We left off last week with Michael, our motor-mouth manager, doing all the talking during an interview for a key position. To re-read Part 1, click here.
In response to last week’s column, I did receive several emails in response to my challenge of “can you top that?” Below are a few of my favorite responses: they ranged from illegal questions to “incredulous.”
First, the illegal question of the day:
“Will your husband be upset if you aren’t home to put dinner on the table at 6:00?”
From another reader I received:
“I was interviewing for a receptionist/inside sales/customer service position with a small company that had a great product and a good reputation. I was excited about all the different things I would be earning and the various career paths the job could lead to. The interview went very well. I received a call back, not to offer me the job, not to tell me I had been denied, but to go out on a date!”
So….back to more talk about why the interview just isn’t cracked up to be all it is thought to be. Even if you can get beyond the hiring manager asking illegal questions and using the interview process as an alternative for speed dating, the reliability of the interview just does not cut it as a predictor of job success, regardless of how many years you’ve been interviewing or how many people you’ve hired. The job market has changed, the jobs are more complex and the candidates are more savvy and sophisticated.
As you just read, reliability is closely aligned to the competence of the interviewer. By most people’s standard, Michael’s meeting with the candidate could hardly be called an interview. That however doesn’t stop managers from using Michael’s interview format as the tool of choice: the manager talks and the candidate listens. The questions they ask are superficial at best and the accuracy of these hiring decisions are no better than if the manager flipped coins and circumvented the interview entirely.
Even more challenging these days is the reliability of the candidate.
Fibs, fables and outright lies are sprinkled throughout resumes today like never before. Candidates are coached in high schools and colleges by career counselors. Terminated employees are mentored by high profile outplacement services on how to put their best foot forward.
Candidates are well versed in role playing the most-asked interview questions. Ask a question and the candidate likely has been practicing the answer. (Don’t believe me? Just Google “interview questions” and see how many sites offer answers to the most popular interview questions.)
Skilled interviewers understand it is not asking the “best” question that is important, but observing and listening for the responses. Too often hiring managers and human resource professionals get hung up on finding the best questions to get the right answer and avoid any training in behavioral interviewing techniques because they feel it’s beneath them or not their job. Egos get in the way of objectivity.
Interviewers should focus on a few questions, then sit back to observe and listen. Unlike Michael and many others like him, the interviewer should do less than 20 percent of the talking. Armed with as few as a handful of open-ended questions, a good interviewer can elicit everything they need to know and more by just adding, “Interesting, tell me more” or “Can you give me a time when you repeated that success” or “What would you do differently the next time?” It really doesn’t matter what question you ask or what response is given, open-ended questions serve as a catalyst for more questions if you just observe and listen. Although I prepare for interviews by having ten questions, I rarely need more than two or three before the candidate begins telling me their story. By listening to what they say and how they say it, candidates cover all the bases without much prompting.
What other factors besides the competence of the interviewer and the reliability of the candidate might influence the job success predictability of the interview? The setting although subtle, has an effect on both the interviewer and interviewee. Is the setting professional, clean and quiet or is the interview taking place in a cluttered office, with peeling paint, stained ceiling tiles, and constant interruptions? The environment will affect how the interviewer interviews and candidates respond.
Rapport also has a lot to do with the quality of the interview. Just the body language of the manager or the tone and pace of the candidate (or vice versa) can make or break a candidate’s chances to get the job or a company’s chance to recruit the candidate.
Michael is not the only manager who lacks interview style and skills.
Post your interview “war stories” below: comments made by managers that forced your jaw to drop, questions asked that made you cringe.