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Five Tips To Increase Your Interviewing IQ

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Hiring the right person into any role is challenging for the most experienced interviewers. For hiring managers who may only make a few hires per year, it can be especially difficult. Often, selection accuracy can be increased for even the most inexperienced managers by getting some of the basics right.

Here are five strategies that will help increase your chances of making the best hire for your organization.

Conduct a Screening Interview

A great rule of thumb is to always have a qualifying interview before committing to the full interview process. In this interview, ask only the most relevant questions to determine the candidate’s qualifications for the role. For example, if the position requires 35% travel, ask how the candidate would be able to handle being out of town 35% of the time. Or, if the role requires specific skills (writing, lifting, computer skills, software, etc.), ask if they possess those skills and ask for a self-rating of expertise. Qualifying interviews are effective because they provide a quick glimpse into people’s basic skill sets and experience and help eliminate candidates who are not a fit right at the outset of the process. Remember that part of a good selection process is knowing which candidates to eliminate as early in the process as possible.

Make candidates feel comfortable

Ideally, this should happen at the onset of an interview. Start the conversation by getting to know candidates as people before you delve into your skills questions. Interviews can be a little uncomfortable at first, with candidates and interviewers alike often feeling anxious and unsure. Keeping the conversation light for the first few minutes provides a transition from the awkwardness to a more easy and open discussion.

This should also continue throughout the interview as well. As you start asking questions, you might have to probe and coax some details out of the interviewee. Let them know it's okay to pause to think of a response or reassure them that you can revisit a question later in the interview if necessary. The more comfortable a candidate feels, the more open they will be.

Ask the Right Questions

Experienced interviewers know how to ask open-ended questions at the outset and use yes or no questions to drill down on details. A good tip to open up the conversation is to ask questions that encourage candidates to tell a story. Behavioral style interview questions start at the beginning and lead candidates into telling the middle and end of the story. For example, prompts like "Tell me about a time that you..." illicit detailed responses that may be lacking when you ask more general questions.

Dig Deeper

Candidates may lose focus during an answer and begin rambling, unsure of how to close their response. Step in with a gentle redirection. You must have a keen ear and good instincts to know when and how to subtly guide the candidate in the right direction. Try rephrasing the question but take care not to hint toward a specific answer. Also, when a candidate starts generalizing by saying “we” instead of “I,” as in “We worked very hard to get that project completed on time,” it is perfectly fine to ask the candidate to differentiate between “We” and “Me.” Ask them what role they played in the “We” part of the project and drill down to detail until you understand their specific contribution.

Recognize Intentionally Vague Responses

Candidates who have a difficult time answering questions may simply be nervous or unfortunately unprepared. On the other hand, their answers may be purposeful, designed to distract you or deflect from a topic that a candidate wants to avoid. When you see this happening, politely insist that the candidate be more specific. Or, re-word the question to solicit the specificity you are seeking.

Interviewing techniques continue to evolve, especially during this global pandemic. Many COVID-era interviews are now exclusively conducted via video, which means you may have to do things a little differently to get a good read on candidates. Be prepared by practicing these five steps and get ready to increase your interviewing IQ!