Every employment interview should follow some sort of structure to ensure consistency. This should be applied to the length of the interview, questions asked of every applicant and job expectations discussed as well as the method used to close the interview. Uniformity in the hiring process helps to ensure that the interviewer will be able to make his/her decision objectively and fairly. This consistency also aids in eliminating questions that could arise from allegations concerning discrimination in the employment process. However, the structure should not be so rigid as to preclude exploring issues as they present themselves during the interview process. Interviewers who use a scripted interview process, which leaves very little room for deviation, typically overlook key pieces of necessary information.
An employment interview should follow an outline that includes the following components:
- A greeting
- An explanation of the interview process
- Preliminary questions or “small talk”
- Questions regarding employment history
- Discussion of an applicant’s education or special training
- A review of the knowledge specific to the position
- The integrity interview
- A realistic job description
- Information about the employer
- Questions from the applicant
- The close
In order for an employment interview to be most effective, it should always be conducted in person, between one interviewer and one candidate. This scenario is most effective in encouraging an applicant to tell you the truth for two reasons: first, it is easier for one interviewer to develop the rapport and trust necessary during the integrity interview. Secondly, it’s also more likely that a candidate will make admissions of wrongdoing to one person rather than a group. Obviously, if a situation develops that could become problematic (an applicant making assertions that the interviewer has a prejudice against the applicant, a female candidate asserting herself sexually, etc.), the interview should be put on hold until a witness is available.
The interview room should afford a reasonable amount of privacy and be devoid of distractions. Again, the interview should be conducted without any barriers between the interviewer and applicant. The interviewer should turn off telephones and pagers and ask the candidate to do the same. Copies of the candidate’s resume, application and other pertinent documents should be immediately available and the interviewer should be taking notes throughout the interview (these notes should only contain factual information and never include the interviewer’s opinions).
Perhaps the most difficult skill to acquire in order to be an effective interviewer is the ability to ask open-ended questions and to truly listen to an applicant’s response. Develop open-ended questions that need more than a one-word answer, as in yes or no. An example might be, “Tell me why you liked your last job?” versus, “Did you like your last job?” Questions that require a candidate to first think of his/her answers and then formulate his/her responses provide much more information to the interviewer who is actively evaluating his/her responses. It gives the interviewer more time to listen and therefore, the ability to evaluate qualities like emotional maturity. It provides a preview of the way an applicant will communicate with other employees or customers. For the novice interviewer, it allows more time to evaluate non-verbal behaviors and to formulate the next question.
The applicant’s perception of the interviewer will also play a large role in the quality of information the interviewer will gain from the candidate. If the applicant judges the interviewer to be an opponent or to be overbearing and aggressive, then his/her attitude will reflect the same. This is also true when an applicant believes that the interviewer appears to be passive or disinterested. The interviewer must learn to at least appear to have an interest in every applicant’s success and the ability to empathize with that person in order to create a supportive environment conducive to eliciting the truth. An expert interviewer is also an accomplished “people-person.”
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