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Interviews are generally associated with formality. For candidates it can fill them with a sense of trepidation, knowing they will be put on the spot and have to answer a range of questions. There’s always the fear of bumbling their way through the answers, just because they are nervous. This pressure to present their best self, sometimes means that the interviewer really doesn’t get to know who the candidate is at all, because they are wear a mask and play a role. This can be a huge disadvantage for the company because they may not end up getting the skills and talent they think they’re hiring.
Is there a way to redefine interviews so that they are more engaging and encourage sharing in a way that reveals the real personalities – both for the candidates and companies?
Ideally interviews should be an honest forum where open sharing is encouraged and the company needs to take the lead in inviting candidates to ask questions and lead open discussions on all aspects of the business. In exploring the actual role and responsibilities the candidate can gain better insight as to what is expected of them. At the same time they can discern if it is the right type of role or company culture for them. Better to discover that it isn’t quite the best fit at the interview stage than a few months after they have been hired and the company has invested time and money in them.
Tips for companies on changing the interview dynamic:
Prepare for the interview by setting an agenda. Outline the basic interview questions you need to ask and make sure that these questions will give you all the essential information to decide if the candidates is suitable to move on to the next stage of interviews.
Allow the candidate some time to prepare answers to the questions. By being prepared they will also be more relaxed and this is more likely to reveal their true self. How much preparation you give them is entirely up to you; you can email the questions the day before, or give them 5 minutes before the interview starts.
Reserve some questions so that you can see how they respond to having to think on the spot. It’s good to have a balance of both – careful preparation and instinctive responses – because this will give a more rounded perspective of the candidates.
Open the session by inviting the candidate to ask questions first. This takes the interview in a different direction. You can gauge a lot about a person in how they take the opportunity and adapt and respond to this different way of doing things.
Share information about the company and particularly the culture or any special interest activities that employees are involved in. For example: if the company engages in community upliftment projects or has it’s own mountain biking club, this would be worth sharing.
Use visual cues such as showing candidates around the office, helping them imagine themselves in that space. Their response can often reveal if they’re the right fit or not.
Tips for candidates to get the most from an interview
Research the company and role before the interview so that you have sufficient background information to ask relevant and intelligent questions about the company. Remember you’re not the only one being interviewed, you need to establish if this is the type of company you want to be working for.
Ask the questions that naturally come to mind and focus on the now first, leading to the future at a later stage. Phrase questions as open questions as this invites more conversation. For example: “What are the company views relating to flexible working hours and working from home?” as opposed to “Does the company have flexible working hours?” The second is an example of a closed question because the answer can simply be yes or no.
Take the time to find out more about the culture of the company so that you get to know more about it outside of the day to day work role. Some questions you could ask could be: “What are the last three employee social events held?”; “Has the company recently been involved in any community charity or environmental projects?”; “How does the company encourage wellness among employees?”; “What’s most important to the company as could be defined by core values?”. You'll find more interview tips here.
For both parties it’s important to have a less rigid approach to interviewing. When candidates are relaxed they are far more likely to reveal their true personality and it’s up to companies to initiate this and find ways to be more open in order to encourage engagement. A more balanced and natural approach to interviewing can help to ensure that the right person is hired first time around.