives them the chance to talk about something not related to the work.
Go through previous experience
Go through and check with the interviewee their previous experience, and ask them questions about the organisation they are currently working in or have recently worked with. Find out if there have been any issues with that particular role, whether things have or haven’t worked for them, and how they see themselves going forward working with your organisation. The way somebody deals with a recent role and the reasons for leaving can be quite insightful into their personality and their motives for wanting to take your job.
Don’t shy away from finances
There is little point doing an interview without discussing any potential packages that may be on offer. This can be a common complaint amongst interviewees who attend an interview, spend a good hour and a half talking to a potential employer, without any mention of salary of package, and at a later stage to find out that the salary or package is so low they’ve probably just wasted an hour and a half of their time speaking to the company in the first instance. You may as well get it over and done with closer to the start of any interview. It certainly speeds things up and doesn’t waste time for you, unless you are going for the plan of trying to pitch at an incredibly low level and you will be selling a role to the interviewee rather than the interviewee selling themselves to you.
Make sure you provide plenty of feedback after the interview
Do not just interview somebody and then disappear without providing any feedback, whether you like them or not. This can be a huge issue for interviewees who again give up a lot of time to come in and attend interviews, go away and never hear anything again from that particular organisation, whether positive or negative. Provide feedback and try and be as honest as possible, where possible, rather than just giving bland, boring feedback, actually suggest ways the interviewee can improve on their technique if you are rejecting them, and also to give them sound reasons for the rejection rather than some wishy-washy excuse. Bear in mind that a lot of interviewees read a lot into feedback when they probably shouldn’t, so try to be careful as to how you word it and make sure it’s accurate. Think about the fact that you are probably affecting somebody’s confidence and state of mind by what you write in your feedback, so be nice if possible.
So there we have it, ten top tips for interviewers, plus a few extras! For further information on interviewing and interview techniques please visit our employers advice pages at www.ten-percent.co.uk or give us a ring.