Tag Archives: Interview skills

Interviewing is Emotional and Logical

Interviewing is a combination of art and science

Interviewing is a combination of art and science

Interviewing is a combination of art and science thus it has a part which is emotional yet another part which is logical. It very much reminds me a game of Chess. While the interview is typically amicable the “players” are adversaries. One is the seller yet the other person is the buyer who is merely doing his due diligence.   And the buyer knows that making the mistake of hiring bad people is very costly.

The interview process is a challenge for both the interviewer and the candidate because interviewing is not well understood by either party. On one hand, the interviewer knows that several preselected qualified candidates have to be interviewed in order to anticipate and decide which one will perform best for the organization in the future. On the other hand, the candidate knows he is onstage and has to be at his best in every respect because he is in a tough competition for a single opening. A good interviewer should review the candidate based on four different aspects: communication skills, competency via specific skills, organizational fit, and motivation which is exhibited by ability to show passion and excitement. Those are the most crucial areas, even if there are of course several other relevant aspects to explore.

When exploring the candidate’s communications skills, I always start with the request, “Tell me about yourself.” The request serves as an opener for me, the interviewer, in an attempt to get a first impression of the candidate as a way of assessing communication skills. It is a baseline reading against which I will compare the rest of the interview questions. If answered well, all future answers will be viewed through a positive prism. But if the answer to that first question is not viewed favorably, the candidate will have a difficult time convincing me to reverse my opinion.

A good answer should:

  • Be intriguing and memorable
  • Include an example of an impressive accomplishment
  • Be responsive, informative, brief, and succinct
  • Engage the interviewer via a question in turn about the interviewer’s own priorities or challenges

A poor answer is:

  • Lengthy and recites chronologically the candidate’s career
  • Unfocused or rambling
  • Boring
  • Challenging to the interviewer because of regional or foreign accent or speech impediments

When trying to assess the candidate’s competency for certain specific skills crucial to the job, I request an answer to following: “Tell me about one of your major accomplishments and its outcome.” By that, I can test the candidate’s specific competency in an area where in my mind he has to show experience and strength. I’m looking for hard skills and wanting to hear how they were deployed in the past.

A good answer should:

  • Show the candidate’s ability to recite an example that gives a brief background overview
  • Include a specific example that highlights a required skill and that resulted in a successful outcome
  • Tell the actions the candidate took
  • Be cited as recognized by others—such as supervisors, peers, and customers—for credibility

A poor answer is:

  • General and nonimpressive
  • Not focused on specific skills
  • Lacking in a specific example of accomplishment achieved via the skill
  • Blatantly self-praising but without evidence

Then comes my follow-up: “Tell me about a specific, work-related problem and how you went about resolving it.” Here I am drilling down to details and anticipating hearing the step-by-step approach the candidate took to resolve the problem.

The next area I explore is the candidate’s cultural fit into our organization. Cultural fit could be subjective and influenced by prejudice. It is heavily influenced by the top leadership. It includes such elements as values, attitudes, office language, tone of communication, the team or individual decision-making process, and daily work practices, often made up of unspoken and unwritten rules of behavior.

Via this question I’m looking to ascertain whether the candidate will blend in naturally and become a welcome contributor to the team. I’m also paying attention to the applicant’s past behavior. Here are a few questions as examples. “What do you know about our company?” That one tests whether the candidate has done his homework and is well prepared or really interested. “What is your management style?” Here I’m listening to hear whether he says only the obvious and whether he’ll be able to adapt to the company’s needs. I am looking for maturity, competency, and how he handles relationships with others.

The last area I explore is motivation. Typical questions would be, “Why are you interested in this position?” Then I watch to see whether he talks about self or company needs, whether he understands challenges, how he envisions contribution to organization, whether he clearly demonstrates passion and excitement, and whether he’s just plain likable. Other questions whose answers reveal motivation might be: “Why do you want to leave [or did you leave] this position? What would be your perfect job? What would you do in the first 90 days after being hired? What are your interests outside work? People who do a lot outside work are also motivated at work.

Most people need to prepare extensively for upcoming interviews in order to feel good about themselves – otherwise is showing. Some people seem to have a knack for interviewing and here two people come to my mind: Presidents Bill Clinton and Barak Obama. They make interviewing on camera seem so simple.


Bad Interview—Everybody Loses

Bad interview everybody loses

Bad interview everybody loses

Bad interview — What is it?

Have you had recently a bad interview?  During a recent presentation to a job search networking group, I told the audience that 5 out of 10 interviewers do a bad job; 3 do an acceptable job; and the remaining 2 do a very good job. The audience agreed with me, even though many in attendance were in leadership positions themselves and had conducted job candidate interviews for their companies. The vast majority of people who said they’d conducted such interviews admitted that they had never taken any preparatory courses in the subject of interviewing, yet they had interviewed many job seekers. They also admitted that they had conducted those interviews on gut feelings by using methods and questions similar to those they themselves had experienced when being interviewed in the past. This state of affairs is a shame, considering the extraordinarily high cost of turnover caused primarily by poor interviewing skills on the parts of interviewers.

Interviewing is an art and a science combined. The objective behind every interview question is to be able to predict to what extent the candidate’s past performance and accomplishments match the company’s future needs. And even though the hiring manager’s opinion is important, so is the input of others—such as team members and the customers they support—because a diversity of opinions generates a better outcome.

The four main things interviewers look for are:

  • Great communication skills
  • Outstanding technical competency
  • Pertinent cultural fit
  • High level of motivation

All four components are important, and if even one of them is missing—even though the candidate may be very strong in the other three—the end result will most likely not be favorable for the candidate.

Typically, companies call back the top candidates for further selection. That second interview’s objectives are (1) to gain more knowledge about the candidate’s motivation, (2) to probe in more depth the candidate’s ability to gain the trust of colleagues and customers, and (3) to become able to predict the candidate’s future behavior. In some cases, there are three or even more sets of interviews.

Companies should invest in improving interviewing skills

The investment of time and effort in a structured and thorough interview process yields rewarding results. A structured interview includes a consensus meeting of members of the interviewing team—a very important segment of the entire interview process. That meeting brings the entire interview process into focus and enables members of the interviewing team to interpret individually for the rest of the team what they heard during their interview of the candidate.

Employee turnover costs companies 10 to 30 percent of a new employee’s yearly salary—without mentioning the loss of productivity and the internal turmoil that results. Besides the cost of hiring the wrong job candidate, such a decision can be detrimental to the entire team or organization. You probably know the adage “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” And how true that is in terms of hiring.

Cultural Fit: What Is It All About?

Cultural fit

Cultural fit is as different as organizations.

Cultural fit is covered in many articles and points to the fact that the job interview is really all about the so-called cultural fit of the candidate, provided the skill and experience requirements are met as well of course. The thing is that in addition to the hiring manager, several other company members, too, are interviewing candidates to add their own assessments.

For practical purposes, what’s called company culture can be separated into two distinct areas. One is influenced by the top leader of the organization, and the other is influenced by the departmental leader or the hired employee’s immediate supervisor.

Years ago, I worked at a Fortune 100 company that had a history of buying many other companies whose individual and distinct cultures had been kept intact and independent of each other all along. At one point, though, a new CEO took over and decided to instill one single culture throughout the hundreds of subsidiaries and affiliated companies under his jurisdiction. That action caused an amazing transformation. I compared the new CEO’s influence to a magnet approaching a bunch of nails: all of a sudden, all of the nails aligned and connected to the magnet.

Certainly, a departmental boss has impact on departmental culture. Often, when you ask someone a question like, What’s it like to work at that company? the reply reflects the person’s pleasure or displeasure with his boss and, at times, his colleagues.

So, how—during the interview—can a candidate seem to fit into the company’s culture?

Similar to the cliché that says, “A leopard can’t change its spots,” a person can’t radically change personality. But because the outcome of the interview is highly influenced by a candidate’s cultural fit, the candidate can at least attempt to make the right impression, which amounts to simply the same thing as adjusting the words in the résumé to match the job requirements stipulated in the job ad.

People may have different understandings of what lies behind the proverbial cultural fit. The most accepted notion suggests that cultural fit includes the display of characteristics related to organizational culture, such as values, language, and outlook. Culture is the behavior that results when the members of a group arrive at a set of rules for working together. The rules may include elements of decision making, daily work practices, and even such things as the office setup. For instance, some organizations are hierarchical—with office spaces and sizes linearly matching employees’ functions in the organization. At the other end of that spectrum are organizations that are very egalitarian—with open-architecture office space, in which all employees having equally open and equally sized spaces.

Before the interview, the candidate should explore with as many people as possible inside the company certain issues, such as:

* Whether the work environment is highly stressful or rather relaxed

* Whether promotion is from within or fresh experts are hired from outside

* Frequency of meetings

* Volume and tone of internal e-mails (formal or informal, friendly or abrasive?)

* Whether teamwork or individual effort is the typical means of problem resolution

* Whether employees’ opinions are solicited or not

* How well poor behavior and underperformance are tolerated

* Whether successes are celebrated and in what ways

The list is endless, but those are a few examples of issues pertinent to company culture.