Preparing for an interview can be quite different depending on which role you are playing. The interviewees (or potential employees) review their resumes, sharpen their conversational skills, and practice their answers to common interview questions. The interviewers spend time creating interview questions and determining what metrics to assess candidates on. However, it’s common for companies and hiring managers to put minimal effort into determining the questions they will ask candidates and how they will measure the responses.
How many times have you asked a candidate “What are you looking for in your next role?” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” These can be valuable questions, but have you ever stopped to determine what the “right” and “wrong” answers are? What are you planning to do with this information? How will these answers help you make a hiring decision? Unfortunately, many hiring decisions come from gut feelings, and while personality fit is important when selecting a candidate, it shouldn’t be the only requirement.
There are certain strategies that you can utilize as an employer or hiring manager to streamline your interview process and ensure that your efforts to find the best candidate will be fruitful and accurate. Research has shown that structured, well-organized interviews are more effective than unstructured interviews. While this seems obvious, there are specific aspects of structured interviews that companies may not be implementing in their process.
- Determine which candidate characteristics you are assessing – It’s easy for hiring managers to come up with questions that they believe will assess personality, work ethic, etc., but it’s extremely important to determine specific characteristics that you want to measure. Review the description for the job and figure out what knowledge, skills, and abilities are necessary for a candidate to perform that job successfully. These are the characteristics you want to assess!
- Develop interview questions to measure those characteristics – Make sure your interview questions reflect the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are necessary for the job. Each question should provoke an answer that can be measured or gauged, rather than asking questions simply to get a feel for the candidate. For example, if you decide to ask, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, then you should have created a list of strengths that are required for the position or weaknesses that will deny the candidate the ability to perform well. This way you can score the candidate’s answers and create meaning from their responses.
- Open-ended questions – Asking questions that don’t have a one-word answer are more beneficial for determining the candidate’s ability to perform in the role. They also allow for clarification or explanation by the candidate, which can give better insight into their background. For example, instead of asking “Do you feel capable of performing this job task?”, try asking “What experience do you have that makes you capable of performing this job task?”
- Behavioral questions – Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. This means that asking questions about a candidate’s past behavior or experiences will provide detailed information as to how they will handle themselves in their future jobs. It is also more difficult for a candidate to make up answers or give socially desired responses when you ask about something they did in a previous job. Make sure to take notes on candidate’s answers so you can score them later. Examples of behavioral questions would be “Tell me a about a time you were faced with a challenge and how you resolved it” or “Describe a team project you worked on and what the outcome was”. It’s best to make the questions even more specific, but most importantly make sure there is a reason you are asking and a characteristic you are measuring with each behavioral question.
- Create a scale for evaluating candidates’ answers – As discussed previously, it’s important to measure candidates’ responses to interview questions so you can assess their ability to perform the job tasks. This should be done with a standardized scale so that you can compare one candidate to the next. You can create whatever scale or measuring system works best for the questions you are asking, but each candidate needs to be measured on the same scale. For example, you can assign numbers to responses and then use a scale of 1-5, or you can assign categories such as “not likely to succeed”, “potential to succeed” or “very likely to succeed”. Again, these examples are vague, but you can tailor them to your own interview process and determine more specific measurements.
Take quality time to reevaluate and reorganize your interview process to reflect these structured interview practices. Make sure you are assessing characteristics that are relevant to the job you are hiring for and measuring each candidate’s responses so you can compare and make effective hiring decisions. Not only will candidates perceive your company’s interview process as more fair, but you are more likely to make educated, successful hires that will benefit the organization for years to come.