The Return of Interviewing

By: William E. Miller

As the economy slowly recovers, companies are beginning to hire again.  Unemployment is still high and many job applicants have been unemployed for many months. Since companies have not had robust hiring initiatives, their internal hiring skills may be a little “rusty” – not to mention new managers who may have not had thorough training or experience in hiring.  In this kind of environment, there’s plenty of opportunity for error and costly hiring mistakes.

As companies begin taking applications and considering candidates, it’s time to assess your hiring processes and the managers using them.  And the most important component in any hiring process is the interviewer.There is no substitute for a skillful interviewer who understands your company’s culture and the human characteristics that the job requires…no substitute!

Managers seem to be always looking for the hiring panacea… the pre-employment test, the latest hiring process fad, the web based application center, or the high priced recruiting firm… but nothing can replace the benefits of a good interviewer. Companies would be well advised to not spend a penny on hiring aids until they have established the internal competency of effective interviewing. To avoid terrible and costly hiring mistakes, the hiring process must be staffed by managers who know what they’re doing… managers who know how to conduct effective interviews.

Good hiring decisions depend on open candid discussion, relevant facts, and accurate information. Getting those facts isn’t easy. It takes skill. Organizations that hire well create an environment that facilitates open conversation between job candidates and interviewers. Their hiring process fosters a sense of trust and security and the candid flow of information.

Excellent interviewers have the skill of discernment. They can separate “fact from fantasy”. Discernment is a “trainable” skill, and managers can be taught to     improve their “judgment calls”. Good judgment depends upon the interviewer’s attitude and skills that set the stage for successful interviews.  These include…

  • Planning – Never “wing it”, or depend upon “pet theories” in an interview.  Good interviewers are prepared.  They know what they’re looking for, and questions to ask to get the information they need.
  • Instincts – Experienced interviewers trust their instincts. If candidates’ answers defy their personal sense of logic, they follow up for more information.
  • Inconsistencies – Conflicting answers are taken very seriously. A candidate should never be hired if inconsistencies cannot be reconciled.
  • Motives for job change – Changing jobs is a significant life changing event.  Understanding why a candidate changed jobs, and how the candidate made the decision to change reveals a lot about the factors that motivate him.
  • Behavioral interviewing – Understanding the human behaviors that a job requires, and having the ability to identify whether the candidate has exhibited those behaviors in the past, is the most important interviewing skill.  Good interviewers have “mastered the art” of behavioral interviewing.

    There are no shortcuts to good hiring practices. Interviewing is the most important component of any hiring process.  Effective interviewers are your best firewall and protection from costly and often tragic hiring mistakes.

    About the Author: Bill Miller, President of Performance Leadership, LLC, has a unique blend of practical management experience and creative talent. His experience spans a 35 year career with Cintas Corporation. Bill was Vice President of Cintas’ Great Lakes Region operations before returning to the Cincinnati headquarters to lead the company’s Management Training and Development programs.  He helped the company build one of the most successful management teams in the country.

    Bill is now focusing on helping other companies develop effective management teams through improved leadership and people skills and effective hiring systems.  He has initiated new approaches to solving old problems in the area of employee health care costs.