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HR Solutions

Avoid pitfalls of the Conversational Interview

11/10/05

    Over the past decade or so HR interview techniques have inclined to the behavior model, rather than the skills model.  Specifically, interviews of candidates for employment should avoid discussion of the resume content, job experience, and qualifications.  Instead, the notion is that the interview presents the recruiter with the valuable opportunity of learning what the candidate is “like” and whether his behavior(s) are compatible with the team he would be joining – and the organization as a whole.

    The interview is a sample of the behavior.

     The presumption behind this approach to interviewing applicants is that interviewing is a vital function for any manager – whether in recruiting, counseling, or any other daily management interaction. 

     What makes this approach valuable is that your manager as interviewer is doing little of the talking and refraining from any evaluation of the candidate during the interview.  The job of the manager is to interpret the candidate’s behavior and decide whether it is compatible with the job, the team, and the organization.

     Hence the manager who monopolizes the interview by talking too much is failing in her efforts to capture the candidate’s qualities.  Depending on the position your company wants a mix of intelligence, decisiveness, energy, can-do attitude, social skills, assertiveness, sensitivity, and so on.  No manager can get that sample of the candidate’s behaviors during the interview if the candidate is forced to listen much of the time. 

    A second shortcoming is the manager who hurries to evaluate the candidate based on superficial cues or information about the person, and these can unfortunately – although infrequently - involve the person’s race, age, gender, or other “protected” qualities that obviously have nothing to do with the traits listed in the previous paragraph.  Another superficial impression is taking what the candidate says about these traits rather than how the candidate behaves.  Thus an assessment of a candidate’s intelligence can never be based on the manager hearing the person say something like: “Science courses in college were kind of a no-brainer for me.”   How the candidate answers a “why” question during the interview: the choice of words, the depth of the response, the use of an articulate analysis – these show (or deny) intelligence much more than self-serving declarations. 

    Regular training and reinforcement of sound interviewing techniques is critical to maintaining and improving the quality of your managers.  They must get the most out of each interview by observing the person sitting across the desk, and that means active listening, thoughtful assessment of what was heard and observed, and application of that assessment to the manpower need that generated the interview.