There was a time early in my career when I used to dread interviewing potential employees. It seemed as though I was always asking the same old questions and getting the same old answers. The only thing that ever changed were the faces of those who were interviewing for the job, but after a while even the faces began to look the same. It is easy to get into a rut when conducting an interview, especially when you are always interviewing for the same position.
Another challenge was my own self-doubt. How was I to know if this potential employee was the right fit for the company? What if I hired the wrong person? Working for a small company, I knew that if the new hire turned out to be a bust, everyone would question my ability to evaluate talent. Unlike other employees who are responsible for interviewing job candidates, I did not have any human resources experience; everything I had learned about the interviewing process was self-taught, a result of trial by fire. Looking back, I’m certain that I was probably more nervous during the interview than the person I was interviewing.
A few years ago, I tried a different method for conducting interviews. Rather than relying on my improvisational skills, I decided to write down a list of pre-selected questions that would help me decide if the job applicant was the right person for the job. Rather than the generic interview questions, such as, “What skills can you offer our company?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I decided to ask questions that were less vague and required more specific answers. I asked candidates to cite examples of obstacles which they had to overcome in their career, and how they managed to overcome them. I sought specific solutions rather than generic platitudes. Re-wording my interview questions helped, but I knew there still had to be an easier and more effective method.
Finally, I decided to award each applicant a score based on their responses to the interview questions. I maintained a list of ten interview questions, and each answer which was given by the prospective employee was rated on a scale of one to five. I also awarded points in other areas, such as professional image, work experience, educational experience, and promptness. As a result, I had devised a system that would rate each potential employee on a scale of 1-100. After all of the interviews were conducted, I simply tallied up the score and awarded the job to the person who scored the highest. I found this method to be effective, efficient, and fair.
I continue to use this system because over the years it has been a very reliable indicator of success within the company. Candidates who scored well on the interview generally proved to be competent employees. Since I began “grading” the applicants, I have never had an incident which made me wonder if I had hired the wrong person. Best of all, however, is the fact that this system practically cuts my interview time in half. In fifteen minutes I can gather enough information about a candidate to make a hiring decision. Not only am I able to select the best applicant for the job, I am also saving time in the process.
Last year, as we became one of the more prestigious employers in the area, we had an overwhelming amount of potential employees to interview. Although my scoring method was reliable, I realized that I now had to find a way to interview several applicants at one time. I had never before considered conducting a “group interview”, but due to time constraints I had no other choice but to give it a try.
Surprisingly, I discovered that my scoring system could easily be applied to a group setting, allowing me to simultaneously interview twenty job applicants in thirty minutes. Using our conference room, I had each candidate sit at the table, where they took turns answering questions from my list. Each candidate was scored based on their responses, and once again the position was given to the candidate with the highest score.
Personally, I feel much more comfortable performing a one-on-one interview as opposed to a group interview, but sometimes a position needs to be filled in short order. In a situation where time is of the essence and there is an abundance of job applicants for the position, group interviews are definitely an efficent as well as accurate method of hiring.
If you insist on performing one-on-one interviews, there are many other ways to save time in the interviewing process. In the past, I always gave a tour of the business to job candidates. Not only was this a gesture of hospitality, but I wanted each candidate to know exactly what they were getting into before they decided to come to work for us. Unfortunately, giving each candidate a tour of the business took additional time out of my schedule.
I remedied this situation by having one of our receptionists give the tour after I had performed my interview with the candidate. I encouraged the job applicant to ask questions during the tour, because I knew that a candidate would be much more comfortable talking candidly with one of our employees than talking to the person who was conducting the initial interview. Having the receptionist provide answers to the candidate’s questions proved to be a great time saver, as well as an effective method of gaining additional feedback.
Telephone interviews are another option for conducting interviews in less time. Since a standard telephone interview only takes a few minutes, they are easier to fit into your schedule. Due to transportation costs, telephone interviews are generally appreciated by prospective employees since they do not have to worry about travel expenses or parking costs in order to get to the job interview. When conducting a telephone interview, it is important to remember that there are limitations. For example, you cannot gauge a person’s body language or professional appearance over the telephone. For this reason, I only resort to telephone interviews when hiring for a position that will require a follow-up interview. In other words, telephone interviews serve as a screening process. Those who are impressive during the phone interview will be scheduled for a second interview.
In order to conduct any type of job interview efficiently, it is important to stick to the basics and not get sidetracked by chit-chat that is impertinent to the job. Many of us who are in management or human resource positions are people-friendly, which is a trait that can sometimes lead to a mismanagement of time. We sometimes get off-track during an interview talking and listening to those we are interviewing. It is important to exercise discipline when conducting an interview. This means being friendly and sociable, but still being able to stay on task and gather the required information from the job applicant.
It is also helpful to set aside specific times and days for conducting interviews. In the past, I had no system for setting up appointments with job candidates, which meant that I could be conducting one interview on a Monday morning, another interview on a Wednesday afternoon, and another on a Thursday evening. Over time, this method became quite an ordeal, since my job title requires me to perform an assortment of duties. I was always feeling unprepared because I never knew exactly when I would be called upon to interview a prospect. By devoting one day of the week strictly to interviewing, I discovered that I was able to maximize efficiency since I did not have to leave one work area in order to get to a different work area, or scramble all over the place looking for a resume or a completed job application.
Much like any skill, interviews are something that gets easier with practice. Experienced interviewers eventually develop a sense which allows them to make a judgment based on instinct. While we would all like to be able to conduct interviews that are both efficient and accurate, it is never a good idea to rush through an interview just for the sake of saving time. Hiring the wrong person can ultimately cost your business or company thousands of dollars, making the employee a liability rather than an asset. For those who have limited experience in conducting job interviews, it is a much better idea to take the time to make sure that the person you are interviewing is the right person for the job.
Everyone has their own preferred method of conducting interviews, and I have shared mine. Since every business is different, I cannot guarantee that my methods will work for you as well as they have worked for me, but I have found success with my interviewing system, and perhaps you will too.