Every company has its own specific interview process, but have you actually taken a step back and analysed yours lately?
As with every business process it helps to take an objective look, an audit if you like, and look closely for any bad habits or problems that may have crept in over time.
Of course spotting the bad habits and the failings in the interview process can be hard, especially if they’ve been there since the start and have become enshrined and simply the ‘way we do things’.
Here are five common problems that can play havoc with your interview process, and how to avoid them.
1. Asking the wrong questions
Job interviews can often follow a formulaic approach which means that candidates often face the same questions. This is especially true with experienced recruiters, who often feel confident enough in their interview skills to simply wing the interview, and consequently use the same tried and tested questions time and again.
This is not the right approach.
Every interview should be tailored to the position and a series of questions that relate specifically to that position should be drawn up in advance. Additional aptitude or psychometric tests can also form part of the process should the role require them, and they in turn might give you new areas to question.
But a specific set of tailored questions is a minimum requirement. If you’re short on inspiration, we've got some good examples here.
Recruiter Pro Tip: I appreciate that tailoring the interview in advance requires additional work but you really will reap the benefits if you take the time to do it. Something else to consider if your HR team are conducting the first round of interviews and the position requires a particularly technical skillset. If this is the case for you, it may be worth having the Hiring Manager present at the first interview to ensure that not only are the correct questions being asked but also that the answers are being interpreted correctly.
2. Inconsistency between candidates
Without a solid structure to the interview, and even with one, it's very easy to be inconsistent with your approach between different candidates.
Different days, different time of day, the fact that you had an argument with your spouse before you left the house this morning even, and any number of other factors can affect the interview and the outcome.
Even different interview rooms can make a difference to the candidate and your impression of them.
Consistency is key to a solid interview process and your ability to weigh candidates against one another. Without it, you may as well pick a suitably qualified prospect randomly.
So even at the expense of additional information, keep the interview process constant.
Recruiter Pro Tip: This sounds easier than you may think in practice, but there are measures you can put in place to help with consistency. Firstly, put a scoring system in place. Given that you've got your list of questions from point 1, you ought to know the kind of answers you're looking for, so assess the candidate's responses against your expectations. If you wanted to be really clever, throw in some competency based questions or situational questions, and ask the candidate to give you specific examples where they have to perform/achieve/overcome x, y or z. Secondly, make sure that the same person interviews every candidate. This sounds obvious, but in some companies different recruitment teams take responsibility for interviewing different candidates for the same role at first interview. Make sure your business isn't one of them. Finally, try and schedule your interviews really close together, ideally on the same day if you can. Ideally schedule no more than 3 in the same day to avoid 'Interview Fatigue' (see later), but at least by doing it that way, your mood and approach should be more consistent, you'll be able to quickly benchmark the candidates against each other and it should allow you to remove any subjectivity from the decision.
3. Interviewer bias / favouritism
It's human nature for anyone interviewing someone without some pre-determined questions or scoring system in place to allow some bias to creep into play.
People are generally hard-wired to seek out common traits and interests in others, which in turn means that the recruitment process can, if left unchecked, turn the office into a social club in the making.
This is especially true in an interview situation - you'll naturally gravitate to people you like without making a qualitative assessment of whether they can do the job or not.
Few managers would accept this theory, but the proof is indisputable. We naturally seek out others like us and while any hiring manager will do their best to remain objective, people have a natural aversion to others that are too different.
That can easily turn a minor negative on a CV into a total deal breaker, while a similar person with more common ground will skate through despite some potential glaring holes in their skills and abilities.
Recruiter Pro Tip: One way to prevent this happening is to have more than one person interview every candidate (an interview panel for instance), ideally with a solid cross section of ages and genders. This isn’t always possible (especially at first interview) and some companies simply do not like to have several people in the interview as it can intimidate candidates. However I'd say that for second interviews and beyond, it's an absolute must and is something we do here at Coburg Banks. The objective is to remove any potential for bias from an interview - the panel achieves that. For instance, a solo interviewer may have their own agenda and demonstrate a preference for a certain type of employee. This could work if they are closely aligned with the company philosophy, but it could mean you miss out on a creative genius because they fell foul of the interviewer's pre-determined ideas, which in turn will stifle growth. Avoid bias at all costs.
4. Interview fatigue
Interview fatigue is a very real problem and something you need to be aware of when you're considering being consistent with your interview approach.
For example: Imagine you've set aside a whole day for interviewing candidates, which is often the only way to deal with each appointment logistically. Can you honestly say that the last candidate gets the same level of attention as the first?
That potentially means that a candidate’s chances and your company’s future could literally depend on the luck of the draw. Eventually, that has to go against you.
Recruiter Pro Tip: When people listen to broadly similar answers many times in a day, it’s only natural to switch off at some point and stop listening. So if you’re in charge of the interview process then schedule regular breaks and, if possible, limit the number of interviews in one day to no more than three. Interview fatigue applies to candidates, too, so unless physical and mental endurance are actually part of the test then try to avoid full days of evaluation as the emotional stress will start to affect your results.
5. Interviews are inherently dishonest
A candidate is there to sell themselves to you, the sole goal for the day is to secure the job. Considering what is at stake, it’s reasonable to expect candidates to lie and others to be crippled by nerves.
So unless you’re well-versed in spotting the signs then you can find yourself employing the best politician, rather than the best person for the job.
This can obviously be a huge problem for any interview process, and one that any company needs to immediately resolve.
Of course seeing through the veneer that well-practiced candidates manage to present, and the cloud of nerves that affects the less experienced, is just one of the skills of a top hiring manager.
Just be aware that you’re looking for, and interpreting, signs. Aptitude tests provide quantifiable results that can be more relevant in the real world.
Recruiter Pro Tip: Seeing through an accomplished liar in an interview can be tough. Even in an average 10-minute conversation with a stranger, psychologist and lying-specialist Robert Feldman reckons that we will lie three times. So people will lie in job interviews. That is a guarantee. Read our blog where we tell you how to spot some of the signs, but most importantly, if you think something doesn't sit or smell right, interrogate the point further until you have a satisfactory answer.
It's often said that the interview is the gateway to finding the perfect person that might even make or save your business £1m - but it is littered with pitfalls.
Getting the interview process right is essential for the long term future of any business. You want the very best people for your organisation, so take the time to audit your interview processes and get them right.
It really is worth it.