How to Interview a Prospective Employee

Every selection interview is or should be a two-way process. You want to discover whether the candidate matches the employee specification closely and seems likely to be able to do the job well. He is trying to find out if this is the type of post he wants at a company he would like to work for. To exchange the necessary information successfully so that the most suitable person is chosen and will accept your job offer, you must prepare for interviews thoroughly. You need to be able to open, run and close an interview properly. You should know how to reach a final decision about each of the shortlisted candidates interviewed.

Making plans

Prepare for interviewing success by thinking about the type of interviews that should be conducted and when and where they ought to be held. Get ready for each particular interview by putting together a plan to follow and gathering up all the documents you need to take into the interviewing room with you.

Types of interview

A ‘one-to-one’ interview involves one interviewer and one interviewee talking to each other. Probably the most common type of interview, it appears to have much to offer. It is usually simple to agree on a place and a time to meet which suits the two people concerned. It is also a relatively informal affair. An experienced interviewer should be able to relax the candidate quickly, putting him at ease and establishing a rapport so that he chats freely about himself.

However, a ‘one-to-one’ interview – or individual interview as it is otherwise known – can be a most unreliable method of assessment. If this is the case, it is the fault of the interviewer who is typically in­experienced, unprepared and even biased against certain candidates, perhaps because of their sex, marital status or race. No manager should be expected to handle an interview alone without first having read widely on the subject, been through extensive training, and sat in on many other interviews to gain as much ‘hands-on’ experience as possible. If such simple steps are not taken, it will hardly be surprising if the wrong person is subsequently selected with all the potential problems (poor work performance, conduct and so on) that can ensue.

A ‘panel’ interview consists of two or more interviewers meeting each candidate to discuss his job application. Usually, between three and six interviewers would make up the panel – or board as it sometimes is called – perhaps including the department manager, the direct supervisor and an expert in the work, who can talk with authority about the job and question the candidate about his previous work experience.

The benefits of a panel interview are that collective experience and decision making increase the chances of the best person being chosen for the position. Panel members can also share the responsibility of asking questions, with each one specializing in their particular area of expertise. The others listen carefully to the answers and make notes which will help to remind them of each candidate after all the interviews have been completed. Having a panel further allows all departments likely to be involved with the successful candidate to be represented and have a say in his selection. Would-be interviewers can also be included to give them valuable experience, perhaps for future ‘one-to-one’ interviews.

Nevertheless, there are drawbacks that need to be considered and overcome. It may be hard to get all the panel members and candidates together at the same time, so timetables must be carefully planned and scheduled well in advance. Bear in mind that it can also be costly and time-consuming. Friction and ill feeling may develop among the panel if one person tries to dominate, questions overlap and everyone tries to talk at the same time. Attention must therefore be given ­and full agreement reached beforehand – as to the composition of the panel, the division and order of topics and the ground rules for making a selection decision. An interviewee, especially if young and inexperienced, could find such a formal situation tense and intimi­dating. He may become inhibited, revealing little or no information about himself. Therefore efforts must be made to create a friendly atmosphere.

A ‘sequential’ interview is one of a series of interviews with various interviewers taking it in turns to meet the candidate on a one-to-one basis. Normally each interview will focus on a particular topic or group of topics. Sequential interviews can combine the best features of a one-to-one interview (informality, a warm rapport) and a panel interview (more experience, shared responsibilities) as well as provid­ing a more comprehensive, in-depth assessment of each candidate. Unfortunately they can sometimes incorporate their worst features too (individual bias, additional selection time and costs and so on) and a manager must therefore weigh up the pros and cons carefully before adopting this approach.

Filed Under: Work & Careers


About the Author: Vanessa Page works a career counselor in one of the leading firms in Los Angeles. She is also a blogger and gives tips on how people can tackle their work and career issues. She has 8 years of experience in this field.

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