While the interview will always be the heart and soul of the hiring process, if you're not doing the preinterview, screening work (completed applications and testing for the needed capacities, attitudes, personality or skills), you're not using all the resources available to you.
Why jump into interviewing when you don't know if the applicant even meets your basic requirements? If you need honesty, dependability and cashiering skills, test for these attitudes and skills first. Then you'll know you're spending your time talking to pre-qualified people. Whatever traits and abilities you need, there are validated, reputable evaluations on the market that will save you time and money.
Once you have screened-in the bestapplicants, it's time to schedule interviews. Are you prepared? The applicantis. There's plenty of help out there for jobseekers—books, audio and video tapes and even government agencies. Most applicants know what you want to hear and have rehearsed at length.
In order to get the truthful information you need to make the best hiring decisions, plan for the interview. Planning ensures you stay in control and the conversation stays on track. Planning makes the interview 50 times more productive than if you just wing it.
Start by asking yourself: "Will the applicant be interviewed once or several times? Will there be more than one interviewer? What will be asked and covered in each interview?"
Review the required capacities (mental and physical), attitudes (honesty, reliability, etc.), personality traits (outgoing and attention to detail) and skills (language, reading and driving) to determine what you need to know and why. Write out the questions you'll ask to get this information and arrange them in a logical order. Now you have a structured interview, an invaluable tool in your hiring arsenal and the result will be:
- You will be more confident and focused;
- The candidate will be more relaxed and forthcoming because the interview flows smoothly and makes sense;
- You won't forget to ask any important questions; and
- The information you get from all applicants will be consistent so you can compare candidates accurately and fairly.
Now decide where the interview will be held and the seating arrangement.
Comfortable people will tell us almostanything. Uncomfortable people will tellus almost nothing at all. This is why positioning is so important. You need to createan environment that helps the candidaterelax.
While some schools of thought favorstress interviewing, I don't recommend it.The master of stress interviewing, AdmiralWilliam Rickover, used to show people tothe closet door on their way out just to seehow the person would handle the surprise.Other interviewers have been known toseat applicants on very low chairs or withthe sun directly in their eyes, but, unlessyou're hiring the captain of a nuclear submarine, I don't recommend it. Stress bringsout the worst in people; most get defensiveand close down.
You relax the applicant mentally whenyou are prepared and on time.
Greet the applicant warmly and restateyour name and title. Demonstrate that youtake hiring seriously by asking, in front ofthe applicant, that you not be disturbedduring the interview, no calls or interruptions. Spend the first few minutes in smalltalk. Non-threatening, give-and-take conversation (traffic, weather, brief companyhistory, an overview of your job) improvesthe quality of the entire interview.
Avoid interviewing across a desk. It creates a formal barrier between the two ofyou and keeps you from seeing 50% of theapplicant's body language. Ideally, you andthe applicant should sit side-by-side or infull view of each other. Before the interview,try out the seat you'll offer to make sure it'scomfortable.
The third part of positioning is to explainhow the interview is structured and whatthe applicant can expect. This establishesand maintains control. Once applicants arerelaxed, tell them: "First I'd like to gathermore information about you by askingsome questions. After that, I'll answer anyquestions you might have." (Once you get started, should the applicant interrupt theprocess with a question, say, "As I mentioned earlier, you'll have a chance to haveall your questions answered soon. Feel freeto write this one down so you don't forgetit.)
The most important thing to cover upfront is your expectation regarding honesty. People have a propensity to meet ourexpectations. Let them know you expectthe truth. When you do this, it completelychanges the applicant's mindset. Now,instead of telling you what they think youwant to hear, they will tell what you've saidyou want to hear—the truth. (This preamble also helps you feel more comfortablewhen asking "uncomfortable" questionsabout drug use and criminal records.)
In my speeches, I demonstrate thepower of this statement by asking someonefrom the audience to join me up front. ThenI position him or her to tell me the truth.The admissions are frequently astounding.One young man confessed to post-hire recreational drug use in front of his boss. Onewoman, when asked about her criminalrecord, became obviously distressed, so Iquickly let her off the hook. Turned out heremployer knew she had "done time," buther peers did not. I no longer illustrate mypoint this way in front of an audience, but,as you can see, it's a powerful and legitimate tool in one-on-one interviews and itlooks something like this:
"I'm going to be very open and honestwith you about the job and our company,and I hope you're going to be open andhonest with me about yourself. It doesn'tmatter if you've ever quit or been firedfrom a job or had difficulty with a boss. Aslong as you tell me, we can take it underconsideration, but, if you don't tell me andwe find a problem when we do our background checks and look into your history, Ican't hire you. Do you understanding whatit is that I want?"
Then wait for the applicant to say something like, "Of course, you want the truth."
Before you ask your questions, remindyourself that what you see in the interview is better than anything you'll ever seefrom that person again. Most applicantstry to look as good as they can to get thejob. They'll present themselves, their skills,and background in the best possible light,stretching reality to fit the shoes they thinkthey need to fill.
There are exceptions though. Some applicants are worse in the interview thanyou'll ever see again; they're so nervous thatthey aren't themselves. The vast majority ofapplicants, however, prepare for the interview like it's opening night on Broadwayand deliver a convincing performance.Failing to remind yourself that applicantsare always on their best behavior can causeyou to fall into one of these traps:
Halo effect: The applicant looks andsounds so good that you assumeeverything about the person is perfect. You don't bother to ask the toughquestions.
Hunger factor: You need someone tofill the job so badly (desperation hiring) that you miss or excuse clues thatcan be big tip-offs to behavior patterns.If the applicant is late for the interview, it could be they won't be able toget to work on time every day either.
If the application is incomplete, thisperson may not be good at followingdirections or detailed work. When youinterview "hungry," you also listenonly for what you hope the applicantwill say and ignore how it's said andwhat's left unsaid.
Gut-feeling: If your gut says there'ssomething wrong, believe it. If your gut says everything's great, doubt it.Like Vince Lombardi so aptly said: "Ifyou hire the wrong people, all the fancymanagement techniques in the world won'the
lp you out." Plan ahead and positionthem to tell the truth and your ratio of dudsto superstars will improve dramatically.
For a free copy of a Pocket Guideto Interviewing, send a self-addressed,stamped envelope to Humetrics PocketGuide, 222 Lombardy Drive, Sugar Land,TX77478.
Certified Speaking professional MelKleiman is an internationally recognizedconsultant, author andspeaker/trainer onstrategies for findingand keeping the besthourly employees. Heis the president ofHumetrics, a leadingdeveloper of systems,training processes andtools for recruiting, selecting and retaining the best hourly workforce. kleimanis the author of five books, including thebest-selling "Hire tough, Manage easy."for more information, visit www.melkleiman.com or call (713) 771-4401.