Do 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 is, "Have you ever sat in 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.
You are relying on their opinion to hire someone that will play a role in your success, yet you don't even know if they are competent interviewers. So you cross your fingers and hope everything works out. Crossed fingers and hope make a poor hiring process.
There are two reasons for interviewing failures. First and foremost, incompetent people often conduct the interviews. This is by no means a knock on those people. The fact is, a few people are naturally good interviewers, just like only a few people are natural at music, sports or math. However, most people are not good interviewers, just like most are not good at music, sports, or math. Most would be considered amateurs when it comes to interviewing. Do you want to have your success based on amateurs conducting the interviews?
The vast majority of people learn to interview from the people that interviewed them. Since that is true, then where did the people that interviewed them learn to interview from? You guessed it: from the people that 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 took a short class years ago and have long forgotten what they learned. 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 up to date.
Lack of training and practice creates one major flaw that poor interviewers make over and over again. They don't probe deeply enough into what the candidate tells them. The interviewer tends to just accept or reject what they are told. Few really probe for facts, time, data, outcomes, challenges, team issues, or names. They may ask one or two follow-up questions, but even these are pretty superficial. Teaching interviewers how to probe deeply is the biggest challenge to overcome when training people to interview. It's not the person doesn't want to probe, they just don't know how or they are uncomfortable asking these deep-level questions.
Secondly, vague questions equal vague hires. This is often because those conducting the second or third round of interviews 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 other interviewers don't really know the details of the job either, they ask vague and generic questions, just like they were asked "way back when." The problem with this is that once the person comes on board their manager's job expectations are rarely vague and generic. Nobody has asked the probing question as to how the person will do the job once they come on board.
Less than 10% of hiring managers actually review the details of job descriptions with the co-workers that interview candidates. So that means the people interviewing simply guess at what is important in the job, what specific issues need to be probed and what questions they should ask to determine if the person is qualified for a job they themselves don't even understand. Is it any wonder interviewing fails?
Interviewing doesn't have to be all that complicated. It doesn't have to be so sophisticated that a person needs 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% of the information they need to decide whether or not a person can do the job with just five questions and six words. If an applicant can't pass these five core questions, then all the other questions are irrelevant, so why ask them? In fact, for most hires at the manager level and higher, if the candidate can't get past the first three, you should move on.
The five questions are:
1. Can you give me an example where you demonstrated high initiative? Just about every position requires initiative. The degree of initiative may change based on the position, but find out if an applicant has it at the level you need.
2. Can you give me an example where you successfully executed on a critical project? If the position involves addressing critical issues, you need to know immediately whether an applicant can fulfill job requirements.
3. Can you give me an example where you led a cross-functional team on a complex project? Leadership is something managers must possess. Cross-functionality is important, because motivating people that aren't under direct authority is just one difference between managing and leading.
4. Can you give me an example where you have done "X" in your current company? Aligning past experiences and accomplishments with regard to your company's scope size, and organization is an important indicator of future ability to fulfill your requirements.
5. When you come on board how would you accomplish "X" within "X" period of time? Getting applicants to describe how they will do the job in your company, with your resources and your culture, demonstrates their ability to adapt to your company.
Once you ask these five questions, then probe deeply with follow-up questions that start with "who, what, when, where, why" and "how." If the candidate really did what they claim to have done, they will be able to answer your questions in great detail. The right questions will help you separate those that did it from those that claim they did it.
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. He is 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: www.bradremillard.com.