Interviewing Techniques to Avoid Bad Hires

No matter the nature of your organization, what you sell or the service you provide, your employees are the foundation of your success. Hiring (and keeping) the right people is key to sustaining and building on that success. However, hiring people with the exact skills, knowledge, attitudes and motivators can be a major challenge—that is, unless you have exceptional interview skills. “Bad” hires are frustrating, costly, time consuming and may even present legal challenges.

In order to hire the best person for the job and avoid making a hiring mistake, it is critical to plan and prepare for an interview ahead of time. This step is often overlooked by busy managers and supervisors. You’ll not avoid the bad hire if you just “wing it”—no matter what the position. One of the most overlooked but best ways to hire the right person and avoid hiring mistakes is to have a consistent interviewing process, and to do that, you need to build an interviewing structure. If you take different approaches to different candidates, it is much more difficult to evaluate them. You may also run into legal challenges if you don’t allow each candidate the same interview opportunity.

The Basics

You can usually decide if a candidate has the basic knowledge and skills from resume screening, but it takes a skillful interview to decide whether or not the candidate has the right attitude.

Interviewing basics:

  • Businessman Conducting an InterviewGuide the interview with a solid interview plan and effective questions
    — Don’t just “wing it
    — Have a series of pre-determined questions—know what you are going to ask
    — Be consistent with all applicants applying for the same position
    — Ask open-ended questions to encourage discussion
    — Keep in mind that if you ask a hypothetical question, you will get a hypothetical answer
    — Be sure your interviewing questions and tactics comply with hiring legalities
  • Have the candidate do 80% of the talking—you learn nothing about a candidate when you are talking
    — Assess their answers along with their nonverbal communication
    — Interview based on past experiences—probe the candidate’s experience
  • Look for repeated patterns of success—work history repeats itself
    — Check their references
    — Base your hiring decision on facts, not speculation
  • Don’t settle
    — Keep looking if the candidate is not the right fit
    — Be creative with recruitment techniques

Interview Questions

Diamond in the roughMany job candidates are well-prepared and skilled at taking interviews—they expect certain standard questions and have learned to answer them with finesse. This is even true of behavioral interview questions. A major factor to keep in mind in order to avoid making a bad hire is that the best predictor of future performance behaviors is past performance behavior.

Questioning strategies:

  1. Plan questions that are very specific and job-related
    — Base questions on BFOQs (Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications) and the
    knowledge, skills and attitudes you need in the job
    — If the question doesn’t fit the job, don’t ask it
    — Write out pre-determined questions using an interview Q&A form
    — For consistency with candidates, use the same pre-determined questions for
    all applicants
    — The variance in questions and comments comes in the responses you receive from
    the candidate
    — As the candidate responds to your questions, use probing questions and silence to further draw out their information
  2. Use active listening and observation skills
  3. Let the candidate know you will be taking some notes

Be careful; don’t rely solely on your “gut” feeling about a candidate and whether or not you really like the person. You’ll get the best results by approaching your decision systematically by using solid criteria.

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