A company’s intention in a job interview is to find the person who best fits a particular position. But recent research has shown that quite often, the candidate who was hired failed, and usually their exit was related to attitude issues that weren’t revealed in the interview.
That raises the question: Are interviewers asking the wrong questions — and consequently hiring the wrong people? Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems (alexzlatin.com), says some styles of interviewing are outdated, thus wasting time and resources while letting better candidates slip away.
“It still astounds me to meet HR professionals who lack the basic skills of interviewing,” says Zlatin, author of the book Responsible Dental Ownership. “In 2019, ‘tell me about yourself’ is still a way to start an interview, and that’s absurd. The only thing you get is people who describe the outline of their resume, which you already know.
“You want to get to know the candidate’s personality in the interview. In a normal setting, you would have about one hour to do this. But some traditional interview practices waste this precious time, and you can miss out on great talent and instead hire a mediocre one.”
Zlatin offers the following interview approaches to help HR leaders, recruiters and executives find the right candidate:
• Make it a two-way conversation. Zlatin says traditional interviewing focuses too much on the candidate’s skills and experience rather than on their motivation, problem-solving ability, and willingness to collaborate. Thus, he suggests configuring the interview in a non-traditional, informal way to gain insight into the candidate’s personality. “Rather than make most of the interview a rigid, constant question-and-answer format that can be limiting to both sides, have a two-way conversation and invite them to ask plenty of questions,” Zlatin says.
• Flip their resume upside down. “Surprise them by going outside the box and asking them something about themselves that isn’t on their resume or in their cover letter,” Zlatin says. “See how creatively they think and whether they stay calm. You want to see how a candidate thinks on their feet — a trait all companies value.”
• Ask open-ended questions. Can this candidate make a difference in your company? Zlatin says answering that question should be a big aim of the interview. “Ask questions that allude to how they made a difference in certain situations at their past company,” Zlatin says. “Then present a hypothetical situation and ask how they would respond.”
• Don’t ask cliched questions. Zlatin says some traditional interview questions only lead to candidates telling interviewers what the candidate thinks the company wants to hear. “Interviewers should stop asking pointless questions like, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ “ Zlatin says. Or, ‘Why do you want to work for this company?’ Candidates rehearse these answers, and many of them are similar, so that doesn’t allow them to stand apart.”
• Learn from the candidate’s questions. The questions candidates ask can indicate how deeply they’ve studied the company and how interested they really are. “A good candidate uses questions to learn about the role, the company, and the boss to assess whether it’s the right job for them,” Zlatin says.
• Don’t take copious notes. Zlatin says the tendency by interviewers to write down the candidate’s answers and other observations is “a huge obstacle to building a solid two-way conversation because it removes the crucial element of eye contact.”
“An effectively done interview allows the employer to get both an in-depth and big-picture look at a candidate,” Zlatin says. “Judging whether they might fit starts with giving them more room to express in the interview.”