| INTERVIEWER PREPARATION
are most likely to be valid and effective if the interviewer keeps the
interview focused on gathering information specific to the candidates
ability to meet job requirements. In order to do this, the interviewer
should prepare for the interview by becoming familiar with the specific
job requirements and with the credentials the applicant has provided up
to that point.
Gain a knowledge of the position to be filled, such as:
- The skills needed
- The personal traits required
- The specific tasks to be performed
- The relative importance of tasks
Identify requirements of the job, such as:
- Education requirements
- Technical requirements
- Overtime work required
- Travel requirements
- Physical dexterity requirements
Prepare a list of questions in the order they are to be asked during
- Work history
- Why the applicant thinks he/she is suited for the job
- What his/her problem solving skills are
- Any pertinent or interesting non-work experience
- Outside interests and hobbies
- Any questions the applicant may have for the interviewer
Be prepared to talk about (and answer questions about):
- The industry
- Company products
- Company policies
- Company benefits
- Operating procedures
- Career development opportunities
Know the position. Define the exact requirements of both the job
and the person needed to fill it. During the interview, try to match
the candidate against these specifics point by point.
Establish rapport. Put the candidate at ease by establishing a common
ground. Engaging in small talk helps. The rapport will make the candidate
more communicative and give you more facts for evaluation. However,
be careful not to lose control of the interview.
Listen. Put the candidate at ease, then let the candidate talk. Give
the candidate an opportunity to ask questions about the position.
The type of questions and the manner in which they are asked can supply
a good deal of information about an applicant. Use the 80/20 rule,
i.e. the candidate should be talking 80% of the time and the interviewer,
no more than 20% of the time.
Refrain from commenting on candidates responses. Editorializing on
the candidates response takes up valuable interviewing time
and encourages responses based on the candidates perceptions of the
interviewers priorities (i.e. you may not get as good a perspective
on the candidates values as he/she gets on yours).
Describe the position fairly. Let the candidate know precisely and
in the simplest terms what the duties of the job are and what will
be expected of him or her. Do not go overboard in selling the position
or the company. A major cause of employee dissatisfaction and turnover
is that the job proves to be different from what the employee expected
it to be.
Ask "open-ended" questions. Avoid yes/no questions and
questions that can be answered by a single work or a short phrase.
However, do not be too general. "Tell me about yourself"
for example, does not provide enough direction.
Past behavior can predict future performance. Ask questions that
are based on past performance. For example, "Tell me about a
time when you had to deal with a difficult customer."
Probe the candidates personal philosophy. What a candidate
believes and wants may mean as much as what he or she can do. Do the
candidates attitudes fit with the companys way of doing
things? Can the candidate accomplish his/her goals by working toward
accomplishing the companys goals or is there a conflict?
Find out what particular function the candidate would like to perform.
Finding out what the candidate particularly liked or disliked about
a previous position may help you assess how well the candidate will
fit into the company.
Gather all needed information. Use the interview to gather all the
information that you will need to make an informed final judgment.
Probe areas where the applicant appears to lack qualifications. Probe
without prejudging. If the applicant does not appear to qualify for
the position, communicate the requirements of the position and then
refer to statements made by the candidate or verify facts that would
indicate that the candidate appears not to meet a requirement. For
example, "The position requires a lot of travel, some of it outside
normal working hours, yet you have indicated that you are not willing
to work overtime. It appears that you will have difficulty meeting
the travel requirements."
Close on a friendly note. End the interview with a courteous word
and a friendly smile. If you are interested in the candidate, you
might say so and explain what the next steps toward employment are.
However, promises made during the interview may be legally binding.
Be careful not to make promises unless you are absolutely certain
you will keep them. And remember, only a Human Resource representative
is authorized to extend offers of employment.
INTERVIEWING QUESTION STYLES
The main objective of the interview is to gather as much information
as possible about the applicant. This information can be used to assess
if and where the person will fit into the company, whether the person
seems to have an affinity for the type of work he/she will be expected
to do, and, perhaps most important, how the applicant will perform in
the future. It is important to frame questions so that the answers are
measurable in terms of the companys needs. This is especially true
because the interview is the most potentially subjective part of the hiring
The following are samples of questions styles found in well-balanced
interviews. Generally, different combinations of these types of questions
are used. The position for which candidates are being interviewed will
influence the questions that will be asked.
1. Open-ended Questions
This type of question, which is intended to allow the applicant to do
most of the talking, draws out attitudes and information. Examples of
open-ended questions are:
- What do you know about our company? Our industry?
- What are your strengths and how do they relate to our company?
- What are your biggest accomplishments, work, non-work, during the
past few years?
- What is your personal five year goal?
- What new skills or capabilities have you developed over the past year?
- Tell me about your last job.
- How did your job description change while you held the position?
- What is important to you in a job?
- What do you feel would be your biggest contribution to our department?
- Is there anything that you would like to tell me or add to your previous
2. Probing Questions
This type of question, which also allows the applicant to do the talking,
is intended to clarify facts and attitudes. Some examples of probing questions
- Do you enjoy talking to people on the telephone?
- Why are you leaving your present position?
- How well do you take criticism?
- How well do you react to direction from a supervisor?
- How would you feel if your supervisor asked you to do an additional
- Is working under pressure a problem?
3. Close-ended Questions.
Questions that are phrased to evoke yes or no answers should not dominate
the interview. However, sometimes, it is useful to pin down an applicants
response. If an applicant avoids giving a yes or no answer to a close-ended
question, this may be a sign that the applicant wants to evade the question
and should be probed. Examples of close-ended questions are:
- Are you able to work overtime when necessary?
- Would you be able to accommodate a change in your work shift?
- Are you able to travel 50% of your work time?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- Do you consider your commute too long or too tiring?
4. Past Performance or Behavioral Questions
One way to learn about a candidates abilities or how they will
perform in the future is to ask how the candidate has handled various
types of situations in the past or how they would handle a hypothetical
situation. Past performance or behavioral questions typically begin with
"Tell me about one example when..."; "Share with me an
experience when..."; "Give me an example of..." Some other
useful probes to assess a candidates ability and future performance
- Tell me about a time when you had taken responsibility for directing
the work of others without being asked to do so?
Additional probes could include:
- Describe the circumstances.
- Would you be able to accommodate a change in your work shift?
- Were there any problems?
- What would you do differently?
If the candidate has not directed the work of others, ask whether the
candidate has ever formally assumed direction of a group project in a
social or a family context.
- Can you give me an example of an occasion when you had a subordinate
or co-worker who was undependable and how you handled it?
Additional probes could include:
- What were the problems?
- How did you handle the situation?
- How did the subordinate or co-worker respond?
- Were others aware of the situation? If so, what were their reactions?
- Share with me a time in your career when a situation occurred that
caused you to become angry.
Additional probes could include:
- Describe the situation.
- How did you handle it?
NOTE: If you ask behavioral questions early in the interview, the candidate
will understand that you expect him/her to give detailed responses and
will be less likely to give prepared/canned answers to your questions.
JOB TRAIT PROFILE
HOW TO EVALUATE RESUMES
Most interviewers believe that if they identify a candidate who "can
do" the job, they will improve their chances of making a "good
hire". At the cost of turnover, not to mention the impact in other
areas such as productivity and morale, it is very costly to take chances
that a candidate who "can do" the job, "will do"
By developing a Professional Job Trait Profile to compliment the job
description, and by focusing interview questions in on the candidates
behavioral characteristics profile as well as his/her ability to do
the job, the chances of making a bad hiring decision are minimized.
When focusing in on the candidates traits and how well they match
the Professional Profile, the interviewer should use a combination of
probing questions and past performance behavioral questions.
Look for the following when evaluating a resume:
- Signs of achievement. The best indicator of successful future performance
is successful past performance. Career moves on the resume, both within
a company and among companies, should typically reflect upward or lateral,
rather than downward movement.
Signs of profit-mindedness. A successful employee should be aware
of his/her contribution to the profitability of the company. The person
evaluating the resume should note how often a resume draws attention
to functions that had a direct bearing on the earnings of a company
and should see how specific actions produced sales increases or improved
efficiency. During the interview, the interviewer should probe the
claims made by applicants.
Patterns of stability and career direction. Look to see whether each
job change on the resume indicates that the candidate has bettered
himself or herself and has sought out challenges. Frequent job changes
can indicate instability, or they can demonstrate ambition and achievement.
Specific job description. The less specific candidates are when they
are describing what they did, the more likely they are trying to inflate
the importance of what they actually accomplished. Look for specific
data on these items; people supervised, sales achieved, productivity
increased, and profits earned.
Lengthy descriptions of education. Degrees are important as evidence
of accomplishment, but extensive educational information is often
given by those who lack the appropriate educational background or
Gaps in background. Candidates who write functional resumes devoid
of chronological details are usually trying to avoid having to explain
gaps in their work history.
Trivia in the personal section. Candidates who provide and emphasize
a long list of hobbies and outside interests could be weak in experience
or could be so busy with extracurricular activities that they cannot
be industrious on the job.
Overabundance of qualifiers. Use of qualifiers such as "knowledge
of " and "exposure to" often indicates an absence of
Sour grapes. An employee who is short-sighted enough to bad-mouth
an employer on a resume is a bad candidate.
Too-slick resume. Candidates who rely on gimmicky resumes are rarely
as interesting as their resumes.
HOW TO INTERPRET BODY LANGUAGE
The gestures that a candidate makes serve as clues to the candidates
confidence, honesty, and intentions. The practiced interviewer learns,
consciously or otherwise, to interpret shifts in body language to evaluate
answers and determine when to probe.
Covering the mouth. Talking through the hands or fingers often indicates
uncertainty. Asking the candidate whether he or she is certain about
an answer may elicit worthwhile information.
Steepling. Bringing the fingers of the hands together to form a "steeple"
typically indicates a sense of superiority even if the steeple does
not point up. Allowing the candidate to set this sort of tone for
the entire interview can help build his/her confidence but is unlikely
to reveal major weakness.
Averting the eyes. If a candidate who has previously maintained average
or better eye contact with the interviewer averts his/her gaze, it
may mean that the candidate has become uncomfortable or guilty. However,
a direct gaze is not a guarantee of honesty.
Crossed arms. Crossing the arms can indicate defensiveness or boredom.
Further questioning can determine whether the candidate should be
Raising a finger. An applicant may raise a finger or hand as a polite
signal that he/she wants to interrupt, perhaps to raise a question
or correct a misapprehension.
Cultural variations. Body language varies to some degree among individuals
and across cultures. A skillful interviewer uses a knowledge of body
language to direct interview probes but does not treat the body language
itself as evidence of employability, particularly if there is a risk
of cultural bias because of the candidates background.
We thank to Mr. David Patten, Human Resources
Director, Epson Canada Inc. for writting this article.