Interviewing for new employees is a multifaceted skill. The interviewer is under as much of not more pressure than the interviewee, as there is a limited time and various aspects to making it a successful use of time. The age old structured interview as it’s advantages, of course, though finding the gems amongst the stones, those talented, motivated and loyal employees which will serve your business, these are sometimes found in a slightly less conventional way.
#1 Cherry pick from the structured interview
It’s always better to see interview question structure as the reliable backup – the bones if you will. Knowing what it is you are looking for, and being able to take bits out of the trusted structure to work in your favour – that is a skill all on it’s own. Some employers believe, for example, that asking a person’s weaknesses is detrimental to the purpose of the interview. The majority of people have a standard set response to match the standard, set question, and being aware of this saves both time and effort on both sides. Cherry pick the questions you think will help you understand the interviewees compatibility with the role, and use your initiative to leave out those you think won’t. By the book only works to a point – if you want exceptional, be an exceptional interviewer.
#2 Surprise them
Related to the above. There was a time when asking someone to outline their weaknesses took them by surprise, but most people are wise to this now. Surprise them in a less confrontational manner, and gauge your reactions carefully. For example, perhaps you are interviewing for a call centre agent. Why not ask them what their most important desk item would be? Or what they think about hold music? Perhaps see how they feel about noise cancelling headsets in a busy working environment. They’ll undoubtedly have to think on their feet and be creative, if they drive their answer back to the job in a positive way, perhaps they are the sort of person who can answer tough questions from clients or keep them happy in unexpected situations.
#3 Gauge candidate’s self awareness
Questions come in many forms, and the more open the better for painting a picture of a potential employee’s self awareness. Sentences which begin with “walk me through” or “tell me a little about” are inviting them into a monologue about themselves. This is your time to listen intently to see how they see themselves, and this also helps drive you towards your next questions.
#4 Know capability from likability
This is quite a big one. As human beings, we are all tempted on occasion to opt for the person we instinctively like for whatever reason. Perhaps they remind you of someone you know, or they have a good sense of humour which makes you feel positively around them. As good a quality as this is, it has absolutely nothing to do with how good a writer/programmer/linguist they are. Someone with all the capabilities who you perhaps warm to a bit less may have 100% more to offer the company.
“Always remember you are interviewing a candidate to see how capable they are within the role you’re interviewing for – not to see how good they are at doing interviews. A favourite test of mine is using something like the fizzbuzz interview question. This type of test assumes they have the capability to achieve a task, but gives you a chance to find out how they approach the task and how efficient they were in doing so” Steve,- PMC Telecom
#5 Focus on soft skills
Social intelligence, thought processes, ability to be creative in the face of tough questions, these are the things that will be a window on the type of long-term employee you are interviewing. Interviews are nerve-wracking things, so give a little leeway for this, but generally, watch how they engage with the receptionist, with anyone you introduce them to, and try to paint a picture of their personality to match with the job description at hand.
#6 Ask about values
One of the best insights into a personality type is gauged from asking about their values. Give them hypothetical situations. What matters to them? What have they achieved that really matters to them? Which job do they hold close to their hearts and why? Moving away from discussing their skills and attributes which, in fairness is something they’ll have practised, and moving into human responses and value-related topics, will paint a much better picture of the type of person you have sat before you.