HR professor

Breaking Through the Facade: Effective Recruitment Interviews

Many HR executives tell me that it is tough to crack a person during a recruitment interview. Applicants go through in-depth interview preparation. Their answers are so convincing and endearing that it is tough to see through their con-job.

I disagree with this argument. I believe that an interview is a platform the interviewee has a chance to get a glimpse of the organization and understand its work culture. On the other hand, the interviewer gets to review the candidate and assess his viability in the organization. If the interviewee has done a thorough job of preparing for a recruitment interview, that is good. It means he takes his job seriously. A person who cannot package himself well when he is selling his skills is not worth the job.

It is a fallacy that recruitment interviews don't bring out the true nature of employees which can be of crucial significance in employment decisions. If you fall for external appearances and ignore the subtle signs along the way, then how can you blame the interviewee for not disclosing everything?

When recruitment interviews become predictable, they are easy to crack. That does not mean interviews should become stress interviews. Stressing out employees by putting them in awkward situations only makes them more defensive. Stress interviews don't reveal much. Instead the focus should be on making interviewees relaxed and comfortable enough to speak out his mind.

An interviewer should be attuned to every move, habit or mannerism of the interviewee. A lot is revealed by mere gestures. Similarly, if you were to observe his attire, etiquettes and manners, you will learn more than what the resume tells you. Ask questions that seem visibly innocent but makes your interviewee less defensive. In my experience, I have found that when I make the person comfortable enough to speak freely, I learn interesting details about the employee. I was once interviewing a very good candidate who had a hi-flying career and had a diverse set of skills. Only when she got very comfortable talking to me did she disclose her plans to get married and relocate to a new city. She confided in me that she hoped to get a transfer to our branch office at the new destination so that she could continue working with us. Such valuable information could have been detrimental if gone unnoticed during the interview. Since the woman was very well qualified to do the job, we decided to hire her and agreed to give her the transfer as soon as we found a vacancy.

Interviewees are notorious for spinning fine yarn about their favorite activity or a hobby. In fact, some interviewees feign to have fine command on their general awareness on a variety of issues. They can speak eloquently about global warming, political crisis of Guatemala or about raising adopted children. In such a case, pick a subject where you have a sharp insight and use this subject to measure the interviewee's depth of analysis.

Even at the end of the recruitment interview, keep a watchful eye for any mundane detail that can tell you a tale about the person. After the interview is over, make sure to check references. Call up ex employees, coach, friend or anybody who can give an unbiased report on the person's achievements. Referrers can sometimes tell you things that can significantly impact your employment decisions. Make sure to ask specific questions rather than generic ones like, 'How did Mr. X perform in your company?'

There are many such measures that can make interviews a success. To make interviews effective, make them a participative process rather than something that is 'done' for the employees.

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