13 August 2008

How to help clients conduct effective interviews

This article appeared in Issue 45 of InSight
Published 13 August 2008

Recruiters have many frustrations in doing their job.

One of the most common frustrations is a client’s poor interview skills which results in either the most appropriately matched candidate not being identified by the client, or the preferred candidate opting out of the recruitment process after the (poor) client interview.

This high level of frustration is mainly due to the amount of time, skill and effort of the recruiter that has already been invested in identifying, interviewing and gearing the shortlisted candidates which is then ‘blown’ by the client at interview.

Here are five tips for action you could take to assist your client increase their effectiveness when interviewing your candidates.

Tip 1:
Ensure the candidate resume summary (or front page) you prepare, specifically states the evidence you have collected that demonstrates that the candidate’s skills, competencies and motivations match those required for the job. The best evidence is gained from referees, skills testing or answers to properly formulated behavioural interview questions.

How it helps:
It keeps the client focused on the real drivers of job performance (ie skills, competencies and motivations) not the imagined drivers of job performance (eg qualifications, gender, age and years of experience).

Tip 2:
Provide the client with a list of suggested specific behavioural interview questions that address the skills, competencies and motivations required for the job.

How it helps:
Many clients are under-prepared for interviews or lack interview training and as a result, they ask interview questions that are:

  • not-evidence based - ‘What are your strengths/weaknesses?’

  • irrelevant - ‘What football team do you follow?'

  • illegal - 'Are you planning to start a family?’

  • an attempt to play amateur psychologist - ‘Tell me about you relationship with your mother and father?

  • or just plain dumb - ‘If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?’

Your list of questions could save the day.

Tip 3:
Ensure the client understands the importance of ‘selling’ the job and the company to the candidate. This is normally most effectively done when the client shares their own story of why they joined the organisation, what they have gained job-wise and/or personally from their employment and what opportunities they see for themselves into the future.

How it helps:
Company websites, prominent employer branding, market salaries, excellent benefits and smart offices are all helpful in creating a positive impression with a candidate. However, real stories from real employees, communicated powerfully during an interview, surpass them all for having a lasting impact with candidates. In November 1990 this interview skill was used to great effect by Greg Savage in having me elect to take a job offer at Recruitment Solutions ahead of the one I received from Hays.

Tip 4:
Ensure the client is aware of the one or two most important factors (both positive and negative) of each individual candidate in considering that client’s job so these factors can be emphasised (for the positive) or addressed (for the negative). What considerations are the major positives (eg global opportunities, internal mentoring program) or negatives (eg long hours, recent slide in share price) for this candidate?

How it helps:
Each candidate is different and has different motivations. If the client only focuses on what they believe to be the major factors in the candidate’s consideration then they risk wasting valuable interview time discussing irrelevancies.

Tip 5:
When the client says ‘I really liked the candidate’ or ‘the candidate interviewed really well’, make sure you respond by saying (words to the effect of) ‘Tell me about your assessment of how well the candidate can do the job and is motivated to do the job?’

How it helps:
No matter how much a client ‘likes’ a candidate they won’t like them for long if the candidate (after starting) can’t do the job or is not motivated to do the job. Also, there is no research (to my knowledge) that demonstrates that interview performance (ie the candidate was affable, attractive, articulate and ambitious) is a reliable indicator of performance on the job.

Summary:
Keep the client’s focus in interview firmly on the candidate’s skills, competencies and motivations as a match (or not) for the client’s job. Keep the client’s focus off the candidate’s personality and other factors unrelated to performance.

Remember!
If the client hires a poor performer, they will always blame the recruiter for referring a poor candidate rather than take responsibility themselves for making a poor hiring decision.

A key part of your job is to help your clients conduct effective interviews - interviews that lead to smart hiring decisions and a win-win situation for all.

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