Everyone agrees that the best candidate isn’t always the one who aces the interview, and isn’t always the one we select for the job. In fact, the traditional interview process is more likely to find someone who is good at answering questions and thrives under pressure than someone who is actually a good fit for the role. So, why does this happen, and how can we improve the way we approach interviews to secure better talent?
The Downside of the Traditional Interview
Interviews are one of the most unnatural experiences we ever endure. They are right up there with exams, and like exams, they put people in a high-pressure situation and demand that they answer questions on the spot. We can study for the interview and prepare as well as we can, but still, we are often thrown a curve ball that we aren’t ready for, which can totally de-rail the interview.
Hiring managers regularly tell us that they are comfortable being in the position of the interviewer, but put them on the other side of the table and they find it just as disconcerting – something that emphasises just how foreign the interview can be, even to those who are supposed to be the experts!
How Can We Improve the Way We Interview?
When it comes to interviewing candidates, some of our clients are doing something a bit different.
One of our banking clients, for example, has an interesting approach to executive candidates. They inform the candidate of what they would like to know ahead of time and then ask them to prepare a 45-minute presentation, with extra time allowed for introductions and additional questions from both sides.
This approach is effective because an individual’s key skills and qualities tend to be evident in the presentation they deliver, and it’s a good opportunity for them to showcase what makes them unique. The client has found that this provides them with a much better understanding of what each candidate has to offer than a traditional interview. For instance, Marketing candidates typically produce lots of graphic and video support for their presentations, which serves to both highlight their skills and experience and demonstrate just how good they are at their job – by marketing themselves.
One of our Government clients takes a different approach, providing the question sheet prior to the interview, along with details on how long the person has to answer each question. This gives the candidate time to prepare, and also leads to a very structured and well-run interview.
When I applied for my original management role at Beyond Recruitment, they provided me with the questions in advance of my fourth and final interview. The weekend before, I prepared. I spent three hours giving the questions in-depth thought and writing up the answers. Then I practised responding to the questions in front of my two cats. When it came to the interview itself, rather than delivering a presentation, I sat at the table and the exchange progressed in a conversational way, with extra probing into my answers as necessary. As the interviewee and someone who likes to be prepared, I found this style of interviewing to be much more conducive to a better outcome.
So, why do we tend to avoid providing the questions in advance, despite the apparent benefits? Are we afraid that candidates will find answers to things they don’t know, thereby giving a misleading impression? I think that even if this were the case, some further probing into their answers would quickly reveal whether they genuinely understand what they are talking about.
What are the Benefits of Changing Your Interview Process?
By adapting your interview technique to allow candidates to prepare in advance, you can increase your chances of hiring the best person for the role, rather than the person who is best at answering questions on the spot and dealing with high-pressure situations. Your interviewee is more likely to be relaxed, allowing you to see more of the true person.
Time to be brave and try something new. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.
If you’d like to sit down to discuss your interview techniques and get ideas on how you can achieve better outcomes from your process, please feel free to get in touch and we can have a chat over a coffee!