Hiring the right person remains an art form

BALANCE: More and more businesses are getting less personal in their interview processes. Zoë Wundenberg says that's a mistake.
BALANCE: More and more businesses are getting less personal in their interview processes. Zoë Wundenberg says that's a mistake.

When we think about interview coaching, we often think about how we can succeed at winning a job offer through strong interview performance.

We don’t often think about building skills in how to actually interview a candidate to ensure the right person is selected for hire.

However, being an effective interviewer is vital to the success of business operations and shouldn’t be overlooked as a skill worth developing.

I’ve worked with a number of clients over the past few weeks who were seeking interview coaching because they weren’t having any success in getting past this stage and winning a job offer. However, when we unpacked their interview experience, it became apparent that their performance wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t going well in these situations.

Interviewing candidates is as much an art as it is a science, and yet many of us rely too heavily on one side over the other.

Recently, there has been a spike in the use of e-recruitment tools like online psychometric and aptitude testing, problem solving and personality assessments, with a rising number of businesses relying on these tools to effectively trim the herd of applications.

Some companies are even moving away from the more traditional interview style altogether, preferring to use online challenges and testing to build a candidate pool, or setting hiring auditions that involve solving projects remotely.

Last year, I worked as a casual academic at Charles Sturt University and part of this involved marking bachelor of business degree papers specifically related to career development and work placement. Part of these units involved undertaking a video interview where the students were provided with questions one at a time and were then required to record their answers using a webcam. This demonstrates a move towards leaning more heavily on technology for interview techniques. And the labour market certainly demonstrates that many companies are looking for ways to change how they find their next hire.

However, all of these tests and video interviews also demonstrate a problem with evolving interview practices: they are becoming less personal.

When we rely on personality tests to determine cultural fit and we rely on psychometric testing to measure cognitive ability, we are focusing solely on the “science” of interviewing and forgetting the practice is also an art.

The labour market certainly demonstrates that many companies are looking for ways to change how they find their next hire.

Statistics suggest two out of three hires prove to be a poor decision within 12 months. This is sufficient to scare any hirer into wanting tangible evidence where they can “fall back on the numbers”. However, the art of team design is not something that can be entirely managed by the click of a mouse.

Firstly, it is important to recognise that not everyone responds well to assessment environments and they can often feel apprehension, stress and fear when faced with such a situation. This will undoubtedly colour the results of the testing. Secondly, a person’s ability to perform well may be impeded by external factors such as poor sleep, technical difficulties, unavoidable interruption, mood of the day etc. and this will also skew the results. Thirdly, in order for the tests to be valuable to the hiring process, they need to be adapted to suit the job needs of each role that is recruited for and it needs to be kept up to date as the position descriptions change, which is time-consuming and costly. Finally, we rely on body language feedback to gauge how our responses are being received and without this engagement, interviewing becomes a disconnected and awkward experience.

A good interviewer will be able to put the candidate at ease. When you have a candidate feeling relaxed and comfortable, they are more likely to be open and honest in conversation, than if they have their game face on and are in “interview mode”. 

The purpose of an interview is to find the right candidate for the job, so the job of an interviewer is to ask the right questions to assess their aptitude and cultural fit.

A computer can only tell you so much, and the chemistry between candidate and interviewer is often overlooked.

The interview is the beginning of the employer-candidate relationship and it’s better to make the connection personally than through a computer program.

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer, counsellor and coach at impressability.com.au