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Getting The Right Person - Interviewing Tips To Guarantee Satisfaction

May 2, 2008
The focus for all my articles so far has been on preparing the nervous interviewee for their first steps towards that dream job, but what about if it's the other way around, and it's the interviewer who is nervous about the daunting challenge of trying to pick the right candidate from a series of half hour conversations? How come you often hear of company management wishing they'd picked that other person, rather than the smooth talker they eventually banked on? Well, here are some interviewing tips I've gathered from my years in travel recruitment to ensure that your interviewing technique really highlight the best possible candidate...

1) Stay in Control of the Questions

An essential interviewing skill is to always stay on track. Sometimes, it's quite tempting to go into the interview with only a vague idea of where you're heading with the conversation. The trouble with this is that, although it promotes an informal atmosphere that may help the candidate flourish, it can lead to a situation where the candidate can control the direction of the interview, drawing your attention only to their best qualities (which I'm sure we'd all do given the chance!) This isn't fair on the other candidates, and will give them an unfair advantage when it comes to comparing them all 'side by side'. A job interviewing tip to get by this is making a note of the 5 or so core questions you need to ask everyone, and make sure they all are voiced. Do feel free to ask follow up questions if it seems pertinent or interesting, but always stay focused to what your goals are!

2) Mix it Up a bit

You only have to glance at the past articles I've written to know that there are some standard questions that are pretty certain to appear in some variation at all interviews. You know the type - "What are your strengths?", "Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?" etc. The trouble with this is that if everyone asks them, then your candidates have ample opportunity to prepare their answers in advance, and you may well end up with the 'stock answer recruiters want to hear' rather than a true reflection of the candidate's abilities. An essential interviewing skill is to learn to mix these up a bit - ask some unusual questions which will still give you the answers you need to know. Ask what their dream company to work for would be, or to list the aspect of their life outside of work they're most proud of. The chances are that they will not have rehearsed these, and you can get a real feel of how they are under pressure and for their personality. If you're still wanting to get the same information from the traditional interview questions, then a simple rephrasing can also remove a candidate from their comfort zone quite effectively: "Where do you see yourself in 5 years time" easily translates to "What are your short term life-goals?"

3) Describe the Job - Warts 'n' All

I think we've all been in a situation where we see a candidate who is so perfect for the post, that the dynamic changes and suddenly it's us who don't want to make a mistake and put off the candidate. For instance, if you know there are aspects of the job that any sane person would hate, and you want to brush them under the carpet to keep your candidate interested. This is actually the worst thing you can do - if you don't prepare your dream candidate for the realities of the role, then you're leaving yourself wide open for them to quit in a day, a week or a month because of disillusionment. The route around this may seem hard to swallow, but you really have to be upfront about all aspects of the job and incorporate them into your job interviewing technique. There must be aspects they like the sound of if they applied, and acceptance of the rough with the smooth is the sign of a more mature candidate who is more likely to do your company proud.

4) Ask for Proof!

You'd be amazed how often recruiters take the people they're interviewing entirely at face value. Once you've narrowed your choice of candidates down to a handful, consider inviting them all in for a day of hands on experience. Here you can make sure that their php skills aren't exaggerated, and check to see if their 'extensive experience with excel' is knowing where it is on the start menu! It's also a great opportunity to see how well they fit in with the team, but don't judge them too harshly here - after all they're still under your scrutiny, and may find it hard to be themselves! If this interviewing technique is not possible, consider asking them to prepare a presentation on something, or take some timed tests outside the workplace to make sure they cut the mustard. It goes without saying, and the majority of candidates are honest and straight forward, but be sure to contact their references and make sure that diploma is genuine and not from the University of Falsehood!

5) Put the Candidate into Perspective

This really is a big one, and I have never met a person who isn't guilty of it to some degree. If you meet a candidate, and find something in them you really like - whether it's a charming disposition or a well respected company on their CV - don't let it blind you to their negative qualities. Everyone has weaknesses, and if you don't make an extra effort to find them, you'll be giving your favourites an unfair advantage that could backfire when all the contracts are signed. It's an essential interviewing skill to force yourself to take notes of all the negatives in all the candidates, and you'll have a more level playing field to compare each one when it's time to make your decision.
About the Author
Gail Kenny is the managing director of Gail Kenny Executive Search, an executive headhunting recruitment agency specialising in travel recruitment. The site caters exclusively to talented individuals with skills and experience to succeed in the travel management, and businesses looking for such candidates.
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