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by Ronald Weiss | March 10, 2009


Candidates have varying degrees of experience and talent in the area of interviewing. Some have high track records of success in getting offers because of their natural or learned ability to handle an interview. By comparison, other candidates may require several interviews before coming up to speed, or a lengthy search until securing an offer. In a similar manner, the ability to conduct an interview is both a skill and an art. Some hiring managers will always succeed by quickly and smoothly bringing a new employee on board. For others, conducting an interview is a trying process that is never entirely satisfying. In reality, making a successful hire is more than just getting the right person to the right company.

For the interviewer, the basics are simple and should never be ignored; review the resume. Then, go beyond what's written and ask questions that will reveal more depth in areas such as skills, experience, interests, motivation, etc. The purpose is two fold: information gathering, but also formulating a picture. This general impression is helpful in remembering and placing the individual in comparison with the general pool of candidates while the information base provides a platform from which to pursue further lines of questioning.

For candidates, interviewing is a task that is performed every several years. They are asked questions and subjected to a type of scrutiny and pressure that is unique to the process. Interviewing can be a harsh test of ability and personality, and there is no easily available method of preparation. When entering the job market, most candidates will be ill equipped to handle the more intense portions of an interview.

For hiring managers, interviewing is a requirement and a routine part of their job. Some companies offer in-house classes on conducting an interview. Since hiring may occur several times a year, managers may never be out of touch or out of shape. They will always have the advantage in both controlling the interview and having a practiced skill set.~But there lies a moment for caution. Despite having an edge over candidates, hiring managers may not have enough of the skills and enthusiasm to conduct an interview in full detail. The art of an interpersonal investigation lies in the ability to conduct a mannered confrontation. A hiring manager knows what skills or knowledge base is needed in an individual but uncovering these facets requires patience, assertiveness and rising above one's own subjective viewpoint.

When a candidate interviews at different companies, feedback is usually varied but consistent within certain limits. Occasionally, feedback on a candidate comes through at complete opposites. Companies are distinct with characteristic environments, cultures and needs, but their assessments of the same candidate shouldn't have extreme differences.

The interviewer's responsibility is to discover the true personality and skill set. It is to his or her benefit not to miss the better candidate in favor of one who simply possesses superior presentation skills. Most hiring managers are aware of that danger. A more common error however, is when a hiring manager turns away from the better candidate because of a miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Here are some suggestions for hiring managers to help bridge the gaps in an interview. Using these methods won't turn a bad interview into a good one. However they might be useful in discovering some positive qualities in a candidate that would have gone unnoticed.~Explain Your Needs

Start an interview with information on the environment, requirements and the process. This helps candidates relax and focus on how their background can meet your needs.

Never Guess

When questioning a candidate on skills, experience and interests don't stop short. A few poorly formulated or negative answers shouldn't discourage an interviewer from thoroughly pursuing a topic. Tapping into a person's real talents and personality can take time.

Grilling With Compassion

The hardest part of an interview for a candidate is the extensive probe on skills and technical knowledge. Candidates newer to the work place might perform better on textbook type questions because they are still in a learning phase. Seasoned professionals have experience and understanding on their side, and may rely upon reference materials for detailed product knowledge. Everyone works within certain limits so their knowledge base will reflect that. Adjust questions accordingly.

Stick To The Mainstream

There is a wide range of interview techniques that can be found through word of mouth, or from publications, or from one's own inventiveness. Don't be tempted towards something unusual. Too often, an interviewer tries to be overly clever and the result can confuse or fail even the smartest candidate. If needed, there are professionally written, mainstream books that can provide general and technically specific questions and methods to help expand a repertoire.~Don't Be Shy

If a candidate's answers don't match the resume and supposed skill set then ask the person "why?" The obvious explanation is a lack of ability. But, many people simply are good workers while, unfortunately, are terrible at interviews. Some tactful probing might separate the two types.

Failure To Communicate

While an interviewer knows what's on his or her mind, communicating that clearly isn't as easy. In a similar fashion, candidates can't always express themselves well enough or according to your needs. Restating a question or actually explaining your doubts to the candidate can lead to clarifying an issue, sometimes with positive results.

Constant interviewing seems like a thankless and unrewarding task. Because of the pressures within a corporation no one wants to take a risk on a candidate. This reluctance can influence a hiring manager into retreating on an interview instead of pressing forward. Stepping back results in a more distant and less certain perspective. Trying harder can mean uncovering the unexpected, and finding the better candidate.


Filed Under: Workplace Issues