Essential Skills for an Interviewer | DCR Workforce Blog

Essential Skills for an Interviewer

Few companies can claim to have managed to excite customers as much as Apple has. But, when Apple lost its Senior VP –Retail, Ron Johnson to poaching by J C Penney, his replacement John Browett only held the position for 9 months! Under Johnson, Apple was on top, with its Stores making $5647 per square foot ($2562 higher than the second best Tiffany’s, and 13.6 times more than Walmart’s $414/Sq.ft.). Suddenly Apple Stores failed to focus on building international presence, botched public relations, brought in new policies which upset customers and made the employees unhappy – all of which made it impossible for Browett to retain his job beyond 9 months.

The Apple example seems to be the norm today, with estimates that the average tenure of a CEO is under three years.  And the problem is not isolated to the hiring of senior executives.  This naturally makes one wonder if the recruitment process is always fraught with risk, and if it could be less error-prone and more reliable! After all, the cost of a wrong hire is never low and even the recovery will make a dent in the bottom-line, and require time and effort.

Human capital managers today have supposedly gained control over how they recruit people for a given role – with their lengthy and comprehensive descriptions of job title and role, and the strategy of enumerating the skills required to perform well in a role in thorough detail. Then they use psychometric evaluations to assess candidates on their loyalty, extroverted nature and patience and other pertinent attitudinal parameters, which are ‘must haves’ for that role. Then of course, the personal interview(s) – structured to demonstrate varying levels of intensity, complexity and depth in direct proportion to the importance and seniority of the role.

In spite of this rigor, we find recruiters (and boards) bemoaning the bad hires they have made as described above. Of course,  bad interviewing practices will lead to a bad hire. An interviewer needs to be able to ascertain the candidate’s capability to meet critical performance requirements on the job.

Discerning the Qualities

The world out there seems to have this firm idea that an interviewer has an easy job. Generally, candidates alone get all the tips on dress code and etiquette, even up to advice on how to cook up plausible answers to questions about one’s strengths and weaknesses. An interviewer, whose primary activity is not recruiting, could end up with regret for not having a well-planned strategy in place, should they assume that all the preparation falls to the candidates only.

The recruitment activity starts with clearly defining the skills that are a ‘must have’ for the role. The next step requires a clear articulation of the type of candidate to fulfill the requirement. Tailor the short listing process to identify the most suitable among the candidates. It is not enough to know that the candidate has the necessary training and previous experience to meet the demands of the role. Never avoid the crucial question: is the candidate capable of doing what the job needs while also suiting the organization culture?

Some pointers to managers would include how to:

  • Never lose sight of the fact that the interview process should isolate candidates who not only have the right skills but also attitude, temperament, and personality which fit in the organization without causing disruption.  Look for skill and will.
  • Stay alert for any inconsistencies between what is portrayed on the resume vs. what is disclosed in the behavior and communication. Keen observation and gentle probing may also help to form an opinion.
  • Ask the candidate to describe a real situation in which the candidate dealt with a situation that required the specific skills sought.
    • Encourage the candidate to provide as complete and thorough an account as possible.
    • Follow up with some hypothetical scenario-based questions which are more relevant for your current requirement.
    • When checking references, mention this scenario is general terms and ask the reference to recount his/her recollection of the event and the way in which the candidate dealt with the issue.
  • Avoid making any positive or negative assumptions about the candidates based upon their personal information or even previous careers, career titles and educational qualifications and the schools, which awarded them.
  • Research the candidate in advance.  Today, the web provides a wealth of information about nearly everyone.  Check the social networking sites and Google the candidate.
  • Use social media to identify anyone you know that may have worked with the candidate and reach out to them – particularly if they were not listed as a reference.
  • Prepare reference checks carefully, deciding in advance what questions to ask.  Probe into anything that you learned during the interview, and use these individuals to provide insight into the individual’s work style.

Some of these tips may help a recruiter to sail comfortably over the common interview hurdle, which takes the form of a candidate who interviews well but whose skills and work styles are inconsistent with the impression given during the interview.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.