Solving the Candidate Interview Puzzle

Posted by Richard Jacobson

AdobeStock_58030626.jpegIt is my pleasure to introduce a guest blogger for this latest post. Jaime Elgas is an engagement director with Jacobson’s insurance executive search practice. Her insights into interview best practices are worth a read. Enjoy…

You’ve put together a carefully worded job description. You’ve closely vetted each job applicant and determined your top candidates. Now it’s time for the interview. For many organizations, this step in the process can be tricky. According to a recent study, today’s business interviews are often ineffective. In fact, a study on predictors of job performance found that the typical interview increased the likelihood of choosing the best candidate by less than two percent versus no interview.

Preparation is key to a successful interview. Organizations should develop a list of carefully crafted questions that allow them to dive deeply into a candidate’s background, experience and motivation to get a better understanding of both their qualifications and their cultural fit. The most effective way to do this is for the organization to have two sets of questions.  The first set would be the organization’s “go-to” questions that they plan to pose to all candidates and the second set, is a list of more role-specific questions that probe into a candidate’s technical knowledge and the key competencies of the targeted role. So, while there will be some consistency in interview format and general questions, the more probing questions should vary from position to position.

When it comes to “go-to” general questions, organizations should focus on four main areas including knowledge of the company, career transitions, motivation and 360-degree feedback.

AdobeStock_105648831.jpegCompany Knowledge

Before bringing on a new candidate you want to make sure that they have adequately vetted your organization and are sure that it aligns with what they are seeking. Ask questions that can help determine if they are able and willing to make a commitment to both the job and your organization.

  • How did you find out about the job?

  • Have you spoken to anyone previously about the company?

  • Why do you feel you are a good fit with the organization and its culture?

  • What interests you most about our company?

The quality of the answers can speak to the candidate’s level of interest, as well as their ability to be a proactive, self-starter who takes it upon themselves to seek information.

Career Transitions

Job candidates should be able to articulate their career paths in a cohesive and meaningful matter. Questions regarding career transitions should be designed to provide insights into their overall performance, decision-making processes, motivators and relationship skills. Focus on open-ended questions that provide descriptions and examples.

  • What reasons contributed to your decision to select new opportunities over the course of your career?

  • What major challenges and problems have you faced throughout your career? How have you handled them?

  • What do you consider to be your most transferable skills from past positions?

  • What are you looking for in your next job?

Professional Motivations

Motivation-focused interview questions are a key part of the screening process. These questions are a great way to understand what drives a candidate’s success. Are their professional career motivations a fit with the position responsibilities and your organization’s professional development opportunities? These types of questions help employers understand the alignment, or lack thereof, between their needs and the candidate’s desires.  It can also help the employer effectively influence a candidate’s level of interest by providing insight into the candidate’s top concerns. Take time to really dive deep into what drove the candidate to apply for the role.

  • What’s on your shopping list for your next position and/or organization?

  • Why are you seeking in a new position?

  • If you could create a position with the perfect attributes, what would those be?

  • What sort of tasks are you best at? In what sort of environments (busy, deadline-driven, loud, quiet, etc.) do you work the best?

AdobeStock_87505882.jpeg360-Degree Feedback

The 360-degree feedback process is capable of so much more than just evaluating employee effectiveness. It is a strategic interviewing method that will allow you organization to gain insight into a candidate’s self-awareness, collaboration and ability to interact with others at a variety of levels within an organization. 

After asking a candidate to provide an example of teamwork, leadership, change management or perhaps project management. Follow-up with a question about how others viewed the candidate in different situations.

  • How did your peers, manager, senior leaders, staff members and/or other stakeholders view you in this situation?

  • How do you know and what evidence do you have to support that belief?

  • What did you learn or what would you do differently if a similar situation arose in the future?

Remember, interviews are not one-sided. Make sure to provide time for the candidates to ask their questions. Together, this four-pronged interview approach will provide a clear picture of whether a candidate is a good fit for your organization.

What interview best practices does your organization follow?