Interviewing Tips – Effective Applicant Assessment

Interviews can be pointless. Especially if the interviewer is unsure about what they are looking for. Sometimes even if the interviewer knows what they are looking for, it’s not unusual to end an interview without knowing if the person is the right fit for a job.

During one recruiting project, I had teamed up with a colleague for a few rounds of interviews. This colleague of mine had a natural investigative inclination. The interviews were for an unconventional position but his style was simple – a professional yet friendly demeanor and the ability to get the applicant revealing a lot of truth. These interviews made some very hilarious memories but the assessments were spot on.

If you know the joy of being an interviewer, you know how important it is to differentiate between rehearsed answers that don’t quite reveal the truth and honest ones. There are also times when the applicant is so intimidated by the interviewer that they fail to impress even though they could make excellent hires.

I think interviews can reveal more about a person’s personality than their level of performance. Interviews basically test a person’s marketing ability. If a person is good at that, they will most likely be hired. But as an interviewer, this is your chance to gather information about this stranger who you might bring on board and invest a lot of resources in. I usually assess the following:

  1. Attitude: This can be very easy or very tricky to assess. I remember a few years ago, a team interviewed someone for a position that required unbelievable amount of diplomatic and persuasion skills. The person they were looking for needed to be consistently positive in their demeanor irrespective of the situation. So they interviewed a lot of people and finally one of them came across as someone pleasantly positive and polite. However, it was during a delayed background check process that the team found out that the applicant had serious anger management problems. In fact, the applicant was foolish enough to speak rudely with the recruiter because he was impatient to find out the result of the long hiring process. The person was obviously not hired and the interview team paid more attention to attitude related information during background checks. Sometimes it is not hard to assess a person’s attitude. They reveal it in the way they answer questions about a former difficult employer or experience or while admitting their response to past failures.
  2. Communication skills: You could also assess persuasion skills or negotiation skills under the same category. Don’t help them complete sentences, even if you “click” with them. If you are a good communicator or have clear questions written down, note how well they are able to interpret your questions. It is important that you note the kind of communication skills relevant for the position before the interview and prepare questions to assess that. Based on that information, check if their answers are adequate. Are they talking too much and are their answers consistent? How well are they able to articulate? What about their non-verbal communication? Are they interrupting your sentences? Are they able to market their skills without seeming too modest or self-centered? How graciously did they negotiate salary and benefits?
  3. Confidence under pressure: This should not be hard to assess. Interviews can be quite intimidating and would count for a high-pressure situation. Is the person calm or fidgety? Are they finding it hard to remember important details? Do they sound terrified and loud or too soft? Another important thing is to try to assess if a person appears over-confident. If they do, it could be an indication of either misplaced arrogance or insecurity.
  4. Presentation skills: Assess their attire, posture, style. Ask yourself if their style is relevant to their role.
  5. Interpersonal skills: An interview is a great time to introduce the applicant to their future team over coffee or a meal. This is a great opportunity to test interpersonal skills. Even if the person is an introvert, check if they can lead and participate in conversations. This is really important especially if this new person is expected to work with an already established team. If the position is mostly isolated, this skill might not be as critical. Other aspects I enjoy testing during these interactions are their sense of humour, reaction to sarcasm and their diplomatic skills.
  6. Knowledge of the company and position: At the end of one interview, I had an applicant ask me the name of our company. I have also had applicants refer to the company with improvised names.  Knowledge about the company and understanding of the job requirements can reveal a lot about how much they value the opportunity. It could also determine how well they will prepare for their roles in the future.

Different positions demand different strengths and if there are several interview rounds, it is important for each interviewer to be on the same page about those requirements. This will impact the assessment process. Interviews seldom reveal how well a person will perform their responsibilities but they certainly can provide a glimpse into their potential. That is what makes background checks so important. Contacting former employers and teams reveal so much truth and the process should not be taken lightly. We can explore more about that in the next few days.

Are there traits that you consider important? Make that assessment list before your next interview.

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