To me an interview is a meeting – a conversation between two (or more) persons with the object of gaining information of the interviewee. We need to remember that an interview is not just a question and answer session. It is a purposeful and deliberate exercise to explore the mind of the other.
Great companies all over the world are creating employee value propositions to attract the best talent. They have discovered the importance of spending time and effort up front when hiring employees to prevent the pain of turnover. Therefore to get a candidate who fits well in the job and in the organization the interviewer must understand the organizations vision, values and culture in addition to the job qualitative requirement. Personally I prefer a mix between a structured approach with some freewheeling which varies depending on the candidate.
The most important prerequisite for a good interviewer is an ability to listen. An exposure in psychology also helps a great deal in interviews.
An open mind and respect for the other as an equal – regardless of age, experience, caste, color, creed or status is sacrosanct. Candidate’s dignity must be maintained. Avoid assuming a position of superior. “Be curious, not judgmental” – Walt Whitman
Remember a candidate can sense your trustworthiness by your approach and behavior. Only then does he/she feel at ease to talk about his feelings and emotions and on various facets of his life. He knows that what he reveals will remain confidential.
Maintain proper decorum in dress – not flashy or loud as it may distract the candidates.
Does knowledge of psychology help?
Yes it does. In my Interviewing Officers Course we were given an excellent exposure in psychology at the Defence Institute of Psychological Research, New Delhi. This helps a great deal while interviewing complex candidates or for higher management positions.
A cheerful and helpful disposition builds a rapport and is the key to successful interview.
Opening an Interview: Most candidates are tense when they enter. A bright smile from the interviewer greeting him by his name does wonders. Remember to shake hands and offer a chair. This releases his initial tension and anxiety and a spirit of bonhomie sets in and his real personality comes out.
Ask the simplest of questions to which there are no right or wrong answers e.g., any difficulty in reaching the venue, what was going on in your mind waiting for your interview, did he/she get a cordial reception or what is their earlier back ground.
A rapport is fragile to maintain so care needs to be taken that it does not snap at any point of time. Therefore be encouraging at all imes.
Use silence to your advantage
Waiting in silence can be awkward for both you and the candidate. But resist the temptation to speak up. It gives you an idea how he responds under pressure
Maintain an easy pace without rushing. Ask open question to keep the conversation going. Silence conveys he has not understood the question – explain it in simpler way (or with an example) without making him feel small. If he becomes emotional (or tearful) say a few kind words to comfort e.g. “we are all human”.
Few points that of interviewer must avoid!
(a) Allow interviewee to talk
Remember the purpose of the interview is to get to know and understand the candidate. Best way to do this to let the candidate talk. The less the interviewer talks the more the candidate gets the time.
(b) Don’t be aggressive arrogant or sarcastic
The interviewer must not be aggressive and show-off his own knowledge. Never make the candidate feel that he is not performing well. Humor should not be confused with flippancy.
(c) Don’t get distracted
Even if he goes off topic be attentive and in control-change the topic tactfully not abruptly.
(d) Avoid unconscious bias
Generally we all form opinions based on our likes and dislikes. Take care not to get biased. Similarly don’t get over impressed when the candidate shares a common interest with you.
Conclusion – Humility and Fair play
It is extremely doubtful if there can be a mathematically accurate measure of human ability. As such we need to remember with a sense of humility that we have been entrusted with a responsibility to be part of a process that could affect the ‘future’ of an individual. A youth comes here with hopes and dreams. And he or she must leave feeling good and with the belief that – there was good faith and fair play in the interview process whatever the outcome is.