Interviews: It’s a two-way street

Sebastian Kerridge | 13 September 2021

Interviewing is hard.

Not just for a candidate but for employers too.

Outside of the recruitment and human resources industries, many professionals have minimal experience of recruitment and, if they have done it, they have likely had zero training. But, the importance of getting the right talent into your business cannot be understated.

If you were to be critical, is the way you recruit really designed around assessing both the skills and the broader capabilities of the candidate?
A friend of mine recently attended a job interview at a large, well-known brand. They were asked to set aside three hours for the video interview, were told it would be with the hiring manager and “up to two” additional interviewers. They were given a brief “one-pager” to help with their preparation.

My friend took a day off work to prepare, reading about the hiring company and attempting to anticipate the questions and topics that would be covered. The interview came round and, after four hours of over 40 pre-planned questions heavily focused on technical and regulatory knowledge, my friend did not feel the interview went well.

Some people may read the above and think this is a fair way to assess a candidate’s suitability for the role; an in-depth interview with a prescribed set of questions so candidates’ technical knowledge can be directly compared. Well, the experience left my friend feeling deflated, confused and disconnected from a role and company which, only the day before, they had been very optimistic about.

You see, my friend is an experienced, successful engineer but has never worked in the employer’s industry before – something that the organisation was well aware of from his CV. So, it’s easy to understand why he left feeling deflated having spent days preparing for an interview in which technical questions about an industry he has zero experience were the focus of the interview.

On top of this, the already lengthy three-hour interview had spilt over the four-hour mark, making my friend late for their afternoon appointments; not to mention the interviewer took a call mid-interview. Having spoken with my friend about their experience, it was clear that they were no longer invested in the role or business.

Interviews are a candidate’s first proper introduction to your company. Just as you are making judgements of the candidate, they are making their own judgements on you and your organisation.

This style of interview suggests that they hire based purely on skill rather than attitude. Hiring in this way is fine if you want to hire the same person several times over but it does little for a company’s culture and can mean employers missing out on exceptional talent. Skills can be taught, attitude cannot.

So, in order to fairly and thoroughly assess a candidate on criteria that matters, here are my top tips for conducting an engaging interview:

  • Provide candidates with preparation material
    You want them to perform well, even if they aren’t the best candidates. Providing them with an overview or structure of the interview process is essential.
  • Break the ice with candidates
    Ease their nerves and allow them a few minutes to settle themselves. They’ll likely perform better and you’ll build rapport with them.
  • Pre-plan questions but leave the opportunity to have a flowing conversation
    It’s great to standardise questions so you can compare candidates but you also want it to be personal and allow for the conversation to evolve organically.
  • Have multiple interviewers (two minimum) at each stage beyond the initial introduction call
    This will reduce any bias and give a more rounded picture of the person when hiring managers are feeding back. Ideally, have each interviewer focusing on a selection of different traits. You don’t want all the interviewers to be assessing the same criteria, so distribute this before the interview and ensure each interviewer focuses on qualifying their set criteria.
  • Sell your company and leave time for questions
    You want every candidate to leave the interview raving about how good the experience was and how good your company would be to work for. Make sure you leave time for them to ask any questions and paint a picture of what it’s like to work at your company to draw them in.
  • Assess for attitude
    Having candidates that have the relevant skills to conduct a role is great but these are the candidates that everyone is hiring. If you want to diversify your team and improve your culture, hire based on attitude. Can you teach this person the skills? Is this person going to make a positive impact on my team/organisation? Are they resilient? Don’t rule them out if their technical knowledge is lacking but they can evidence quick learning or desire to be successful.

Sebastian Kerridge is a Senior Consultant in the talent intelligence team at NSCG, providing real-time insight into talent markets to support employers with their future people strategy. To find out how you can place greater emphasis on attitude in your hiring decisions, get in touch.

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