Quick Tips on Effective Interviewing

I just returned from speaking at a multi-state membership association for medical equipment suppliers in Dallas. Actually, the setting was a “kitchen table” format where the attendees sat around a U shaped table with me at the end and we just talked. I had originally prepared materials to discuss employment law and how each business could be impacted. The title was “HR: What I don’t know CAN hurt me!” Three sessions were held in the morning and a new group of business owners and managers with each rotation. In each group, the topic came around to interviewing and how to select the right people. When I asked at each session about interview training, the unanimous response was that it was just experience, nothing formal. Most were confident of their skills until I began role playing. Without exception, the participants were shocked at how easy I could manipulate the interview. I have to admit that I have a great deal of fun role playing with hiring managers and executives who have little to no formal interview training. I then take the time to provide some helpful nuggets that will hopefully benefit future interviews. As a trained behavioral interviewer in Targeted Selection and the owner of an executive recruiting firm since 1992, I have conducted hundreds of interviews and assisted dozens of companies in hiring the BEST employees for fit.

The following are the basic tips I provide to aid in better screening.

  • Develop a list of qualities or characteristics necessary for the position. (ex: for sales, a characteristic would be initiative or persistence)
  • Create situational questions around these characteristics.
  • Create an interview guide so the same questions are asked to each candidate for the same job and to stay organized.

In the interview:

  • Do not discuss the specifics of the job or more about the company until the end….after you have asked the candidate all the questions you have prepared.
  • With each question and answer, ask for a specific example and look for a STAR answer. A STAR answer is one that includes a Situation or Task, the Action the candidate took, and the Result of the action.
  • If the candidate asks about the position or the company, always redirect. Say; “that is a good question and I will provide you an opportunity to ask questions after we get to know you.”
  • Give the candidate the opportunity to ask questions at the end and pay attention to the types of questions they ask.

Keep in mind that answers without specifics do not really provide any insight into whether a candidate can do the job. I’ll give you an example from my recent meeting in Dallas. One of the participants told me that in interviews with Service Technicians, they include other Service Technicians to conduct a peer interview. I asked what types of questions are asked and was provided the following. “You had planned to attend a football game on a Friday night and get a call that equipment needs to be delivered to a patient. Would you have a problem having to deliver the equipment when you have personal plans?” So, what do you think 99.9% of the candidates would answer? I provided the following in the role play. “Of course I would not hesitate. That patient could be my mom, or dad, or grandmother. I would want the finest care for those I love and, although I love football, the care of someone in need is much more important”. I asked the participant how that sounded and they said “great, that is the kind of answer we are looking for”. Well, DUH!! What candidate with any amount of intelligence is going to say, “No, I would not miss the football game. The patient can wait”.

The bottom line is this for managers and executives who do not have formal training….without preparing properly for an interview, a candidate can let you see what they want you to see. You will see the 10% of the iceberg above the water and miss the 90% below. If they are good, you will never know what hit you until you realize later that their best performance was in the interview. And, if I prepare a candidate for an interview, they will be prepared to take control of the interview. Remember the 6 P’s: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.  Need more assistance….we CAN help.

Yours for success,

Richard Davis, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC


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