How to Interview: Interviewing for the Best New Hire

By Chris Pohlkamp

I was speaking with an interviewer the other day, and she said that her challenges lay in asking the right interview questions and being organized for the interview. I asked her what kind of questions she thought were the “right” questions. She said ones that “go beyond what the interviewee has memorized about themselves.’ As with most interviewers, she was facing interviewees who were better prepared and educated in the art of interviewing than she was. Interviewees have often received training in responding to behavioural interview questions. They have memorized questions and answers for interviews. And they are taught proper body language and proper voice inflections. In this case, the interviewer had only received the basic training from a peer 10 minutes prior to conducting the interviews. In many ways, interviewers have the odds stacked against them before they even sit down with the ideal candidate. Picture this. A job opens up and needs to be filled yesterday. The job description is sketchy at best. The organization wants someone who can do double duty, that job and possibly others. The ad results in thousands of resumes, and there are a lot that fill the requirements. The first interview which is a phone interview eliminates some, but still leaves a lot that are “ideal.” There is no set guideline in place to assist in setting up the interviews, so the interviewer starts booking 10 interviews per day. There are no interview questions or tests in place to help vet the candidates and, by the end of the first day, the interviewer has no idea who was even in the interview with her. So before she even starts, she is in trouble. Here are some suggestions that could have made her interviews more organized and fruitful.

  1. Know what you are interviewing for. Make sure the job description is current and has enough detail in it.
  2. Don’t be pressured to fill the position right away, take the time to prepare for the interview by writing up an ad that vets folks who are applying for every job available. The ad should state the salary, job expectations, and educational requirements.
  3. Organize the resumes by salary needed, job experience, interests and by professionalism.
  4. Create an interview guide of behavioural interview questions based on job competencies. The guide should cover at least six areas including integrity. Each competency should have three questions with room to write under each question. Each question should have a number of follow-up questions to probe deeper.
  5. Book no more than five interviews per day. Allow one hour per interview and time to write down follow-up thoughts and, of course, time to eat.
  6. If interviewing for a web designer ask them to create something, if interviewing for a bus driver have them drive through a set up driving course, if interviewing for a trainer have them conduct a short course. Test the candidates in the skills they have to perform on the job.
  7. Once the final five or so candidates have been chosen have those people go through a second interview with another interviewer or take part in a panel interview. More and different behavioural interview questions are asked and this process will identify the perfect person to fill that job.
  8. Another idea is to invite the team they will be working with to meet them and to conduct final interview questions.
  9. If everything in the reference checks match up, and the interviewers all agree, offer the candidate the job.

10. Keep all interview guides of all the people interviewed to avoid problems down the road. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. It has been documented that it costs the organization four times the person’s salary if they leave before the year is out. Why not take the time and do it right the first time? Chris Pohlkamp is a subject matter expert in the field of interviewing. One of Chris’s popular courses is Interviewing for the Best New Hire. Chris Pohlkamp conducts this workshop for the Ontario Training Network. Ontario Training offers corporate training with customized courses for both the public and private sectors.