Interviewing is a basic skill required of any HR professional. Since an interview is definitely not a cosy chat for promoting mutual understanding, as a rule it is carefully planned. After all you don't want to talk to the applicant about trivia, but ascertain whether it's worth your company investing in this person. Although interviewing is an integral part of the job, recruiters are still sometimes faced with unpleasant errors of judgement, which only become apparent after the new member of staff has caused considerable trouble within the organisation. Then there's that nagging doubt: "Why didn't I notice this before" or "How could I have let myself be blinded".
In this article we reveal a few tricks that make it easier for you to evaluate candidates.
Pigeonholing - The first impression
Often we only need to observe someone for a few seconds to form an opinion of them. This first impression happens automatically because we subconsciously compare our observations with previous experience. This means overweight people tend to be laid-back, long-haired men maladjusted and petite women less assertive. But try to be wary of such hasty judgements. Avoid pigeonholing people and get to know interview candidates without any preconceptions.
Mixed Messages - Verbal and non-verbal communication
Make sure that verbal and non-verbal communication is consistent, i.e. the candidate's behaviour substantiates what he or she says. For example, the applicant claims to be open and outgoing; but at the same time is sitting opposite you with folded arms and crossed legs, and is unable to maintain eye contact. Before jumping to conclusions, you should test your assumptions during the course of the interview. For example by deliberately asking about situations where the candidate has had to inspire or motivate people. Make notes about the things that support and contradict the candidate's claim, and wait until afterwards to pass judgement on this issue.
Some questions have become very hackneyed. And you can be sure that most applicants are aware of them by now. The majority of candidates will have well-prepared textbook answers to standard questions such as "Why have you applied to us", "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" or "Why should we employ you?". In this case it often helps to ask the question in a different way - to encourage the applicant to give a more authentic answer. Instead of the expected effusive reply to the question of why the applicant has applied to your company, you are likely to get a more informative reply to questions such as "What attracts you particularly to the responsibilities described in the job ad?" or "What does this position offer you that your current job doesn't?"
"What can you do that other applicants can't?" or "How come you're not earning more money at your age?" are questions designed to put applicants under pressure and on the defensive. Only experienced candidates will remain unfazed and know how to deal with this stress test. But provocative questions are not always appropriate for a fair two-way interview. If you want to have an open, informative and honest discussion with the aim of building mutual trust, it's better to avoid such issues. Here it's important that the applicant plays an active role in the discussion, and is treated as an equal, rather than a candidate under interrogation.
Revealing Questions[Clever Questions]
Jochen Mai at karrierebibel.de has put together some particularly shrewd questions that can provide HR professionals with informative answers. Not only because they sound out the applicant's knowledge and self-evaluation skills, but also because they reveal a lot about personal goals, values and motivation. Here are some examples:
"How do you know when you've done a good job?" - This question is not only unusual - it also reveals whether candidates are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. People either measure their performance based on their own standards and criteria, or rely on assessments made by colleagues and superiors. This tells you whether they will fit into an existing team or a particular leadership style.
"If you could create your perfect job, what would it look like?" - This question normally causes an initial smile - then a mucksweat. It shows how well someone understands their own profession, what plans they have, and whether they are driving their own career development or letting themselves be driven.
"If I were to ask two of your ex-colleagues about you - a friend of yours and someone who isn't - which points would they both agree on?" - The answer to this question establishes how much empathy the applicant has. Are they able to empathise and get on well with other people? Does the candidate have a realistic assessment of his or her own abilities? Such skills are becoming increasingly important in the workplace.
"In your opinion what does a company owe its employees?" - This question forces candidates to think and reveals what they really expect from the advertised position and new employer, and what actually motivates them.
"Tell me something about you that is not in your CV and will help me to remember you apart from the other applicants." - Many candidates break into a sweat at this point, but actually they "only" need to do one thing: sell themselves because that's what an interview is all about.
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