Fit Factors and Knockout Issues

When we train managers to conduct more effective interviews, we teach them to identify “Fit Factors” – issues that are considered when formulating job requirements.  You want to know if a certain candidate is going to “fit” into your particular environmental circumstances.  Do they have the values and attitudes needed to work within your industry and specific company?  Do they have the teamwork ability or he ability to work independently, requirements needed in order to function in that department or division?  Can the candidate deal with the everyday tensions, pressures and ambiguities of the job?

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How Many Interiews are Necessary?

When interviewing job candidates, how many interviews should you conduct?  There is clear evidence that shows that assuming the same criteria and an organized approach, two interviews are dramatically better than one.  It is much better for two interviewers to see the candidates for 45 minutes than for one interviewer to spend 90 minutes with the candidate.

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Testing Assumptions by Developing Great Interview Questions

In general, we make too many assumptions.  For example, we assume that a candidate who’s been doing something for five years is better at it than someone who’s only done it for two.  Of course, that might be correct, or it might not.  What about the performance?  Did the candidate demonstrate the qualities we know are related to success on our job – or did she demonstrate the opposite behaviors?  We don’t know until we test the assumption.  The only way you can find out whether your assumptions are correct is to test and validate them.   For that you’ll need to have a pool of effective, well-researched questions to choose from.  Equipped with these great interview questions, you can unpack, delve into, and probe each experience in a candidate’s background until you have answers you can rely on.

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Campus Recruitment Interviewing

The campus interview is a screening interview.  It is not designed for final decision-making.  Law schools schedule interviews to last around 20 minutes, and in that brief period of time some preliminary judgments can be made about a candidate: What can she do?  What knowledge, skill and intellectual capacity does she possess?  What kind of environment will suit her best?

The same set of skills required for a basic selection interview are necessary for campus recruitment, although there are nuances.  As in selection interviewing for a specific position, on-campus interviews require preparation.  An understanding of the firm’s corporate culture and what type of person will flourish or fail in that setting is essential.  Intangible personality traits such as “motivated” or “high energy level” must be translated into recognizable behaviors.  A consistently organized interview structure will assure that patterns of behavior, desired or otherwise, become apparent even within a shortened time frame.

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Four Types of Comments Used in an Interview

As you conduct your selection interview, your attention won’t be riveted by every candidate.  Yet you owe it to all of them not to let your mind wander while they are answering questions you’ve asked them.  It may help to note that you cannot summarize back to the candidate what they said to you unless you are paying attention.  If you train yourself to comment on what people say, it forces you to listen.  This is more important as a discipline for you than for its effect on the candidate, but the effects can be very positive.  By commenting you are also giving the candidate feedback.  Candidates realize that what they are saying is being understood and processed.   Casual comments like “I see,” “Great,” “That’s interesting,” or grunts like “uh huh” have limited utility.  Try instead to use the following four types of comments that are most useful in the interview:

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Understanding Job Behaviors

What are job behaviors?  When discussing job requirements, in addition to a list of the technical skills and knowledge that are required, a direct supervisor might say, “I need somebody who’s motivated, ambitious and energetic.”  The incumbent might be more likely to say something like, “in this job you need confidence.”  A peer might say, “I need somebody I can count on to get things done on time so I can get my work done.”  These qualities are not as cut and dried as the skills and abilities needed.  When conducting an interview, it’s a lot easier to determine whether a candidate can draw scale diagrams than whether she has an interest to learn new things, or whether she would be able to withstand the pressures put on her by tight deadlines.  Behavior-based interviewing skills can be learned and can be integrated as part of your employee selection procedures to help translate “qualities” into job-specific behaviors.

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Why Your Organization Should Be Interested in Better Interviewing Skills

Employee costs are rising.  Despite attempts by management to control these costs, people continue to account for the lion’s share of any organization’s operation expenses.  Any person in an organization who is not producing at optimum capacity reduces productivity.  For many managers, the single largest “purchase” they make is a new employee.

Yet most managers and supervisors lack the skills needed to make a good selection decision.  Even human resources professionals have noted that interviewing can be a difficult job.  Gut feelings and subjective impressions often are the dominant factors in hiring decisions.  Such factors are notoriously inaccurately predictors of how a candidate will perform once he or she has been hired for a position.

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The Candidate from Four Different Angles

Whatever amount of time you have to spend on an interview, use it to explore these four key categories: work experience, education, activities and interests and self-assessment.  This approach will help you collect the data you need to make more effective hiring decisions.  The idea is to take a series of snapshots, from different angles, of a candidate’s background.

First, take a picture of them from the perspective of their job history.  As they discuss their experience (from their earliest jobs to their most recent), look for consistent patterns of behavior that illustrate the qualities you want: maturity, positive attitudes, how well they work under pressure, flexibility, dependability, time management skills.  Be alert to anything that emerges that provides evidence of the desired traits.

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How Candidates Behave in the Interview is not an Accurate Predictor

Nowadays when management is asked what they need in their new employees, they say “we need somebody with a high energy level.  We have fewer people doing more work, and therefore need employees who have lots of drive, energy, and stamina.”  That may seems like a clear mandate to search for people with high energy, but if that’s all you know, your understanding of the job requirements is inadequate.  Let’s assume two candidates are exactly the same in all other ways, including knowledge, skills, experience, and training.  If they are equal in all these areas and the only difference between them was behavior you noted during the interview—one is outgoing and upbeat, the other rather introverted and quiet—and on top of that you know that the job requires a “high energy level,” most interviewers would, understandably, choose the first candidate.  While you might be absolutely correct about these two individuals, you might also be absolutely wrong.

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Building the Proper Atmosphere (Part 2)

In our last post we started discussing the value of creating the right atmosphere and tone for interviewing candidates. Talented people with choices are often influenced by what they hear about your organization from others, so it’s important that every candidate leaves with the feeling that he or she has been fully heard and fairly treated.  Think of the number of people you personally interview each year.  Multiply that by everyone else in your organization who interviews and you’re talking about the equivalent of a major public relations campaign!  Building the proper atmosphere is an important part of how to hire employees.

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