You interview Candidates … and you haven’t been trained??

Training is an integral part of good preparation for an interview.

If you interview candidates for your company, you want to select the best. Research has shown that if you conduct an interview without being fully trained to do so you’re unlikely to succeed. As psychologist Bill McAneny put it: “A typical recruitment interview has a predictive validity of around 25%; you’d be better chucking ping pong balls out of the window and see who they hit.”

The CIPD estimates it costs twice the salary of the hired person to hire someone, then have to fire them because they were the wrong choice for the business, and then start the process again to hire someone new. Do that too often and costs mount.

High performance organisations make the selection process a priority.

When Toyota sought 350 shop floor workers for their new factory in Burnaston in the 1980s they put 1200 candidates through a 2-day assessment centre. We know many CEOs whose selection process was less rigorous than that. Guess where those Toyota people are now?

Prêt A Manger uses its own shop staff to assess candidates; they have to work with the ones they approve so it is taken seriously.

The Royal Marines use a 3-day assessment that includes physical tests. It is no surprise that they have a waiting list of over 600, who have passed the tests, waiting to start training.

Design a method that works for your organisation, and remember there are competences that cannot be assessed at interview, so ensure you do not use interviews alone.

Having a strong Employer brand is very important for any organisation to attract high performers. The image you project as a business has many knock-on effects. Your selection process is part of your public relations; never forget the way you treat candidates, especially those you reject, gets known in the bars and clubs.

A colleague of mine had a situation recently where his candidate went into an interview with a client, and the client was totally unprepared. The interviewer didn’t have a copy of the candidate’s CV and began speaking about a different job that the candidate hadn’t applied for.

The interview lasted six minutes and we ended up reimbursing the candidate’s travel as a result of her bad experience. Needless to say, the candidate was not interested in the organisation and withdrew from the process. She will no doubt pass on her experiences to friends or colleagues who are also looking for new opportunities.

If you are engaged in the selection process, here are some fundamental principles to follow:

  • Role Guide: Define, in detail what you are looking for. We are often amazed at how little effort goes into this crucial step. Here are the five components that should be covered in a good role guide:
  1. Basic data: Job title, location, salary, team name, benefits etc. The basics should include the Key Result Areas, what the incumbent’s performance will be assessed on, in the form of goals, measures metrics and targets.
  2. Technical ability: you need define what technical competencies are essential for the role, and then test candidates on them; are they capable of actually doing the job? There are many tests of technical ability available; use them.
  3. Inter-personal competences: the communications or relationship management skills of many roles are critical to success. Do you ask your sales candidates to do a simulated sales call? If you don’t perhaps you should; it will tell you more about their sales ability than any interview.
  4. Experience: In some roles experience matters; have you defined what experience is essential?
  5. Attitudes and Cultural fit: Is their working ethos in line with the company’s values and would they work well with the other personalities in the team? High performers are different from low performers on attitudes. Have you identified what attitudes are essential in your firm?
    • Key achievements: Does their CV demonstrate that they can add value to a business? Look for quantitative results; e.g. bringing a project in under budget and on time. High performers list their achievements.
    • Key measures of success: Once you have decided on your key measures, note them down in each interview so you have something concrete to compare the applicants
    • Selling the company: Make sure that your company stands out above the crowd so the candidate is naturally prefers your offer to others they receive.

Key tips for interview success

Firstly, attend a proper training programme, one that really tests you. We train all our people with video feedback. They are challenged on every aspect of the way they conduct every interview.

Second, make sure you plan and time your interview, trained interviewers prepare for every interview. It takes about 40 minutes to do this properly so set aside time to do it. Preparing the questions you will ask is of paramount importance. Our people use a set plan for each interview and follow it to ensure fairness and rigour.

Thirdly, in this candidate driven market, there is a real war for talent. If the candidate doesn’t get the right impression, or isn’t sold the opportunity convincingly enough during the interview, you may not get the person you want. Companies often find themselves competing for candidates with multiple offers and counter-offers so your selling technique and rapport during an interview is crucial and could be the difference.

Open up the conversation so it’s not an interrogation. Firing questions at the candidate can make them go into their shell – give them an opportunity, and the right environment, for their personality to come out.

Get other members to meet the candidate (peer interviewing). This will give you another source of opinions as well as make the team feel like they are involved, and allow them to assess the cultural fit of the candidate. It also allows the candidate to ask questions they may not have done otherwise as well as giving them a better feel for the atmosphere and environment within the team.

Finally, conduct a systematic assessment of all the candidates after the selection process has been completed, using the measures pre-defined at the start.

Last of all feed back improvements into the process and continually improve it.

Then you will be on the road to becoming a high performance selector!

Kind regards
Darwin Rhodes Team

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