How to conduct an effective interview
Consider this: A new hire's average cost is about $4,000. That's a lot, right?
Now consider this again: If the employee turns out to be an A-player, in the bigger scheme of things, the hiring cost is almost negligible.
But what if this hire turns out to be a bad hiring decision? That would mean throwing $4,000 out of the window.
Unfortunately, that $4,000 is just the tip of an iceberg. A bad hire's actual cost doesn't stop there. It grows like a snowball for as long as the bad hire is on your team. Yes, I’m talking about the not-so-obvious costs of degraded employee morale, stress on the team, decrease in productivity and quality of work, wasted time and resources for onboarding and training, and the list goes on and on.
While there's no foolproof way to make sure you never get a bad hire, there are ways to drastically reduce its likelihood. One of the ways is making sure that you use the job interview process effectively to identify potential red flags before it’s too late.
In this article, we’ll be looking at:
- How to conduct an interview to attract the best talent and make them want to join your team
- Recommended Interviewing tips used by hiring pros
- Tricks and tips for interviewing to help you find the perfect candidates in every recruitment process
The Job Description
Before starting the interview process, you need to find the right people to invite to the interview. This all begins with the job description. In your job description, include the following details:
- Job Title
- Position Summary
- Job Duties
- Skills & Requirements
- Salary Range
- Job Benefits
- Company Information
Next, you need to identify avenues to get your job opening out to as many candidates as possible.
Where should you post your job?
Here are a few common ways organisations identify potential candidates:
1) Job portals
2) Internal referrals
3) Social media
Whichever channel you decide to use, make the application process as easy as possible for the candidates. Some helpful tips:
- Make your job easy to find. For exmaple, if you are putting it on a job portal, make sure you put it on a platform that your target audience visits and remember to tag the job under the correct category
- Make sure your application process is not unnecessarily long. Remove redundant steps in the application process. For example, I’ve seen companies requiring experienced or senior applicants to provide details on their high school education. Was that necessary?
According to LinkedIn, only 30 percent of the global workforce are active job seekers. The remaining 70 percent consists of passive talent who are not looking for a new job. We have shown this figure to be also true for IT professionals in Singapore. No doubt, the 30% includes talent who are looking for change; however, it also includes people who have been fired, laid off or those who are unable to keep up with their current work. In other words...
Most of the top performers you're looking for are currently employed by organisations that want to keep them on their teams. Therefore, your job is to persuade them to join you.
If finding the right talent for your position is an area you can use some help with, contact us here to find out how our search services might just be what you need.
How many candidates are you going to call for an interview?
There is no fixed rule here since it depends on the quality and suitability of candidates you are attracting into your talent pipeline. Note that you do need the candidate to fulfil a critical business need. Given that you have limited time, you should only interview those who show potential.
To make process more efficient, you can begin the interview process with a phone interview. But before you reach out for the phone and invite them over, there are a few things you need to sort out first.
Very often, candidates will be curious what the whole interview process will look like and you need to be prepared to answer this question.
Before calling, ensure that you have thought these steps through:
- When is the interview going to take place?
- Who will be the interviewer(s)?
- Where will the interview be held?
- How many rounds of interview are there?
Planning the interview logistics beforehand ensures that you provide a better candidate experience. It ensures that no misunderstanding arises between the organisation and candidate, and that there are no unpleasant surprises. This will make the candidate comfortable and it will pay off in the long run, whether you hire the candidate or not.
Remember this: organisations whose primary focus is on candidate experience see hiring quality improve by 70 percent. Yet only around 40 percent of hiring specialists pay critical attention to candidate experience.
Here’s an email invitation template to a phone interview:
Subject: [Name] tell us more about yourself! Invitation to telephone interview: [Name of position] at [Name of company]
We’ve reviewed your curriculum vitae and found you suitable for the position of [Name of position]. We’d like to find out more about you over a phone chat. Would you be able to speak with us at 00.00 pm / am on dd-mm-yyyy?
During the phone interview, [Interviewer's Full Name], [Interviewer's Position] will contact you. The phone interview session should take about XX minutes.
[Your contact details]
The template above can be adjusted for an in-person interview.
Subject: We would love to meet you, [Name]! Interview Invitation:[Position Name] at [Company Name]
Hello [Name], We are pleased to invite you to an interview at 00.00 am / pm on dd-mm-yyyyy.
The interview will be held at [Company’s name] at [Company Address] [Do include more detailed instructions and/or maps]. The interview will be conducted by [All the names and roles of the interviewers — ideally include their LinkedIn handles].
The meeting is likely to take around XX hours/minutes. Please go through the attached short description of our company and company values in preparation for our meeting.
If anything changes and you can't attend the interview, please let us know.
See you soon!
[Your contact details]
What's the best time for a job interview?
According to Glassdoor, the ideal interview times for interviewees are 10:30am to 3.00pm, from Tuesday to Thursday. If the interview happens too early in the day, the interviewers and interviewee might not be warmed up yet. If the interview happens too late in the afternoon, both interviewers and interviewee may be tired even before the interview starts. Remember, it is in your interest to provide the right conditions for the interview to take place smoothly for all the participants.
In a structured job interview, questions are asked in a pre-determined and standardised order. All candidates are asked the same set of questions in a structured interview and there are clear criteria for evaluating the quality of their answers. The interviewer is not supposed to deviate from the interview schedule or probe beyond the answers that the interviewee provides.
Does this sound robotic and unsophisticated? Well, research has consistently shown that structured interview works more effectively than unstructured interviews. Unstructured interviews make the interview process very subjective and this in turn lowers the accuracy of the interview process and may even invite legal challenges.
More than 80 years of research findings have shown that unstructured job interviews can only predict 14 percent of employee performance, according to researchers Frank Schmidt and John Hunter. Structured interviews guarantee nearly 26 percent, almost twice as much.
A job interview, of course, is not a sterile laboratory environment. You can adjust some questions depending on the candidate's experience and background. However, to obtain the most accurate results, it's best to stick to a uniform set of questions. This way, you can more objectively compare and evaluate the interviewees’ answers and avoid unconscious bias.
In this next session, we will cover the most common types of job interview questions to help you come up with your very own interview mix.
Traditional interview questions
These are all-time classics like:
- Do you prefer working alone or in a group?
- What are your strengths or weaknesses?
- Which one of your previous positions did you enjoyed most/least?
Traditional questions are usually a good warm-up for the candidates. Most job seekers know these questions so they won’t be caught by a surprise and can answer them comfortably. This is especially so for candidates who might feel nervous because he or she hasn’t attended interview for a while. Traditional questions are able to ease them faster into the interview. On the other hand, most candidates would have prepared their responses before the interview, so bear in mind that these questions may offer little insight into the performance of your future employees.
Situational interview questions
These are questions that examine how a candidate may perform or behave in a specific situation. Examples are:
- What would you do if you were instructed to do something unethical or illegal by someone higher than you in the organisation?
- How would you handle a situation where you had conflicting decision-making information?
The main problem with such questions is that they are only predictive and not indicative – candidates say what they think they would do in a given situation, or what they think the interviewer might want them to do in the situation.
Such questions were popularised by tech giants such as Microsoft or Google in the early 2000s. They are meant to help interviewers evaluate the thought process and analytical skills of the candidate. That is why brainteaser questions are particularly popular at interviews with fresh graduates applying for highly technical positions. They may even be fun for the interviewers. However, such questions have notoriously caused candidates a lot of stress during the process.
Some examples include:
- What is the weight of all the ice in a hockey rink?
- How many golf balls would fit inside a 747?
- Estimate the number of gas stations in Manhattan.
Think of your ultimate goal of finding someone to solve your business issues and meet specific needs. While brainteaser questions speak volumes about the ingenuity of candidates, being good at brain games is hardly the day job of your future employee.
Competency-based behavioural questions
Competency-based Behavioural Interviewing (CBBI) is a structured interview process based on the assumption that past performance is the best predictor of future performance, and the more recent the performance, the more likely it will be repeated.
Examples of such questions are:
- How do you work under pressure?
- Tell me about a time when you faced stressors at work that tested your coping skills?
- Tell me about a recent stressful situation that you had to manage.
- What kind of people do you like to work for?
- Describe how you handled a particular problem involving others with different values or beliefs.
Cognitive Assessments and Practical Tasks
To further boost your chances of identifying the right candidate to join your team, include cognitive evaluations along with the structured interviews. The combination of these two interviewing techniques have been shown to significantly increase the accuracy of predictions on job performance.
Cognitive assessments may include general competency tests, problem-solving tasks, reasoning quizzes, or practical tasks that actually reflect those that the job requires. At Evolution, we partner with IKM, an industry leader for technical assessments. Our candidates go through IKM pre-hire testing and the IKM test has been shown to be a good gauge of the candidate’s technical skills and knowledge.
It’s not hard for you to find platforms offering cognitive evaluation and testing, but do note that the practical assignment should be related to what the new hire will be doing at your organisation on a daily basis.
Show the candidate what it's Really Like to Work at Your Company
Here's a disturbing statistic—61 percent of employees say their new job's realities are different from the expectations set during an interview process.
This can no doubt result in lower retention rates for your employees, which in turn lead to more costs and forces you to spend extra time trying to fill the same post.
As a human resource professional or hiring manager, you have to do your best to prepare new hires for work at your company. One of the ways to achieve this is to ensure the practical assignment that you administer during the interview process mirrors the future responsibilities of the candidate. But this is not enough.
All in all, you want the new hire to get up and running as quickly as possible. You and the candidate are working together to decide whether this opportunity fits both parties. A job interview should not be a questioning session but a two-way conversation.
Just think about what serious consequences a bad candidate experience can potentially have on your company, particularly in this day of social media. One simple way is to ensure your candidate’s thoughts are valued too, by asking one final question before the interview comes to a closure: "Do you have any questions for me? ”
If the candidate is interested in the position, he or she will certainly have questions about the position, company or even you, the interviewer. The questions they asked may in turn reveal more about themselves, how well they understand the position and your organisation.
Be honest throughout the whole interview process. You want to set the right expectations right from the start as this will have an impact on your employee retention rates.
End the interview right
Now that the interview has come to an end, you can share with them the next steps of the recruitment process.
Let them know when a reply from you can be expected and whether there will be further rounds of interview.
Asking the bystanders
Double-check with bystanders once the interview is finished. Not only should you consult with other interviewers about the candidate, you should also ask others in the company who might have encountered the potential hire.
- Were they nice to the receptionist?
- How have the cleaning staff been treated?
Do your best to find out how the candidate have been acting outside the spotlight of the interview.
Although you're hiring for performance, it’s undeniable that personality is crucial, especially since you and your colleagues will be seeing the hire 8 hours a day, for years to come.
If you are going the make an offer, be enthusiastic! Forget about “I-better-not-sound-too-keen-in-case-they-ask for-higher-salary”. Remember to create a positive candidate experience throughout the process. Top candidates are usually not short of opportunities, so make sure your job offer is prompt and sincere.
If you decide not to proceed with the rest of the interview process with the candidate, provide him or her with the reasons. A LinkedIn survey revealed that 94 percent of talent wants post-interview feedback, but only 41 percent have received them. Providing constructive feedback still makes the candidate experience a positive one even if the candidate wasn’t selected.
Furthermore, when you offer constructive feedback to the candidate, they are more likely to consider your company for a future opportunity. What if the rookie you chose not to hire turns out to be an industry superstar 5 years later? If you give them genuine interview feedback that contributes to their professional success, they're going to remember it.
In summary, here’s how to conduct a job interview:
- Write a detailed job description that explains all requirements and responsibilities clearly.
- Schedule interviews between 10:30 am and 3 pm, Tuesday and Thursday as much as possible.
- Before the interview, explain the interview process thoroughly.
- Plan the interview questions beforehand. Make sure you're asking relevant questions and varying the types of questions.
- Make the interview conversational. Be helpful and friendly.
- Ask the candidate if he or she has questions. Be honest with your answers.
- Provide constructive post-interview feedback.
Do you have questions about conducting interviews? Need further support with your recruitment process? Contact us to find out how we can help.
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