Diane Arthur on 6 Keys to Conducting Effective Interviews

Photo of Diane ArthurThe following is a guest post by Diane Arthur, author of Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting & Orienting New Employees, Fifth Edition, about how to prepare for and conduct a job interview.

Recently, a friend said he needed to hire a couple of assistants for his office.  “Can you give me a handful of questions that will guarantee I’m getting the best person for the job?” he asked. “There certainly are interview questions that are likely to yield better results than others,” I replied, “but there’s much more to effective interviewing than asking questions.” In fact, there are six keys to conducting effective employment interviews that distinguish a so-so interview from one that is comprehensive, as well as productive.

1. Preparation.  Effective interviewing is built on a solid foundation of preparation, including:

  • Knowledge of your organization’s goals, with specific reference to the relationship of a position and its department to those goals.
  • Awareness of the core competencies or qualities your organization seeks in all employees.
  • Familiarity with specific, job-related, concrete, as well as intangible competencies and responsibilities.
  • Understanding of what today’s employees want vis-à-vis employer expectations.

2. Well-Worded Questions.  Any thought can be expressed in a number of different ways; the wording you choose will determine the depth and quality of a response, thereby helping to determine job-suitability. Ask questions that will yield specific, measurable and verifiable responses. The most effective types of questions are those requiring specific examples, illustrating how a person has managed certain tasks in the past. The premise behind these competency-based questions is that future job performance is likely to resemble past performance. For example, the basics of how a person makes decisions, delegates, or manages time are not likely to change much from one environment to another.

Additional effective questioning techniques include asking open-ended questions that require full, multiple-word responses, hypothetical questions based on anticipated or known job-related tasks, and probing questions that enable interviewers to delve more deeply for additional information.

3. The Wrong Questions. Many employment discrimination charges can be avoided by following a simple rule: if it’s not job-related, don’t ask.  Job-relatedness encompasses education and training, plus previous work or military experiences as they relate to the requirements and responsibilities of the job.  Just about everything else is off limits.

There are also some questioning techniques to avoid, including loaded or multiple-choice questions that force an applicant to choose between two or more alternatives, and leading questions that imply that there is but a single correct answer.

4. Listen and Look.

  • Listen: Strive to achieve a balance between talking and listening. Many interviewers talk too much, thinking that this gives them greater control of the interview.  In reality, no more than 25-30% of your time should be devoted to talking.
  • Look: Interviewers can learn as much about applicants through their body language as from what they say. Look for shifts in nonverbal patterns, as well as microexpressions: brief, involuntary facial expressions that reveal a conflict between the verbal and the nonverbal. This imbalance is worthy of further exploration.

5. Accuracy. Interviewers are often tempted to conceal less-than-ideal aspects of a job. Being direct and accurate in your responses to applicants’ questions, particularly with respect to the description of the job’s tasks, working conditions, and schedules, can prevent resentment as well as poor employer/employee relations after the person is hired.

6. Focus. It’s tempting to compare an applicant with the incumbent, former employees, other applicants, or even yourself when you held the job. Focus, instead, on each candidate’s skills in relation to the requirements of the job.

Jacket image, Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting & Orienting New Employees, Fifth EditionThese six keys to conducting effective employment interviews will help ensure that the person you select will be the best overall fit for any job.

Diane Arthur is president of Arthur Associates Management Consultants, Ltd., a human resources development firm.  She has more than 30 years of experience as a consultant, workshop leader, and lecturer, and is the author of 10 books on human resources management, including Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting & Orienting New Employees, The Complete Human Resources Writing Guide, and The Employee Recruitment and Retention Handbook.

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One response to “Diane Arthur on 6 Keys to Conducting Effective Interviews

  1. Erika Spelman

    Great post–This really gets across how thinking of the big picture and the requirements of the specific company are more important than generic best questions for any interview.

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