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Five Habits of Highly Effective Interviewers


1/18/2011 5:03:21 AM

In most of the job search literature, the bulk of the burden of expectations usually falls squarely on the shoulders of the candidate. Among hiring managers and HR personnel, it is often assumed that the applicant is responsible for the success or failure of the meeting, and that this performance can be used as the primary basis for evaluating their fitness for the position.

Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to expect a jobseeker to be at his or her best during an interview. But what may not be as fair is the assumption that the hiring manager directing the process has little or no impact on a candidate’s interview performance.

It’s Up to You to Make the Most of the Interview.

In fact, contrary to popular belief, a growing number of experts now say that unprepared or inexperienced interviewers can bring out the worst in a candidate, creating an environment in which an accurate assessment of the applicant’s qualifications can be difficult, if not impossible, to attain.

It’s up to hiring managers to ensure that they have skills and training necessary to learn all they need to know about each applicant and make the best decision. How do your interview skills stack up? Use this list of best practices to help fine-tune your technique.

Set aside some pre-meeting prep time.

You expect candidates to do their homework on the company before the interview, so try to carve out a few minutes before the meeting to look over résumés, application materials, and other documentation. Develop a general sense of their strengths and weaknesses, background, and experience. Make a few notes about the kind of questions you’ll ask. Laying the groundwork beforehand will give you more latitude to interact with the applicant during the meeting itself.

Put the candidate at ease.

For a few years, “stressful” interview environments were all the rage, but most HR experts now assert that cultivating a positive, supportive atmosphere is more likely to elicit the best from your candidates. Greet the applicant warmly in the lobby or another neutral zone, and then lead them into the interview space. Establish rapport with a few minutes of friendly, sincere small talk before plunging into the interview itself.

Ask good questions – and be a good listener.

Avoid boilerplate interview fodder such as, “Tell me about yourself.” Instead, try to stick to questions that relate directly to each applicant’s experience and background. Don’t be afraid of pauses and silence – give candidates all the space they need to answer thoroughly. Use the techniques of active listening, such as rephrasing and follow-up questions, to delve deeper into candidates’ initial answers.

Keep the meeting on track.

Effective interviewers play the role of traffic police during interviews, making sure that the pace of questions and answers keeps moving forward smoothly. If the candidate repeatedly veers off-track, offering personal anecdotes and irrelevant asides, gently steer them back to the topic at hand. Maintain a steady momentum throughout the meeting.

When the time is right, bring things to a gracious and positive conclusion.

Regardless of how well – or how poorly – the candidate has performed in the interview, make an effort to be friendly, upbeat, and neutral. Think of yourself as an ambassador for your company and conclude the meeting accordingly. Try to resist the urge to comment on the candidate’s performance or extend a job offer right away; it’s more prudent to give yourself time to analyze all of the applicants before you make a final decision. Be sure to thank the candidate for their time, and outline instructions for the next step in the hiring process before they leave.

An effective interview is a collaboration between the hiring manager and the applicant. Armed with these tips, you’ll be well-equipped to hold up your end of the bargain!

Check out the latest Inside Recruiter eNewsletter - January 19, 2011.

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