Interviews

As a manager you will be involved in interviews at some stage during your career. Well in fact you have been interviewed when you got hired but at that time you were sitting on the opposite side of the table. Everything changes when you move to the other side of the table in the interviewer role.

There are numerous forms of interviews, here is a selection of resources that will get you started on the topic:

TimesUnion recognizes 8 interview forms, About.com has over 10 different forms of interview they highlight with some advice on how to deal with them, UNC Charlotte provides three categories, The Daily Muse organizes the interviews in 10 variations, Careeronestop (sponsored by the US Department of Labor) gives 9 interview sorts in their overview, USC has 8 forms of interviews to offer, The University of Texas at San Antonio also lists pretty much the same 8 categories, Western University from Canada makes a distinction between Interview formats and Interview types and Iseek comes with a list of 10. The list could be extended but you get the picture.

Interviews can be viewed from various perspectives.

  • The method of interviewing ( person to person, person to panel, group)
  • The means of interviewing (face to face, phone, video conference)
  • The content of the interview ((un)structured Q&A, behavioral interviews, competency based, free flowing conversation, interrogation, assessment center, case discussion)
  • The purpose of the interview (first screening, informational interview, second interview, final interview, follow up interview)

Successful businesswoman in group of peopleYou can read all the great advice about how to conduct or get through the various forms of interviews by using the above resources. During my career I have been involved in lots of interviews, on both sides of the table. One thing that is always the main focus for me is goal clarity. You need to understand why you are conducting this interview. From the manager’s side of things you always want to get to know the person better and try to understand how your interviewee would act in your company. How they would fit in, how they could develop and how they could help you out but also what they want to get out of their employment with your company. From the interviewee’s perspective you always want to find out how working in this company fits into your life and your personal career planning.

The best interviews I have had as a candidate were the ones where the interviewer would ask about key moments in my life and career and the background of my decisions in those cases.

The best interviews as an interviewer were also the ones where the candidate could explain to me their decisions in life and career and why they had chosen a certain path.

Checking a candidate’s technical knowledge was never a big part of interviewing as you have many different sources of information available for this, their career positions, their education, references etc. Don’t take up valuable time to dwell on their understanding of the technical side of the business, ensure they are a great fit and have the kind of creativity, energy and drive you expect from an employee in that position. Also make sure you know the position and the department before you conduct the interview. You will be surprised how many managers will be involved in job interviews while they are really not in detail aware of what the job needs to accomplish and how.

Over the years I have come across line managers with some really weird views on how to conduct interviews. You may have some experience with these kind of managers too. They usually have one aspect of a candidate that they believe is KEY to their ability to work and be successful in the company. Examples like: “I always look at their shoes. If they have not polished their shoes they are not serious about this employment and I can’t use them“. Other magic pointers include; hair, nails, strength of handshake or even a nondescript gut feeling.

Other managers have their Magic Question that they believe will reveal the true one and only candidate. Read THIS interview with Laszlo Bock (senior vice president of people operations at Google) to find out how successful the famously weird brain teaser questions from Google have been over the years.

Check out this quote from mr Bock that I can fully agree with:

(after talking about the waste of time brain teasers are….) Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

Behavioral interviewing also works — where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.

One piece of discipline I try to stick to is to verify during the interview the impressions I have of the candidate. Trying to find out exactly  why I believe this is a great candidate. Once I can pinpoint exactly what comments in the interview created this impression I can have more confidence that I didn’t fall into the Halo or Horn trap.

It is easy to spot the alpha mistake when hiring, you selected the person that does not work out. You will find this out soonest. It is more difficult if not impossible to find out how large your beta mistake was, not spotting the excellent candidate for this position. One of my friends interviewed for a large consumer products company and was turned down as being “not a marketing guy” only to publish a book on marketing a year later and in his subsequent career in marketing ending up (after some corporate take overs) as the chairman of the board of the same company that turned him down as a graduate candidate. A more recent example was the co-founder of whatsapp, who was rejected by facebook for a job, only to turn around and found whatsapp and sell it to facebook five years later for 19 billion dollars.

We may do an update on this never boring subject of interviews, share your insights with us at interviews@10pointsmanagement.com

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