The Traditional Interview Process Is Broken. Here's How to Fix It.

US News

What can you do when the interview process you've used for decades fails you? When it doesn't make it easy enough to assess each candidate accurately or when the candidate you chose turns out to not be the best one for the job?

When a candidate is trying his best to make a good impression, it often doesn't paint an accurate portrait of who he is as an employee. It's time to rethink how you interview potential hires and structure your process in a way that leads you to the ideal candidate.

Problem: The résumé leads the interview. Patrick Sweeney, president of Caliper, a global human resources consulting firm, says one issue with the traditional interview process is that many employers lean too much on the candidate's résumé rather than getting to know who he or she is as it relates to the job.

"This process puts greater focus on what candidates have done versus who they are. Employers need to focus on potential and not just job experience," he says. "By human nature, we also tend to gravitate towards what we have in common with others. Therefore, a mutual interest or association listed on a résumé may make a candidate seem more desirable -- even if it doesn't hold much weight when it comes to the job itself."

Solution: Look beyond the résumé. While certainly you care what a candidate's résumé has on it, don't let it be your sole guide as to how she will fare at your company if hired. Pay attention to her behaviors and responses during the interview. Is she confident when answering your questions or does she seem unsure of herself? Do her actions align with her responses? For example, if she says she's a team player, does she act friendly and open to feedback?

Sweeney says incorporating an in-depth personality assessment into the hiring process can help you directly compare candidates to your top performers.

Problem: Canned questions don't help you get to know a candidate. Sylvia Wildfire, owner of On Call Medic, a health and safety services provider, says traditional interviews don't allow you to know the real person you're hiring. "I ask questions like 'what would other people say about you,'" she says. She also doesn't just ask the old "where do you want to be in five years," but instead asks where they want to be in 10 or 20, or even what they want to do when they retire. "It makes them off guard and you get some really interesting information from them."

Solution: Get the conversation going. Wildfire invites candidates to tell her about themselves and that tends to get the dialogue going. Encourage your interview to go off the rails and into more relaxed territory. Sometimes you get to know people better when you invite them to talk about themselves and get them to give you real, unrehearsed answers.

Problem: Some people are great in interviews, but bad on the job. Interviews are often skewed by the impression that people make, which isn't always reflective of their ability to do the job, says Felicia Gopaul of College Funding Resource. Nailing all the answers you ask isn't any guarantee that a candidate is as qualified as he makes you believe.

Solution: Test them. Gopaul says she tests candidates' skills as a better interpretation of their abilities. "If I am hiring a writer, I have them listen to five to 10 minutes of a recent podcast and then have them write an interesting article (short) that would get people to want to listen to my podcast," she says. "And then I ask them to mail it to me without a résumé attached. I learn whether they can follow directions and write at the same time." She also tests candidates using tools like the Marketing DNA Test, an assessment test offered by Perry S. Marshall & Associates that determines strengths in a given field. "It tells me what the person is good at objectively rather than having a person highlight their strengths (or the strengths they think I want to hear)," Gopaul says. "Using this test also keeps me from my tendency previously to hire people I like who have skills very similar to mine."

Just because traditional interviews have been conducted the same way for years doesn't mean you have to adhere to them. Find a process that best helps you assess candidates, even if it is a bit unconventional.



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