Many employers train their managers and supervisors in the legal aspects of hiring and firing. Typically this training will impress upon participants what they should not ask and do in an employment interview.
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to line supervisors in preparing for and conducting a valid, reliable interview. No attempt is made to address related topics such as inquiries that may be legally impermissible.
The Unstructured Marketing / Casual Interview
Generally your role is to allow gainfully employed prospects to accept the company’s value proposition or vision for the future, while buying into your short and long range strategic plan. The prospective employee is really attempting to determine ‘what’s in it for me’. They are assessing;
a) Is this the culture or the career advancing opportunity that I am in search of,
b) Am I ready for the required stretch targets,
c) Am I confident in the leadership,
d) Does the business appear to be solid, and
e) Might I feel inhibited or can I really enjoy working with this team.
There must be a 50/50 balance in what they want to learn and what you want to learn.
A casual interview provides an opportunity to interpret if the prospect is moving TO (a new community, a better corporate culture, career advancement) or moving FROM (a depressing area, a bad professional or personal situation, etc.). Most gainfully employed individuals find themselves in a familiar environment, the regular routine of going to work and paying bills contributes to a stable and comfortable mindset. When they are exploring the idea of changing jobs AND relocating themselves or their family, their entire life changes as there are so many things to consider; multiple ‘unknowns’. Not only is there a financial decision (pro and con), there is an emotional attachment to friends, family, or community. This familiarity of the ‘known’ may be handcuffing them to stay. They will be analyzing and documenting everything regarding career and personal needs and wants. You’ll need to acknowledge and appeal to those emotions.
If they approach a career opportunity in a different community or province with the attitude of “I can always move back” or “I will move now and my family will follow in 18 months”, they are truly setting everyone up for failure.
General accepted reasons for relocating should be (in this order):
1. Career growth and future marketability
3. Adventure / exploration / geography
4. Quality of life at and outside of work
5. Major responsibilities and challenges of a position
The majority of career-seekers will be expecting a 15% compensation increase to justify the transition.
The Selection Interview
In most cases, by the time Career-Seekers reach the actual selection interview, they have already passed a careful evaluation and are considered to possess at least minimum qualifications for the particular job. The purpose of the selection interview should be to collect additional information on the Candidate’s job-related knowledge, skills and abilities, which will assist in selecting the individual most likely to succeed on the job – not asking questions that have already been addressed in the prequalification phase of the Casual Interview. The validity of the interview is determined by the extent to which it predicts job success.
A selection interview should be as structured as possible, yet tailored to each particular Candidate. As an interviewer, you should evaluate the same general criteria in each Candidate. A selection interview that follows a general standard outline will produce more reliable and valid information for selection than an unstructured interview and is less likely to run afoul of laws and regulations governing the selection process. Candidates should be evaluated against the job description or job specifications and not against each other.
When relocation is required, place careful consideration on long-term community fit for the candidate and their significant other(s).
Selection Interview Format Preparation (prior)
1. Review job description and specifications. You, and the hiring team, need to understand as much as possible about the requirements of the job to be filled, the specific demands of the job, remuneration package, the working conditions and possibly the stretch targets where the job may trend to in the future. Be aware of the methods, techniques, tools, equipment and work aids used to accomplish these tasks.
2. Know the metrics, efficiency targets, and production goals. Identify the specific knowledge, skills and abilities required to successfully perform each duty and responsibility. Based on current employees’ success, what qualifications were found to be essential to success on the job?
3. Write questions. Questions should be formulated to help reveal those areas of knowledge, skills and abilities required for a new employee to be successful on the job.
4. Review resume and / or application form, test scores, backgrounding and any correspondence that would be useful in understanding the Candidate’s background. This should be done ahead of time so this information will not have to be referred to constantly during the interview.
Selection Interview Format (during)
1. Establish rapport. In the job interview, the candidate’s apprehensiveness can impede the flow of useful information. The interview setting should be conducive to good communication. Ideally, a private office should
be used. You should be able to talk in a conversational tone of voice and give the Candidate your undivided attention. Both parties should feel comfortable and at ease as they face each other.
Your first role is that of host. Remember that it is important to create a favorable impression. Research has shown that rapport between the interviewer and the candidate contributes substantially to the effectiveness of the interview.
2. Explain purpose; set the agenda. This will help relax the Candidate by letting him or her know what is about to occur. Also, it puts you in control of the interview by providing a “road map” to follow. Advise how long the interview will take. They will also learn when they can contribute, paraphrase or summary pitch themselves.
3. Gather predictive information. Here is where the skills of listening, probing, reflecting, summarizing, and evaluating come into play. The keys to control of the interview are generous listening combined with good use of paraphrased questions; both are needed to encourage and guide the candidate’s responses to your questions.
A common error of ineffective interviewers is they concentrate exclusively on the queued questions they need to ask and the recording of the responses – not hearing what the candidate is really saying. Note-taking can be helpful, particularly if you have several interviews scheduled. It helps ensure accuracy and often reassures the candidate you are interested in him or her as an individual. However, be sure to explain ahead of time you will take notes, stating the reason why you will be doing that. These notes will help provide documentation indicating why one candidate was selected over another. Care should be taken to ensure that no questions are asked or that no notes are made pertaining to any potentially illegal selection criteria (e.g. age, religion, gender, race, family (married, kids), sexual orientation etc.).
You should avoid questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer. Instead, ask open-ended questions that encourage the candidate to express opinions, ideas, and information while allowing comfort and freedom to respond. For example, if you ask “Did you like that job?” you might receive yes or no as an answer. However, if you ask “What things do you like most about your job?” you may receive several responses that will contribute to your understanding of the candidate’s traits, styles, motivation, and interest.
Avoid the use of leading questions. This tempts the Candidate to slant answers to suit you. Your purpose in the interview is to obtain a clear and balanced picture of the Candidate’s qualifications for the job without indicating the responses you hope to hear.
The use of words or phrases such as “why,” how,” “what” and “describe” will yield more complete answers than leading questions such as “Do you like to work with people?” Don’t be overly apprehensive about uncomfortable silences. Sometimes candidates bridge the silence with additional information that may turn out to be quite significant to you.
It is important to not show your body language, (smiling or nodding, furrowing a brow or shaking your head) as this will lead the candidate and possibly derail their communication if they sense negativity. You should try to maintain eye contact while taking notes.
5. Describe the job and the organization. A detailed description of specific duties should probably be saved until this stage of the interview. By describing the job in detail before this stage, the interviewer may inadvertently be coaching the candidate on the expected answers.
An interview is a two-way process. There are things the candidate needs to know about the position and the organization. Provide sufficient facts, both favorable and unfavorable, about the position, your department, the environment, etc., in a straightforward manner so the candidate can make an intelligent decision on the acceptability of the position.
6. Answer questions and allow the candidate to add subsequent information. This stage is directed toward the candidate’s objectives; to gather information about the job, the culture and the employees. Today’s gainfully employed candidate is interviewing you at the same velocity you are interviewing them. The opportunity should be provided to allow the candidate to buy; not be sold.
7. Conclude the interview. Simply thanking the Candidate for his or her time and outlining what will happen next is an honest and comfortable way to end the interview. Give the candidate an approximate date by which you will be making your decision, and commit to it.
Most Selection Interviews focus on KSA’s (Knowledge, Experience, Abilities and Experience) or Type (Traits, Styles, Behaviours) fit. A productive and successful interview will gather both KSA Hire and Type Hire information.
It is a good idea to refrain from making a formal job offer until your emotions subside. Direct supervisor references, backgrounding checks, and candidate tests and assessment should be checked, qualified and quantified. Letters of Recommendation often lack candid and specific assessments of work performance and should not be weighed heavily. If the follow-up date is extended, let each candidate know of the delay and announce a new decision date.
Be sure to record all opinions, evaluations and additional information immediately following the interview.
Obstacles to Effective Interviewing
Unfortunately, it is easy for even an experienced interviewer to make a mistake. Some of the common mistakes that have been detected with poorly conducted interviews are, as follows:
• Failing to establish rapport with the Candidate. As a result, the interview never gets off the ground.
• Not knowing the job information required. Consequently, the interviewer does not know what to ask the Candidate.
• Concentrating exclusively on the Candidate as a person. A perceptive interviewer specifically attempts to compare a candidate’s demonstrated abilities, experience, and personality with the actual job requirements.
• Not remaining silent, or listening enough. The interviewer talks too much, failing to obtain meaningful information.
• Not allowing sufficient time to observe the candidate’s responses and behavior. The interview should not be too short and superficial. The longer the interview, the better the chances of gaining important information. Total time of the interview should be regulated to approximately one hour for mid level positions; more time is required to get a better feel for candidates in a senior role. Each interview question and response time requires 3 minutes.
• Incorrectly interpreting information obtained from the candidate and drawing the wrong conclusion about the candidate’s ability to perform.
• Being unaware of or not dealing directly with personal biases or stereotyping for or against certain types of Candidates. This includes how you feel about appearance, ethnic, cultural and educational background, etc. and being overly prejudiced by one characteristic, trait or background.
• Making a decision based only on intuition or “first impression” rather than careful insight and using analytical judgment. Consider who is most capable; not the most likable.
• Using stress techniques designed to trap or fluster the candidate.
• Conducting a poorly structured or unstructured interview.
• Looking for the “halo effect”. Determining if the candidate’s past life compares with the interviewer’s. This results in a substantial loss of time, because more effort is spent on comparing than on obtaining information relevant to the job.
• Failing to control the interview. When this happens, the interviewer must regain control skillfully, not abruptly.
• Weeding people out; not weed them in. KSA Hiring; versus Type Hiring.
• Making judgmental or leading statements. Most Candidates are good enough at “reading the interviewer’s mind” without being provided direct guidance.
• Unorganized. Not spending sufficient time to plan and organize the interview.
• Failing to select appropriate job-related questions to ask the Candidate. Questions should be ideally based on objective criteria related to the job analysis / job description.
• Discrimination. Asking questions that, if used in the employment decision, could be used as the basis for an employment discrimination complaint.
• Placing too much emphasis on unfavorable information provided by or about a Candidate. Often, a single negative bit of information will render anxiety and no amount of good information will recover the discussions.
Methods to Interview
Employers should not assume that just because a supervisor is a good conversationalist he / she will automatically be able to conduct an effective interview. Nothing could be further from the truth. Following the advice in this document will help to ensure more valid, productive selection interviews.
Face-to Face / Video Interviews are common to nearly all selection systems and are often the sole assessment technique used to make hiring decisions. However, when you are managing large numbers of Candidates, filling key leadership roles or radically re-engineering work opportunities, adding additional assessment techniques may provide a level of additional confidence in hiring that is worth the additional investment. Below are descriptions of two other
common assessment techniques, including their advantages and disadvantages:
Assessments or Tests – these are usually web-based (although they can be paper and pencil instruments) that are designed to measure some trait, style, knowledge, aptitude, or ability related to Skill Set or Cultural Fit. Tests are most commonly used as screening devices, providing a cost effective way to reduce the Candidate pool to a smaller number that can be interviewed. The most common kinds of tests include cognitive ability tests (measuring general intelligence), personality tests (measuring enduring traits and predispositions like sociability, emotionality, etc.), technical knowledge tests (measuring level of knowledge in such topics as hydraulics, computer software/hardware, electronics, etc.), basic aptitude tests (measuring things like reading, or math aptitudes), and general ability tests (measuring things like verbal reasoning, spatial relations, mechanical reasoning, etc.).
• Inexpensive and easy to administer (commercially available tests are readily available and per Candidate costs are very low typically, plus they can be administered online or in group settings).
• Consistency in treatment of Candidates (since they are objectively scored, every Candidate is evaluated in a common manner).
• Difficult and expensive to demonstrate job relatedness or validity (large samples, extensive data gathering, and statistical analyses are required) for untrained interpreters.
• Higher legal exposure, if the relationship to job performance is not apparent, the use of tests is more likely to be challenged by Candidates. Using the wrong assessment or test in the wrong situation. The results do not align with the stated requirements within Job Analysis, Descriptions, and Ads.
Simulations – These are basically work samples where a Candidate is placed into situations similar to those they would face in the work opportunity and are required to demonstrate their ability to handle the situation. Simulations are often used in selection systems for key leadership positions where the importance of performance in the role justifies the additional expense, or in re-engineering situations where ability to perform in unique work elements is more difficult to assess through interviews. Common types of simulations include:
• Interaction simulations (interpersonal situations where the Candidate has to interact with a trained role-player).
• In-baskets (where the Candidate must respond to a series of problems or situations, and record their decisions).
• Analysis exercises (where the Candidate must analyze considerable data and present their recommendations).
• Group discussions (where the Candidate must participate in a group problem-solving exercise).
• Presents a realistic preview of situations faced.
• Provides a “real life” opportunity to see the Candidate perform.
• Provides a richer data pool and enhances the quality of selection decisions.
• Difficult, and expensive to train and maintain administrators and assessors that can fairly administer simulations and evaluate the observed performance of Candidates.
• Time consuming for internal administrators and assessors.
Other Interviewing Tips:
Success boils down to uncovering more than one facet of a candidate to see if he or she matches the company goals and isn’t exaggerating his or her abilities. Ask all candidates the same set of pre-selected questions, and write down the answers, along with your impressions and a scored value with ranges from 1-5, this method works best when done by two or more individuals on a hiring committee. Each member explains reasoning for score or relates to KSA’s ad Type of person required and is averaged out for a total score per individual.
Human Resource experts use a multitude of interviewing styles, such as:
• Competency based (behavioral): The interview draws out previous life experiences as predictors of future performance abilities. Here you dig at an experience from practical to cerebral levels to ensure the candidate isn’t indulging in fictional storytelling.
• Situational: A version of the “what if?” game, this approach asks job seekers to conceptualize a problem and decide on a course of action on the spot.
• Life themes: Placing people in layers, this style defines the dominant themes in a person’s life and then matches those against model themes for high performers already in the position.
• Puzzlers: Asking relevant industry related knowledge questions. Responses to these questions indicate sector knowledge and a candidate’s mental agility.
Check references carefully. Don’t skip this step. Some companies you call may only be willing to confirm facts for fear of a defamation lawsuit. Others, however, may give you full insight into the candidate; including non-relevant information. Listen to the tone of how the referencer tells you about the candidate. Are they a friend or foe? Take every clue you’ve been handed and flush them out. At the very least, checking references will confirm the truthfulness of the candidates and their resumes. Be willing to spend significant time on each responsibility and accomplishment as listed on the resume to determine concurrence or disagreement of the interviewee.
Use all of your best tools to prevent a bad hire. Leverage all the incremental data gathered to qualify, quantify the previous information collected. Compile a package on each applicant for final review.
The American Psychological Association says that 67% of job seekers embellish their resumes. That places you in the position of creating a system to identify the truly excellent employees among those who are only pretending.