For the most part, job interviews are daunting for both the interviewer and the candidate. Each has only a limited amount of time to deliver their “pitch” and to make a positive, lasting first impression. It can be tricky on both sides to know how to make the most of the interview process.
In a recent New York Times article, writer and organizational psychologist Adam Grant offers some guidance on how interviewers can maximize the limited face-to-face time they get with candidates prior to making hiring decisions.
Preparation is Key
Grant urges interviews to become very familiar with a candidate’s skill set prior to the interview. By studying the candidate’s resume, cover letter, and other supplemental information provided during the application process, interviewers can devise candidate-specific talking points to make the interview more worthwhile. For example, if you request that applicants provide a work sample, you can then ask the candidate about that specific work during the interview. Reading up on a candidate’s previous work and experience ahead of time will also make interviewers more likely to focus on the candidate’s accomplishments and leave less room for implicit bias to take over.
Also known as “situational questions,” behavioral questions ask the candidate to describe how they would respond to a particular situation and why. According to Grant, the best use of behavioral questions is to pick a challenge or scenario relevant to your industry and ask the candidate what they would do if they found themselves in that scenario. This, says Grant, taps into deeper personality traits and tendencies and provides a glimpse into how they would operate as an employee.
Grant believes these types of questions are far more useful than standard interview questions like, “what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” Not only are these questions shallow, but they’re also easily deflected, with answers like, “I work too hard” or, “I’m a perfectionist.” They are also so overused that candidates are likely to have rehearsed a polished answer that, while it may sound great, ultimately fails to demonstrate their work ethic. Behavioral or situational questions are also more useful than brain-teaser questions, as the latter have been shown to be poor indicators of job performance.
While Grant suggests familiarizing yourself with a candidate’s unique skill set prior to interviewing them, he also emphasizes the importance of asking each candidate the same questions. He argues that this technique will highlight each candidate’s skills and tendencies because it will showcase each candidate’s distinct response to the same scenarios. This will help you evaluate each candidate through the same lens, which, in turn, will help to better predict job performance.
Here at Workplace Legal, we’re firm believers in behavioral interviewing. Our firm is frequently retained by employers to recruit and interview candidates, and we utilize custom behavioral questions that we’ve developed over the years to analyze a candidate’s “fit” for the specific job at the specific company we’re hiring for. We find that these types of questions produce answers that are more illuminating, and most honest and less rehearsed, than typical interview questions. We utilize other techniques too, of course, but in our view, the backbone of a good interview starts with behavioral interviewing.
Is your company looking to hire in the weeks and months ahead? If so, we can help. Give us a call and let’s discuss your needs, your goals, and a process that can help you find that perfect candidate.