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Interviewing people costs money. As a result, after candidates are selected, good use of time is critical to making sure the interview process allows for selection of the right candidate. In an unstructured interviewA type of interview in which questions are changed to match the specific applicant., questions are changed to match the specific applicant; for example, questions about the candidate’s background in relation to their résumé might be used. In a structured interviewA type of interview with a set of standardized questions based on the job analysis, not on the individual candidate’s résumé., there is a set of standardized questions based on the job analysis, not on individual candidates’ résumés. While a structured interview might seem the best option to find out about a particular candidate, the bigger concern is that the interview revolves around the specific job for which the candidate is interviewing. In a structured interview, the expected or desired answers are determined ahead of time, which allows the interviewer to rate responses as the candidate provides answers. This allows for a fair interview process, according to the US Office of Personnel Management.“Structured Interviews: A Practical Guide,” US Office of Personnel Management, September 2008, accessed January 25, 2011, https://apps.opm.gov/ADT/ContentFiles/SIGuide09.08.08.pdf. For purposes of this section, we will assume that all interviews you perform will be structured, unless otherwise noted.
Interview processes can be time-consuming, so it makes sense to choose the right type of interview(s) for the individual job. Some jobs, for example, may necessitate only one interview, while another may necessitate a telephone interview and at least one or two traditional interviews. Keep in mind, though, that there will likely be other methods with which to evaluate a candidate’s potential, such as testing. Testing is discussed in Section 5.4.1 "Testing". Here are different types of interviews:
It is likely you may use one or more of these types of interviews. For example, you may conduct phone interviews, then do a meal interview, and follow up with a traditional interview, depending on the type of job.
Most interviews consist of many types of questions, but they usually lean toward situational interviews or behavior description interviews. A situational interviewAn interview style in which the candidate is given a sample situation and asked how he or she might deal with the situation. is one in which the candidate is given a sample situation and is asked how he or she might deal with the situation. In a behavior description interviewA type of interview in which the candidate is asked questions about what he or she actually did in a variety of given situations., the candidate is asked questions about what he or she actually did in a variety of given situations. The assumption in this type of interview is that someone’s past experience or actions are an indicator of future behavior. These types of questions, as opposed to the old “tell me about yourself” questions, tend to assist the interviewer in knowing how a person would handle or has handled situations. These interview styles also use a structured method and provide a better basis for decision making. Examples of situational interview questions might include the following:
Examples of behavior description interview questions might include the following:
Examples of how to answer those difficult interview questions.
As you already know, there are many types of interview questions that would be considered illegal. Here are some examples:
Besides these questions, any specific questions about weight, height, gender, and arrest record (as opposed to allowable questions about criminal convictions) should be avoided.
HR professionals and managers should be aware of their own body language in an interview. Some habits, such as nodding, can make the candidate think they are on the right track when answering a question. Also, be aware of a halo effect or reverse halo effectThis occurs when an interviewer becomes biased because of one positive or negative trait a candidate possesses.. This occurs when an interviewer becomes biased because of one positive or negative trait a candidate possesses. Interview biasWhen an interviewer makes assumptions about the candidate that may not be accurate. can occur in almost any interview situation. Interview bias is when an interviewer makes assumptions about the candidate that may not be accurate.Jeff Lipschultz, “Don’t Be a Victim of Interview Bias,” Career Builder, June 15, 2010, accessed July 12, 2011, http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2010/06/15/interview-bias/. These assumptions can be detrimental to an interview process. Contrast biasA type of bias that occurs when comparing one candidate to others. is a type of bias that occurs when comparing one candidate to others. It can result in one person looking particularly strong in an area, when in fact they look strong compared to the other candidates. A gut feeling biasWhen an interviewer relies on an intuitive feeling about a candidate. is when an interviewer relies on an intuitive feeling about a candidate. Generalization biasA type of interview bias that occurs when an interviewer assumes that how someone behaves in an interview is how they always behave. can occur when an interviewer assumes that how someone behaves in an interview is how they always behave. For example, if a candidate is very nervous and stutters while talking, an assumption may be made that he or she always stutters. Another important bias called cultural noise biasA type of interview bias that occurs when a candidate thinks he or she knows what the interviewer wants to hear and answers the questions based on that assumption. occurs when a candidate thinks he or she knows what the interviewer wants to hear and answers the questions based on that assumption. Nonverbal behavior biasWhen the nonverbal behavior of an interviewer results in bias. occurs when an interviewer likes an answer and smiles and nods, sending the wrong signal to the candidate. A similar to me biasAn interviewer having a preference for a candidate because he or she views that person as sharing similar attributes. (which could be considered discriminatory) results when an interviewer has a preference for a candidate because he or she views that person as having similar attributes as themselves. Finally, recency biasInterview bias that occurs when the interviewer remembers candidates interviewed most recently more so than the other candidates. occurs when the interviewer remembers candidates interviewed most recently more so than the other candidates.
What are the dangers of a reverse halo effect?
A halo effect occurs when a desirable trait makes us believe all traits possessed by the candidate are desirable. This can be a major danger in interviewing candidates.
Once the criteria have been selected and interview questions developed, it is time to start interviewing people. Your interviewing plan can determine the direction and process that should be followed:
As you can see, a large part of the interviewing process is planning. For example, consider the hiring manager who doesn’t know exactly the type of person and skills she is looking to hire but sets up interviews anyway. It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine who should be hired if you don’t know what you are looking for in the first place. In addition, utilizing time lines for interviewing can help keep everyone involved on track and ensure the chosen candidate starts work in a timely manner. Here are some tips to consider when working with the interview process:
Once you have successfully managed the interview process, it is time to make the decision. Section 5.4.1 "Testing" discusses some of the tools we can use to determine the best candidate for the job.
Can you think of a time when the interviewer was not properly trained? What were the results?
An exaggerated and funny example of an untrained interviewer.
Interview questions can revolve around situational questions or behavioral questions. Situational questions focus on asking someone what they would do in a given situation, while behavioral questions ask candidates what they have done in certain situations.