Two Reasons Interviewing Fails So Often and the Five Questions to Ask In an Interview
- By Brad Remilliard
- Jun 01, 2012
Do you have other people in your organization interview candidates that will end up working directly for you? Just about everyone answers yes to this question. The follow-up question to this response is, “Have you ever sat in on the interviews with these co-workers and assessed whether or not they are competent interviewers — not co-interview with them, but specifically be there to assess their interviewing abilities?” Most answer no to this question.
Many are relying on co-workers’ opinions to hire someone that will play a role in their own success, yet they don’t even know if these co-workers are competent interviewers, so they cross their fingers and hope everything works out. Crossed fingers and hope tend to result in poor hiring processes and decisions.
There are two primary reasons interviewing fails. First and foremost are the incompetent people conducting the interviews. This is by no means a knock on those people. The truth is, few people are naturally good interviewers, just like few people are naturals at music, sports and math. Most people, in fact, are not good interviewers; most would be considered amateurs. Do you want to have your success based on amateurs conducting the interviews?
The vast majority of people learn to interview from the people who interviewed them. Since that is true, where would you guess the people that interviewed them learned to interview from? You guessed it: the people who interviewed them. And so it goes all the way back to Moses. This is not a training program.
Interviewing is a skill that needs to be developed and honed. Since very few people ever actually receive any training on how to properly interview, most just aren’t good at it. Most people have either had no training, or it was one short class years ago and they’ve long forgotten what they learned. How can anyone expect their managers to be competent interviewers at this rate? Skills need to be practiced or at least kept up to date to be effective. Asking the same questions you were asked 15 years ago in an interview is not keeping up to date.
Lack of training and practice results in one major mistake poor interviewers make over and over again: They don’t probe deeply enough into what the candidate tells them. Interviewers tend to just accept or reject what they are told. Few really comb for facts, time, data, outcomes, challenges, team issues, names, etc. They may ask one or two follow-up questions, but even these are pretty superficial. Teaching interviewers how to investigate is the biggest challenge to overcome when training people to interview. Not that interviewers don’t want to inquire about interviewees’ pasts and experiences; they just don’t know how, or they are uncomfortable asking deep-level questions.
Secondly, vague questions equal vague hires. This often occurs in the second or third round of interviews because interviewers really don’t understand the position. They interview every candidate much the same way regardless of position. It is the “one size fits all” interviewing syndrome. Since the interviewers don’t really know the details of the job, they ask vague and generic questions like they were asked way back when. The problem with this is that once the new hire comes on board, the job expectations held by the manager are rarely vague and generic. Nobody has asked the unturned questions that indicate how the new hire will do the job once on board.
Can you guess what percentage of hiring managers actually review the details of the job description with the co-workers that will be interviewing the candidates? If you guessed less than 10 percent, you are correct. So that means the other interviewers simply assume they know what is important in the job, what specific issues need to be probed, and what questions they should ask to determine if a person is qualified for the job they themselves don’t even understand. Is it any wonder, then, that interviewing fails?
Interviewing doesn’t have to be all that complicated, though. It doesn’t have to be so sophisticated that people need to go through extensive training every time they have an interview. In fact, interviewing should be simple, thorough and easy for everyone to understand.
Well-trained interviewers can get about 80 percent of the information they need to decide whether or not a person can do the job with just five questions and six words. That is it. If candidates can’t adequately answer these five core questions, then all the other questions become irrelevant, so why ask them? In fact, for most hires at the manager level and higher, if a candidate can’t get past the first three, you should move on. The five questions are:
- “Give me an example of a time you demonstrated high initiative.” Just about every position requires initiative. The degree of initiative may change based on the position, but if a candidate doesn’t have it at the level you need, do you really need to continue?
- “Give me an example of a time you successfully executed on a critical project.” If you have critical issues you need handled and a candidate can’t execute and get them done, you may not have the right person.
- “Give me an example of a time you led a cross-functional team on a complex project.” Leadership is something managers must possess. And the cross-functional aspect of this query is important, because motivating people that one does not have authority over is just one difference between managing and leading.
- “Give me an example of a time you have done X in your current company.” Aligning past experiences and accomplishments with regard to scope, size and organization is important.
- “When you come on board, how will you accomplish X within Y period of time?” Getting candidates to describe how they will do the job in your company with your resources within your culture demonstrates their ability to adapt to your company.
Once an interviewer asks each of these questions, a simple inquiry into each response with who, what, when, where, why and how is easy to accomplish: Simply ask follow-up questions that start with one of these six words. If the candidate really did what he or she claims to have done, that person will be able to describe in great detail what was done. The responses and details from these additional questions are what will separate those that did it from those that claim they did it.
This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Recharger.
Brad Remillard is a speaker, author and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in hiring and recruiting. Through his corporate workshops and industry association speaking engagements, he demonstrates how organizations can effectively attract, interview, hire and retain top talent. Remillard is also the co-founder of IMPACT HIRING SOLUTIONS and co-author of “You’re NOT the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent.” For more information on Brad’s hiring training programs or speaking, please visit www.bradremillard.com.