Interview techniques – weird does not mean wonderful

Business 18th February 2020

Let’s begin with a statement of the clearly obvious –

Hiring the right candidate for a role in your business will make a massive difference to the business’s success.

We can pretty much agree on that. Yet it’s astonishing how many employers take so little care in their approach to the interviewing process.

Along with rent, employment is usually in the top two of any company’s biggest overheads. Given this fact, wouldn’t you expect any employer to ensure that they have a rigorous screening process in place? After all, getting your recruitment wrong means a costly re-run, not to mention a hit to staff morale, as they have to pick up the pieces of the ‘failed’ employee.

All this sounds like common sense. And yet … well … read on.

Interviewing horror stories

So many companies seem oblivious to the need for training their interviewers. They leave them to work out for themselves how to find the candidate with the best skills for the role. The consequence of this lack of professionalism? Some pretty remarkable interview horror stories.

1. The ‘informal chat’

Some hiring managers go for the super-relaxed approach. ‘Let’s enjoy an informal chat with the candidate. That way, we’ll find out all we need to know.’ A social get-together, a pleasant ‘get-to-know-you’ session may be great for establishing rapport. It might be nice for both parties to discover that they support the same football team and drive the same cars. But, are these really as important as structured probing into the candidate’s skills and experience and ability to fulfil the role. What matters most? Finding the candidate with whom you ‘click’ or appointing the person who’s most likely to do a great job for your company?

2. The wacky question 

Believe it or not – there are still interviewers out there who are intent on asking weird questions such as, ‘If I look through your fridge, what will I find?’ Or, ‘if you were an animal, what kind would you be?’ What these questions are intended to achieve is anyone’s guess. Are they part of an ego trip for the interviewer? Maybe they belong to an era of fifteen or twenty years ago. Certainly, they wouldn’t be out of place in the TV comedy, The Office. There was even a case where an interviewer asked to look in the candidate’s handbag – declaring that this would show him how organised she was.

Rather than helping to decide whether the candidate is the right one for the job, this line of questioning is far more likely to make the candidate feel uneasy, worried that there’s some left-field answer that they’re expected to give.

3. When role-play goes wrong

Some interviewers believe that role-playing exercises will help to identify the perfect candidate. Maybe so, but it’s important to get the execution right. We heard once of a candidate who was attending an interview for a job in education. The interview took place at lunchtime in a busy sandwich shop. During the course of the meeting, the interviewers pretended to be over-excited children who she was expected to manage. The interviewers even started running around the sandwich shop, lobbing bread rolls at each other – all this while innocent bystanders were trying to enjoy their lunch.

Interviewing – a two-way street

It’s important to remember – a job interview is for two parties. Yes – as an employer, you need to find someone who will be a good fit for your company. But, just as importantly, your interviewee will be assessing whether your company will be a good fit for them!

Inappropriate or weirdly self-indulgent interview techniques are unlikely to impress the candidate. In no time, word will get round about your approach and will do your brand reputation few favours.

It’s time to get serious

Companies need to get serious about hiring efficiently and effectively – in a way that benefits both parties. This means training interviewers on how to identify the skills and experience that are required to excel in a role. In other words, every interview must be based on rigorous research.

From the candidate’s point of view, it’s easy to feel you’re at the mercy of terrible interviewers. To a degree, that’s true. But, as a candidate, you can push back when an interview appears to be going excessively off-piste. If your interviewer asks you a daft question, such as ‘what breakfast cereal you most identify with?’ a fair response might be, ‘that’s an interesting question. Why do you ask?

If your interviewer persists in avoiding discussing the job or your possible fit for it, try guiding them with, ‘Would it be all right for me to talk you through my professional background?’ Also, you could ask them directly about the role and what they’re looking for in their new employee.

Here to help

In the end, it isn’t up to the candidate to sort out the issue. It’s the employer who needs to be sure that they’ve prepared thoroughly and efficiently. This expertise doesn’t come naturally. It requires training.

We’re HR specialists. We understand the dynamics of the job interview – what works and what doesn’t. We’re perfectly equipped to help you with every aspect of your interviewing processes. Would you like to know more? We’d love to hear from you.

For straight-talking advice on all HR issues, call us – 01604 763494

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