Are You Still Interviewing Candidates Like It’s 1975?

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Dec 4, 2019

I ask the question in the title of this post because in speaking with CEOs, management teams, and HR professionals around the country, I consistently hear that organizations are still hosting conventional sit-across-the-table-and-ask-outdated-questions interviews reminiscent of an old-school industrial environment.

But that is not today’s environment — and interviews, like everything else in the workplace, need continual updating to be relevant and effective. 

Many recruiters are still asking antiquated interview questions, the answers to which can be easily rehearsed before an interview, therefore providing meaningless information. Some of these types of questions include:

  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
  • Do you think you can handle the responsibilities of the job?
  • What kind of animal, mode of transportation, plant, sport, cartoon personality, celebrity personality would you say you are most like?
  • What would your best friend (or worst enemy) say about you? 

None of these questions allow for top-of-mind candidate thinking, making them ineffective in the interview process.

In our current low-unemployment economy, talent retention is critical, which means that you need to exert more effort, attention, and intention on improving your hiring and interviewing processes. To do so, you’ll want an approach that combines a behavioral-based Q&A interview with activities to demonstrate behavior and skill proficiency. 

That starts with building an accurate job profile, but again, if you’re like many organizations, you are still using outdated job descriptions or, less effectively, another company’s job summaries that you discovered on Google. 

The result? Candidates who barely meet minimum requirements.

To interview more wisely, you’ve got to understand the job fully, create a clear definition of it, and identify the tasks, performance expectations, and attributes (behaviors, skills, experience, and education) to do it well. If that seems fairly obvious, it is. But it’s what happens next that often trips up companies.

Too often, recruiters and hiring managers fail to prepare the right combination of questions and activities to accurately assess candidates in areas that will drive success in a role. The best way to do this is by using two types of interview segments.

  1. Activity Segments

In activity segments, you gauge a candidate’s proficiency at handling an actual task or responsibility of the role. By doing so, you are able to evaluate how a candidate will perform on the job before, you know, actually being on the job.

For example, suppose you are recruiting for an operations administrator. An activity segment could include asking the candidate to create a worksheet that demonstrates Excel (or other software) proficiency. Another could be a visit to a job site to ask the candidate to identify what currently works and doesn’t work in the way the site is managed. Regardless of the activity, your aim is to observe the person’s performance in real-life situations.

  1. Q&A segments

Though activity segments shine a light on a candidate’s true abilities, they will not create the important personal bonds needed to determine cultural fit and help someone feel relaxed and open enough to share other important information. It’s therefore vital to use behavioral-based questions for you and the candidate to connect and share meaningful experiences and perspectives that wouldn’t be evident otherwise.

You’ll want to focus on behavior-specific questions that force a candidate to think deeply so you can peer into the person’s top-of-mind thought process. You can do this by asking both general and specific questions: 

General Behavioral-Based Questions

  • Where is your greatest opportunity to shine? 
  • What do others applaud you for?
  • Define the perfect role for you. What needs to be in the role to make it perfect?
  • What are two things that motivate you? 
  • What did your previous manager do to help inspire and activate your performance?

Specific Behavioral-Based Questions

  • (Results-driven) If you started working for us, what is the first thing you would do to have an impact on our bottom line? Why would you choose to focus on this?
  • (Diplomatic/Supportive) Think about a previous customer or employee. What was the best way you connected with this person? How did you determine this? How did you build and sustain a relationship with this individual?

So ditch the interview techniques of yesteryear in favor of a more modern approach to recruiting the right talent. After all, workplaces have changed. Isn’t it time to likewise rethink and rebuild your interview processes?

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