Many types of interview dot the recruitment landscape: one-to-one interviews, group interviews, focused interviews, stress interviews, luncheon interviews, and more. No single type or category of interviews is either good or bad. Bad interview techniques rather stem from the incompetence of the interviewer in conducting interviews, or selecting an interview technique inappropriate for the role under consideration.
Non-Experts at the Helm
The most common type of bad interview is the interview conducted by people incapable or incompetent to do so. For instance, a stress interview that requires an understanding of how people react to hostile situations, or a cognitive interview that requires deep understanding of the mental processes behind the answers require trained psychologists to conduct the interview, and record their findings. An ordinary human resource professional with little or no understanding of such sciences would do a poor job and make such interviews an exercise in futility.
In general, interviewers require good knowledge of topics relevant to the job in question, and also good understanding of human nature and how people behave. Confident and slimy candidates can bluff and con their way to jobs with confidence if the interviewer remains gullible, and the selection process places too much importance on the interview.
Each type of interview has their uses. A screening interview for instance, helps shortlist candidates for detailed examination from many applicants. A group interview finds use to eliminate or select candidates in roles which require a fair amount of social interaction. Stress interviews find use to understand how people would react in hostile and adverse situations. Selecting a candidate solely based on the screening interview, making the group discussion or interview the crucial deciding factor when selecting a scientist for a research or desk job where success depends on being a loner and thinking alone, or conducting a stress interview to hire a janitor are all examples of inappropriate choices of interview techniques.
The wrong interview techniques fails to analyze the capabilities required for the job, or analyze factors not relevant or crucial for the job under consideration. This usually results in selecting the wrong people for the job.
Reinventing the Wheel
Many interviewers make the mistake of conducting the interview for the sake of it, and ask questions assessing the obvious. For instance, a university topper in science would obviously know Einstein’s Theory of Relativity without the interviewer asking to explain the concept to test the candidate’s conceptual acumen. Asking the same to test the candidate’s ability to present concepts to the ignorant ranks as a good interview technique. Similarly, asking candidates to narrate their work history, when they have already typed the same answer in the written test that preceded the interview is a waste of good time. Good interviewers rather review the written test answers and probe further based on such answers.
Good interviews unearth new or in depth information not already available. They utilize the opportunity of the face-to-face interaction to gain insights not available with other selection methods.
Direction and Purpose
Many interviewers make the mistake of conducting interviews without direction or purpose, in the sense that they ask random questions, or pick up an issue such as work experience, hobbies, interests, or anything else at random and delve into that. Inexperienced interviews may even engage the candidate in a debate, forgetting about the direction or the purpose of the interview. Others do not have any effective way to keep track of responses or score the interviews. Such directionless or purposeless interviews serve only a limited purpose. Good interviewing techniques require:
- Having a broad structure to apply to all candidates, allowing the interviewer to see how different candidates approach the same question, and thereby make relative comparisons.
- Identifying the general areas or skills that require probing, such as time management skills, interpersonal skills and so on, and ensuring the interviewers probe all candidates on all such skills.
- Ample preparation that includes studying each candidate’s resume and test results, and the job description and specifications before the interview. Many interviewers come to the interview distracted and unprepared, and ask candidates to repeat, or forget what they said earlier.
A properly structured interview process allows any interviewer with the same level of skills to arrive at the same conclusion on a candidate. Good interviews also have a consistent and validated scoring mechanism that rates candidates after providing equal opportunity to all candidates.
Many interviewers, either out of ignorance or due to lack of proper understanding of bad interviewing techniques and skills ask questions or try to probe details that remain inappropriate, uncalled for, out of context, and at times even illegal.
Companies selecting candidates based on religious beliefs, race, personal preferences, marital status, ethnicity, age, and other factors invite the provision of anti-discrimination laws, and unless such questions are unavoidable for the nature of the role, avoid asking such questions at the interview. For instance, a position as a church-head of a religious denomination would obviously require the interview to probe about the candidate’s religious background and affiliation, but the interviewer has no business to do so when the job is that of a general marketing executive.
Interviewers looking down on the candidate’s achievements, ridiculing their statements, making sardonic statements, criticizing opinions, and ignoring their statements by talking on the phone during the meeting, all remain uncalled for, even if the candidate's replies provide a strong case for doing so. Such antics attract a bad reputation that may haunt the company later on. Similarly, avoid over-use of humor.
Many interviewers fail to understand the fact that a good interview is a two-way process of exchanging information, and involves a more healthy discussion rather than a question and answer session. Understanding this fact goes a low way in improving both the quality and the effectiveness of interviews.
The author holds a degree in Human Resource Management.
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