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Interviewing techniques

As an interviewer or assessor your responsibility is to be prepared. Being prepared does not only mean that you must have a candidate CV and a booked interview room. You need to be organized on so many levels in order to ensure that you are prepared for just about any curve ball that may be thrown at you. The role of an assessor / interviewer is a serious one, it can give the person in control of the interview a false sense of power. This role must be managed sensitively and professionally. The following tips will help you prepare to manage and conduct the interview in such a way that you will create the environment where you can elicit as much valued information about the candidate as possible in relation to their ability to perform the functional role that they are being interviewed for.

  • Know the job you are interviewing . This is best done by having a comprehensive competency framework with assessment criteria for the most relevant competencies / skills. However this is not always possible, so ensure that you have a comprehensive job profile as well as a deep understanding of what is required to perform the functional role well. Understand not only the functional elements of the position (this can be done through research and interviews with the line management team) but also develop a view of the level of work and the ideal behavioral style that would best suit the position.
  • Prepare an interview process . This is key to driving objectivity and consistency throughout the interviewing process. Especially when candidates are being interviewed on different days. Decide on the type of interview techniques would best suit assessing the skill of the candidate. There are many ways in which you can conduct assessments, there are action based interviews (exploring past experience or in other words confirming the candidate application of their technical expertise); technical assessments (establishing competencies in specific subject matter); and behavioral profiling (such as psychometric testing etc). Depending on the level of position will depend on the type of assessment tools you would require. What is essential is that you prepare a set of assessment questionnaires or tools that are consistently applied across all candidates. It is idea to have a measurement mechanism in order to drive objectivity.
  • Preparing for the actual interview . Ensuring that you are ready for an interview requires one thing, preparation. It isn’t enough to have gone over the CV and jot down a few basic questions. You have an hour or two to assess candidates fit to the position you need to fill, and finding the right person is a difficult and often impossible job. So it is critical that you ensure you have prepared well. The first and most important step in any interview is to know what you are looking for, so research and preparation in this area is key. The second most important step is to be fluent enough about the functional role you are hiring so that you can maintain control of the interview itself. Thirdly you need to analyze the candidates CV – highlight any discrepancies; areas of concern or other obvious anomalies that require thorough investigation. Evaluate the candidate’s experiences; the companies they have worked for; their average tenure. These are all important factors to explore in order to assess the candidates fit both from a functional perspective as well as a culture a value. Lastly put together your interview pack (CV; References; Interview Guides; Copies of Qualifications; Payslips; ID; Drivers licence etc) so that everything is at your finger tips when you go into the interview.
  • Conducting the actual interview . Having a panel of interviewers for an important position enables an objective process. Having one person in command of the interview is essential to retain control of the interview itself. If you have the luxury of a panel of interviewers, then establish who the lead interviewer should be and allow them to drive the core interview. Follow up questions to verify responses must be encouraged and the panel should be free to interject with question when the need arises. However, it should be clear to the interviewee that there is a lead person on the panel. This can be done by having the lead interviewer introduce the panel; explain the interview process and the role of the panel members. (If there is no panel of interviewers then you as the interviewer should introduce the role; describe the interview process and your assigned role within the process), Encourage the candidate to ask questions, but manage the process in such a way that the candidate does not hijack your interview. The only way you can do this is if you have prepared for the interview. Always ensure that you cover all the aspects of questioning that you prepared. Make sure that you allow for misunderstanding of the questions and re-present a question in a different context if the candidate does not understand your line of questioning. Good interviewing skills are hard to find. Whilst having an opinion and the ability to “judge” a candidates response is critical; knowing how not to be discriminatory is vital. Your personal likes and dislikes as an interviewer are irrelevant. The focus is on whether the person can or cannot perform the functional role and if they will fit within the team dynamics. Your job is to assess the best candidate for the functional role and not the best candidate to be your buddy. This seems obvious, but when you are interviewing people, generally the one we get the best “gut” feel over is often the one that we like the most. And it has very little to do with the actual position. Make very sure you do not fall into this trap. It is important to gain insights to some of the interviewing techniques available as interviewing is not a skill that comes naturally to most people. It is a skill that can be nurtured and trained over a period of time and with the right focus and preparation.
  • Interview Administration . It is important to remember that with all important jobs there generally is a paper trail that follows close behind. Interviewing candidates can be a risky business. A proper interview process will use tools such as excel to track the short listing process; and recordings or interview notes taken of the actual candidates’ responses in the interview process itself. This allows for documentation should there be a query of sorts regarding the interview outcome and will support and defend decisions that have been made that have had a negative result for a person who wishes to challenge the process. All documentation should be filed in a proper filing system to traceability.

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